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Machine of Death: A Collection of Stories About People Who Know How They Will Die Paperback – October 13, 2010
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"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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The machine had been invented a few years ago a machine that could tell from just a sample of your blood how you were going to die It didn t give you the date and it didn t give you specifics It just spat out a sliver of paper upon which were printed in careful block letters the words DROWNED or CANCER or OLD AGE or CHOKED ON A HANDFUL OF POPCORN It let people know how they were going to die MACHINE OF DEATH tells thirty four different stories about people who know how they will die Prepare to have your tears jerked your spine tingled your funny bone tickled your mind blown your pulse quickened or your heart warmed Or better yet simply prepare to be surprised Because even when people do have perfect knowledge of the future there s no telling exactly how things will turn out Featuring stories by Randall Munroe Ben Yahtzee Croshaw Tom Francis Camille Alexa Erin McKean Jeff Stautz and many others Featuring illustrations by Kate Beaton Kazu Kibuishi Aaron Diaz Jeffrey Brown Scott C Roger Langridge Karl Kerschl Cameron Stewart and many others Machine of Death tells 34 stories about people who know how they will die The machine doesn t give the date or specifics using only a blood sample it just spits out a sliver of paper upon which are printed in careful block letters words such as drowned cancer old age or choked on a handful of popcorn The realization that we could now know how we are going to die changes the world people became at once less fearful and more afraid For every possibility the machine closes it seems to open several more with varying degrees of plausibility Over time the machine is reverse engineered and duplicated Eventually there are machines in every doctor s office and in booths at the mall People can pay someone or perhaps get it done for free but the results are the same no matter which machine is used they are at least consistent Machine of Death features stories by R
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There doesn’t seem to be much of a word guideline for the short stories. Some are far too long, others only a few sentences. There are also far more than in the usual short story compilation - I would say this collection is twice as long as your average novel, which would be a good thing (price versus length) if the stories were all at a decent standard.
I regret buying this book above others for my vacation reading.
As an example:
Someone could get a result of 'Barracuda'...so they avoid bodies of water their whole life, only to be hit and killed by a Dodge Barracuda while walking down the street. (I made this example up...hence...no spoiler warning)
With the exception of a few of them, these stories are very well written and do a good job of exploring all different angles of this hypothetical situation.
I was pleasantly surprised that these authors didn't take a path akin to the Final Destination movies. In other words most of these stories focus not on the actual death taking place...but on how the characters live their lives knowing how they will die. This makes the book far more entertaining and valuable to read. It could have easily become trashy throw-away entertainment, but it avoids falling into that trap and at times even becomes a nice commentary on the human condition.
This is a fun read that will at times catch you off guard with sadness and humor. I highly recommend this collection.
The theme is unique to the point of oddness: what if there's a machine that can predict the manner of your death from a single drop of your blood? The machine is never wrong, but often ironic, elliptical or quirky. A prediction of 'old age' might mean a peaceful death after a long life, but might just as well imply that you will be stampeded by a horde of deranged geezers.
If such predictions, such Machines of Death, are readily available, would you want to know? What would the knowledge do with you? How would the existence of such a machine change society as we know it? The possibilities are endless, from people spending their life avoiding the predicted death to others embracing their fate and preparing for it, from attempts to ban the MoD to fanatical followings.
Each story in this anthology is a gem of insight and originality. If you're a short story lover, this one's definitely for you!