- Paperback: 464 pages
- Publisher: Machines of Death; 1st edition (October 13, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0982167121
- ISBN-13: 978-0982167120
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 196 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #183,992 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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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The big question, of course, is, would you use the Machine of Death? Logically, as a literature major, I know that it is never a good idea to know the future, much less how you die. It always ends badly. On the other hand, how could you possibly, as a human being, restrain yourself from obtaining that kind of information? To be human is to open Pandora's Box, to climb Mount Everest, to eat of the Tree of Knowledge. The maddening thing is that, even as such information could totally ruin the rest of our life, it could very possibly be the best thing to happen to our life. It could be as freeing as it could be constricting. It could cripple us with fear, or release us completely from it.
Even worse, could the knowledge of how we die, like with every Greek hero ever, cause that death? In running from fate, would we run right into it? Would this be self-fulfilling prophecy? Would we be like Sleeping Beauty, in being protected from the spinning wheel, run to prick our fingers on it?
Would the very existence of the Machine, the very ability to have this knowledge ruin life, mortality, and death?
If you were the one to invent the Machine, could you release it on the world? Would you feel responsible for the outcome? For the deaths? Would you be a savior, or a monster?
Would knowing affect everything? Is this a question of fate and destiny, or of human psychology, the self-fulfilling prophecy? Do we fight against the dying of the light or do we accept fate and die with a whimper?
Furthermore, is the Machine accurate? If it spits out "JOY" or "SUICIDE" or "ALMOND", is the truth in the fate what the Machine meant, or does the human psyche make it so?
Then we get into the meta part of this. Isn't modern medical technology essentially Machines of Death? Do we have any ability to try to face or change fate? Can we?
Moreover (and here we get literary), does the manner in which we die reflect the way we live? Does the end of our story reflect the beginning and middle? Is our death, the end of our story, random or determined? Is it a reflection of who we are as people? Does our manner of death reflect our manner of life?
Furthermore, could humanity ever possibly live with such divine (or meta) knowledge as the ending of our own stories? Would it save our lives or destroy them? Make us worse or make us better? Could humanity ever cope with certitude? Is hope a curse or a blessing? Can humans ever be human without hope? Would we ever strive to know or fight or do without hope?
If we (both as a human character in this alternative world and as the reader of these stories) know the ending of the story (the death), how does it affect the reader, the writer, the characters? Oh, hell, do I love that double layer!
Because, death gives life. Death affects life.
My favorite stories: Suicide by David Michael Wharton, Almond by John Chernega, Starvation by M. Bennardo, Killed By Daniel by Julia Wainwright, Cocaine and Painkillers by Daivd Malki!, Loss of Blood by Jeff Stautz, and Miscarriage by James L. Sutter.
This collection is highly addicting, incredibly absorbing, comprehensive, clever, imaginative, thought-provoking, and utterly brilliant. Grade: A+
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 writers are (mostly) brilliant and I've enjoyed many of their works, but reading this book all in one go is really difficult. I think this book is best enjoyed a few stories at a time between other books. Otherwise, being hammered with the same narrow theme over and over can get very repetitive.
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!