Book Title: This is How You Die: Stories of the Inscrutable, Infallible, Inescapable Machine of Death
Author: Edited by Ryan North, Matthew Bennardo, and David Malki
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Date Published: July 16th, 2013
Date Read: March 14th, 2014
Cover Love: That title just grabs you! Bold, blocky font, already a fascinating concept before you even read the book blurb, and then all these silhouettes of people facing their imminent doom. Love it for an anthology: different characters/silhouettes = different stories/fates.
“THIS IS HOW YOU DIE
Stories of the Inscrutable, Infallible, Inescapable Machine of Death
The machines started popping up around the world. The offer was tempting: with a simple blood test, anyone could know how they would die. But the machines didn’t give dates or specific circumstances-just a single word or phrase. DROWNED, CANCER, OLD AGE, CHOKED ON A HANDFUL OF POPCORN. And though the predictions were always accurate, they were also often frustratingly vague. OLD AGE, it turned out, could mean either dying of natural causes, or being shot by an elderly, bedridden man in a botched home invasion. The machines held onto that old-world sense of irony in death: you can know how it’s going to happen, but you’ll still be surprised when it does.
This addictive anthology–sinister, witty, existential, and fascinating–collects the best of the thousands of story submissions the editors received in the wake of the success of the first volume, and exceeds the first in every way.”
What I’d Add: Hits the nail on the head. This anthology is alllll that (anybody else think of the Nickelodeon show? Anyone?)
It’s Sorta Like: It’s an anthology, so I can’t really pinpoint a franchise or book or TV show that it is most like. The stories truly run a full gamut of genres and tones: farce, horror, medieval fantasy, etc.
My Grade: A
I need to start reading more anthologies, if most of them are as interesting and all-around excellent as this one!
In all 31 stories, there were only a couple I felt indifferent about. So that’s a pretty good track record! I loved the different genres and different takes on the “Machine of Death.” And most authors incorporated a twist, a different interpretation of the Machine’s prediction that changed the character’s perspective and/or how they lived their life and dealt with their prediction. I loved getting to experience twist after twist, seeing how people and characters interpreted this concept.
In fact, there are so many interesting, well-written gems in this collection, if I reviewed every one, this post would be a mile long. So I shall address only a few, but trust me: all of them are worth reading!
“Zephyr” by George Page III explores the impact of this machine on the military and soldiers going into battle, knowing the very second they are most likely to die. They are separated into two units: the Ephemerals (those whose death time is imminent) and the Invincibles (those whose death is still far off). The action was compelling and well-written, and the twist was chilling as well as interesting, opening up doors for the author as well as the reader.
“Conflagration” by D.L.E Roger tells the story of a faltering marriage, where both halves are involved in Machine of Death predictions. One horrible realization shifts the story, and the complex relationships between characters, developed wonderfully within the short scope of the story, really deepens the impact of this machine in a modern world.
“Your Choice” by Richard Salter is a CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE STORY! I mean, how cool is that?!
“Not Applicable” by Kyle Schoenfeld is the first published piece by this author, and I hope this guy writes a book because I love his writing style (another perk to anthologies – you discover so many new authors to explore and enjoy!). What happens when people start getting predictions that say “Not Applicable”? What happens when you discover the horrible truth behind those predictions, and need to say goodbye to everything you know? (Sorry, but it’s hard to summarize this story without spoiling anything!)
And there are still so many other great stories! “Screaming, Crying, Alone, and Afraid” (Daliso Chaponda) is what would happen if the TV show Criminal Minds had access to a Machine of Death. “Apitoxin” (John Takis) is a period perfect Sherlock Holmes mystery…you know, if Sherlock found out this machine existed. “Toxoplasmosis of the Brain…” (Gord Sellar) explores the machine’s impact on the AIDS epidemic. And I’m holding back from adding more.
If you enjoy Sci-Fi/Fantasy short stories at all, if this concept sounds at all interesting, go out and get this and read it and love it. I know you will!