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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)

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  6,941 ratings  ·  799 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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Average rating 3.93  · 
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 ·  6,941 ratings  ·  799 reviews

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Start your review of Machine of Death: A Collection of Stories About People Who Know How They Will Die (Machine of Death, #1)
Nov 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Rebecca McNutt
Feb 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
A little morbid maybe, but surprisingly this book seemed to stay away from a tasteless level of gore and cruelty and instead raises questions about the meaning of life and the desperation that comes along with it, not to mention how careful people would be to avoid death to the point where they would begin to avoid life. It's a little pretentious sometimes but not in the way it could have possibly gone.
Jan 18, 2011 added it
Shelves: arc-review
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
Jan 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own, 2010, favorites
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
Kelly L
Oct 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: z_read-2010
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
Aug 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Do you have trouble finding high-quality, high-interest, layered short stories?
Do you wanna force your students to talk about dying and fate and whether life has any meaning?
Do you have any desire to broach existentialism, in any capacity?

Premise: there's this machine that -- through time travel and/or blood analysis -- predicts, faultlessly, how you will die. Not when, and not clearly ("boating accident" could mean you crash
Noran Miss Pumkin
Nov 17, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011, ebook, sci-fi
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
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
Brian Sweany
Apr 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-ebooks
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
These were kind of weird stories on how people were for sure on how they will and would die. The illustrations were cute and funny. Those were the best part of the book. Not for me.
Dec 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 30, 2015 rated it liked it
Quite interesting, if somewhat morbid. This is a collection of short stories so there are some good ones and some bland.
Feb 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
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
Nov 14, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fbc-15
As you might expect with a book of this kind, the quality was spotty, the tone was uneven, and the spelling! grammar! typos! Some stories had multiple misused words, which my heart cannot bear. The illustrations to each chapter were cute but didn't add much more interest for me than a calligraphic first letter would have. Still, I think that my biggest issue with this book was its incredible bleakness. The story's premise came from a webcomic, and personally I found it pretty funny; I was expect ...more
Oct 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
May 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Morbid dwellers and fans of twist endings
Recommended to Alan by: Goodwill hunting
Machine of Death is one of the oddest themed anthologies I've ever run across. These are all stories—dozens of 'em—inspired by a single comic from Dinosaur Comics, a long-running indie strip by Ryan North (who is, not coincidentally, one of the editors of this very volume).

Dinosaur Comics currently appears weekly in our very own Portland Mercury, and I've been reading it for years, but I can't remember having seen the specific inspiration for this book before. The core idea is very simple, thoug
Apr 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
i added one star purely for how much i love this concept. the machine of death is so morbid and yet i can't say i wouldn't use it if it were real. imagine knowing your death, like how fucked up is that?

the stories were generally good but they got rather repetitive and the last few were straight up boring.
Andrea Blythe
Apr 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, favorites
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
May 13, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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
Charissa Cotrill
Nov 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2010
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
Jan 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Maddy Carr
Jan 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 02, 2011 rated it did not like it
Worst book I have ever read in my life. From the cover and description this would seem like a Final Destination type of novel with awesome deaths and unique twists. No this is a fucking stupid book where nothing ever happens. It's just a bunch of people going through their boring life and finding out how they will die. THE END. Not die, find out how they will die. I could overlook amateur writing if they held original ideas or brought something new to the table. Nope. You would be better off hav ...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.
Jul 18, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: english
Most of the stories here weren't for me. But I enjoyed a few of them, especially "Torn Apart And Devoured By Lions" by Jeffrey C. Wells, "Almond" by John Chernega, "Aneurysm" by Alexander Danner and "Nothing" by Pelotard.

Surprisingly, the story ideas by some of the more famous authors in the book just fell flat for me. But the overall idea of the collection is interesting.

The illustrations in this book are all quite nice— It's a shame they're only in black and white.
   I received this book as an incentive to make a donation via Humble Bundle, along with a few other books. This is the first of those which I have read, and only the 3rd or so ebook which I have read through to completion.

   Most of the first stories were centered around the idea of “Should I or shouldn’t I get tested by the Machine of Death to learn my manner of death?” They were slow-going, because I felt that none of them could really delve as deep as I would have liked to see into the moral
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The Sword and Laser: Any other Machine of Death rejects? 17 116 Nov 07, 2011 10:29PM  

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Hi, I'm Ryan! I was born in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada in 1980 and since then have written several books. You can read my Wikipedia page for more, or check out my author site at!

I'm the author of the webcomic Dinosaur Comics (that's the comic where the pictures don't change but the words do, it's better than it sounds and I've also done crazy things like turn Shakespeare into a choose-yo

Other books in the series

Machine of Death (2 books)
  • This is How You Die: Stories of the Inscrutable, Infallible, Inescapable Machine of Death (Machine of Death, #2)

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Did you set an extremely ambitious Reading Challenge goal back in January? And has this, uh, unprecedented year gotten completely in the way of...
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