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Machine of Death: A Collection of Stories About People Who Know How They Will Die (Machine of Death #1)
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Machine of Death: A Collection of Stories About People Who Know How They Will Die (Machine of Death #1)

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  4,188 ratings  ·  612 reviews
"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 kno...more
Paperback, 452 pages
Published October 13th 2010 by Machines of Death
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Little Brother by Cory DoctorowShards of Honour by Lois McMaster BujoldThe Last Unicorn by Peter S. BeagleSpin by Robert Charles WilsonMachine of Death by Ryan North
Humble eBook Bundle II
5th out of 10 books — 14 voters
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins1984 by George OrwellThe Giver by Lois LowryDivergent by Veronica RothBrave New World by Aldous Huxley
Best Dystopian and Post-Apocalyptic Fiction
393rd out of 1,877 books — 16,663 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Seak (Bryce L.)
I couldn't pass up reading this collection of stories based on the idea that there is a Machine that has been created that can predict how you will die based on a blood sample you give it.

Many are extremely thoughtful and some have a type of ironic twist because you can't always take your card at face value. Although don't look for an ironic twist in all of them, only a few go that route and it's easy to start thinking all of them approach the topic similarly.

At the same time, this anthology do...more
How would you live if you knew how you would die?

The premise for this collection of short stories was introduced back in 2005, in an installment of Ryan North's popular Dinosaur Comics. In it, he presents the following premise: there is a machine which, with only a small sample of your blood, can tell you how you will die. But there are no dates, no details, no explanations. Just a few words, and that's it. The Machine is never wrong, but it is annoyingly vague and has a decidedly un-machinelike...more
I haven't read a lot of anthologies in my day, so the following statement may not hold much weight, but: THIS IS THE BEST ANTHOLOGY I HAVE EVER READ.

Seriously. Out of the 34 stories in this collection, I was only meh on maybe one or two of them, and I liked all the others. The creativity on display is astounding: the various authors all have different approaches to the concept. How would the world react to the Machine of Death? Would such a machine be banned? Or would it be embraced? Would peopl...more
I love the concept of this collection; what would happen if there was a machine that could tell you how you would die.

Flaming Marshmallow - 5/5
Fudge - 4/5
Torn Apart And Devoured By Lions - 3/5
Despair - 3/5
Suicide - 4/5
Almond - 5/5
Starvation - 3/5
Cancer - 3/5
Firing Squad - 3/5
Vegetables - 3/5
Piano - 3/5
HIV Infection From Machine Of Death Needle - 5/5
Exploded - 3/5
Not Waving But Drowning - 4/5
Improperly Prepared Blowfish - 4/5
Love Ad Nauseum - 5/5
Murder And Suicide, Respectively - 4/5
Cancer - 3/5...more
First, I have to say that it wasn't what I expected, but it was better than what I expected. For whatever reason I expected more stories dealing with the actual death of people. Instead it was more about the reactions of people to the concept itself or their particular reading.

My two favorites in the book are very very different, yet at the core have the same sort of bias towards the machine. Torn Apart and Devoured by Lions and Miscarriage are those two. Neither of them actually contain the dea...more
Noran Miss Pumkin
This book is a small subset, of hundreds of short stories submitted, based on a quirky dinosaur comic. A death machine-like a fortune cookie-gives you a slip of paper telling you how you will die. Not when. Not where. Just how, in a few words. Ah, those words can be cruel-for you obvious cause of death, may not be the way you die. Each story starts with a drawing related to the short story-some of these are just awesome. The one for the girl I am not waving, I am drowning-was my favorite. Drowni...more
Last week I bought the Humble Bundle e-book bundle because it had two books I wanted: an XKCD collection and Wil Wheaton's "Just A Geek". The 8 others, including this one (and "The Last Unicorn" incidentally), I saw as gravy. Okay, I don't like gravy, so let's say icing on the cake. Actually, I don't really like frosting either. What is my deal?

Anyway. This book was kind of a *bonus*.

And hokey smokes, Bullwinkle... what a bonus it is. I'm about halfway through "Machine of Death" and it is rockin...more
I love this book, not just for its cool premise (it's a book of short stories about what life would be like if there was a machine that could predict the way you would die - but not when, or how), but also for the fact that due to a massive online effort it managed to hit #1 on Amazon, beating out Glenn Beck. Not only THAT, but they went ahead and released a free PDF, which is the way I read it.

The stories are by both pros and amateurs, each with an illustration, and each titled in a manner of...more
First line: This book, unlike most others, started its life as an offhand comment made by a bright green Tyrannosaurus Rex.

More first lines from the individual short stories:
Flaming Marshmallow: I'm so freaking excited I can hardly stand it.
Fudge: To any of the countless shoppers passing by, the kiss wouldn't have seemed like much.
Torn Apart and Devoured by Lions: "Missus Murphy, I will have you know that I am to be torn apart and devoured by lions."
Despair: They died anyway.
Suicide: The clerk s...more
Brian Sweany
Two words to describe this book: ALL BALLS.

A few years ago the editors of this sci-fi anthology conceived of a marketing scheme called "MOD-Day,” one day in which they would encourage everybody they knew to buy MACHINE OF DEATH from Amazon all at once in an attempt to become, for one day at least, Amazon’s #1 best-selling book. The anthology of short stories share a common pretense: they all involve a world in which a machine can predict how people will die. The machine doesn't give too much det...more
This is a very interesting collection of short series based on a very simple premise: What if there were a machine that could tell you how you were going to die? The prediction would not be precise, but it would be inerrant. For example, "Old age" might mean you'll die of general organ failure at the age of 99, or because a senior citizen will run you down with his car when you are 35.

The stories explore all the various consequences of such a machine, and the places they go are very creative, i...more
This collection of short stories and amazing illustrations by some of the best artists doing webcomics and other ventures is an amazing read. The premise, started by T-Rex, the main character in Ryan North's Qwantz dinosaur comics, is that a machine that can foretell your method of death from a small sample of blood is invented. The catch is, that's all it offers -- one cryptic word or phrase -- and the machine has an undying sense of irony.

Fans of the comic started discussing the machine and wr...more
(Cross-posted to Android Dreamer, my science fiction blog.)

The basic premise of Machine of Death is simple enough: there are machines, and they will tell you how you die. There's a pin prick, it analyzes blood, and coughs out a piece of paper with an ambiguous word (or a few) telling you how to die. There are lame answers like CANCER, and there are much cooler ones like TORN APART BY A PACK OF LIONS.

What irritates me most about the collection, more than anything else, is the blatant lack of con...more
Andrea Blythe
The concept (or gimmick, if you prefer) for this anthology of stories came from an episode of Ryan North's Dinosaur Comics. In a nutshell, each of these stories is set in a world in which a machine has been invented that tells you how you will die. To quote from the back cover: "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 sliv...more
"Machine of Death" is a fiction anthology in a universe where there is a machine that can predict the exact cause of an individual's death. Every short story comes starts an illustration. I haven't enjoyed such a high image/word ratio since I was in elementary school, but this anthology is the exception which changes the rule. As far as the content goes: sometimes the Machine was required for the storyline but usually it was part of the background of the story.

I was surprised by the huge variati...more
The short stories that make up this anthology encompass genres ranging from romance to tragedy, horror(ish) to (dark) humor, all with a healthy heaping of science fiction as well. All thirty four of them relate to the same basic premise, first suggested by a lime green T-Rex on the internet; they all revolve around the invention, popularization, and/or use of the "Machine of Death," a device that can tell, from a sample of your blood, your manner of death.

As characters discovered in many of the...more
Late last year, Glenn Beck of FOX News was prepared to take the #1 spot on Amazon's bestsellers list with yet another ego-feeding poli-historical confabulation that was, quite honestly, destined someday soon for the 49-cent shelf at Goodwill stores all across the country. (If I were writing an honest, respectable review, this is the point where I'd discuss exactly what the book was about rather than hide behind vacuous adjectives. However, at the time I had quite a bit of self-respect left, so I...more
Charissa Cotrill
I don't often come across a book that makes me stop and reconsider my life in a philosophical manner, but when I do, I definitely sit up and take notice.

Machine of Death is more than an entertaining collection of short stories revolving around a central theme (a machine that tells you how you're going to die); it is also a treatise on human condition, a commentary on how the same conditions can either destroy us or bring out the very best in us. It also leads you to ask yourself -- what would yo...more
After Ryan North published this comic, the editors of this collection solicited story ideas based on this premise. They picked 34 of them to collect in a single book, which is now available as a free PDF download or can be purchased from their website. It’s a good set of stories, with lovely illustration art and an hilarious premise. Some thoughts:

* The diversity of viewpoint and premises resulting from this comic are pretty breathtaking. There are funny little stories playing on the Delphic na...more
I was expecting this book to be full of ironic deaths- you know, you get a slip that says "boat" and you spend your life avoiding the water, only to be killed by a dude named Boat or some dumb thing. And sure, it touches on that a bit, but mostly only in passing. The majority of the stories are a thoughtful exploration of how the world would change if we all knew how we were going to die. About fate and inevitability, and how we react in the face of that. The premise is about how people die, but...more
An intriguing idea leads to an interesting collection of stories, which in their ambiguities and twistiness make me wonder if I'd use this machine. I mean, I'm scared of cancer, but getting a slip saying I die of a car crash doesn't mean I'm free from ever getting cancer.

Some of the stories are better than others, and there's a bit of repetitiveness if you read it all in one go, but for the most part there's interesting stuff here, and I enjoyed the collection.
I bought a (used) copy of this book after just reading the concept online, thinking "Well, if that's not a writing prompt that lends itself to creative thinking I don't know what is" and it turns out that absolutely not a single one of these stories disappointed me. Well done! That's not to say that every one of them was a winner but all of them were at least solid, and 90% of them were pretty entertaining.

For the first ten stories or so I almost couldn't concentrate while reading because I was...more
Anthology of short stories on the same theme - what would the world be like if our cause of death (but not time) can be foretold by a machine? The predictions are always accurate, but often opaque. There's a wide range of contributors here, and so the stories are a little uneven. Mostly there's some kind of introspective, philosophical bent to them; of course touching on mortality, but also free will, predestination, fate, technology, fear of technology - lots of stuff. It's good fun and occasio...more
Nicole Bunge
Jan 04, 2013 Nicole Bunge rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who likes black/morbid humor
Recommended to Nicole by: C-dawg
Props to C-dawg for another great recommendation. This was my lunchtime reading book for two months or so. "Flaming Marshmallow" I heard on a podcast (escapepod maybe?) and it is still my favorite story, I think.
This collection came about because of Ryan North's "Dinosaur Comics"- which pretty much rivals only xkcd in online awesome - where the Tyranasaur came up with the idea for the "death machine" which will take a blood sample, and then spit out a slip of paper which tells you how you will...more
Stephen Foster
Very cool and interesting book. Machine of Death is an anthology of stories exploring what would happen in a world where there was a machine that could tell you how you were going to die. The machine is always right, but is often cryptically vague - "old age", for instance, could mean dying of old age, or being shot by an elderly man. The concept lends itself to many different interpretations, and a collection of stories was really the perfect way to go about fleshing it out. It made for a reall...more
Jordi Balcells
Premisa inicial: se inventa una máquina que, mediante una muestra de sangre, predice sin posibilidad de fallo no cuándo, sino cómo morirás. La máquina es infalible y muy puñetera. Si te dice que morirás de "vejez", igual te atropella un viejo. Si te dice que morirás en un accidente de barco, puedes evitar el mar todo lo que quieras, que te acabará cayendo un encima un barco de lo alto de un camión.

Dada esta explicación, parece que todos los relatos van a tratar sobre gente intentando escapar de...more
The premise of this book is pretty much given away in the title. It's a bunch of short stories written about people who have found out how they are going to die via a blood test given by a machine.

I was not familiar with the editor (Ryan North), nor any of the contributors, I don't think. This was a book club selection. Overall, I quite enjoyed it - this was definitely not something I would've picked up on my own.

However, the quality of the story telling varied widely from tale to tale. Some wer...more
E.I. Blot
It was a really entertaining read.

The short stories are based around the premise of a machine that draws blood and reveals the cause of your death - not always in a direct fashion. The machine is also always right - anything you do to circumvent your predicted death will always result in it occurring exactly as predicted.

Some of the stories are very emotional, and others look at it from a more scientific perspective. There are the expected "the day I got tested" stories as well as "I died becaus...more
I thought at first it might be hard for me to review this book without bias. Firstly, it is the brain child of Ryan North, who in my eyes can do no wrong, and has significant contributions from David Malki (who is occasionally even more awesome), secondly its contributors look like an odd who's-who of slightly known but nevertheless brilliant people in the webcomics business, and thirdly but perhaps even more awesomely, it pissed Glen Beck off. I love that they offer if for free to download, kno...more
Sam Sobelman
Short Answer: Ryan North helms a team of writers who are not afraid to look death in the face and ask: "Are you coming by for tea next wednesday? Do bring some of those butter cookies. I love them to... oh, you know!"
The individual stories in MoD are predominantly fantastic. There are some that will tickle your funny bone (Flaming Marshmallow, Torn Apart by Lions), rip out your heart strings (Miscarriage, In a Fire While Trying to Save Another), or make your brain melt (?, Heat Death of the Univ...more
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The Sword and Laser: Any other Machine of Death rejects? 17 105 Nov 07, 2011 10:29PM  
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Ryan M. North is a Canadian writer and computer programmer who is the creator and author of Dinosaur Comics, and co-creator of Whispered Apologies and Happy Dog the Happy Dog.

North grew up in Ottawa, Ontario where he studied computer science (minor in film) at Carleton University before moving to Toronto for his Master's degree in Computer Science at the University of Toronto, specializing in comp...more
More about Ryan North...
Adventure Time Vol. 1 To Be or Not To Be: A Chooseable-Path Adventure Adventure Time Vol. 2 Adventure Time Vol. 3 This is How You Die: Stories of the Inscrutable, Infallible, Inescapable Machine of Death (Machine of Death #2)

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