Machine of Death: A Collection of Stories about People Who Know How They Will Die

Machine of Death: A Collection of Stories about People Who Know How They Will Die


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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 Randall Munroe, Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw, Tom Francis, Camille Alexa, Erin McKean, Jeff Stautz, and many others. The book also features illustrations by Kate Beaton, Kazu Kibuishi, Aaron Diaz, Jeffrey Brown, Scott C., Roger Langridge, Karl Kerschl, Cameron Stewart, and many others.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780982167120
Publisher: Machines of Death
Publication date: 10/13/2010
Pages: 470
Sales rank: 471,139
Product dimensions: 9.14(w) x 11.32(h) x 0.94(d)
Age Range: 13 Years

About the Author

Ryan North is an author who lives in Toronto. He writes a comic strip called "Dinosaur Comics" which you can pick up in book form at your local bookstore, or which you can just read for free at They're pretty okay!

Matthew Bennardo has lived in Cleveland for the past twenty years. His stories have previously been published in Asimov's Science Fiction and Strange Horizons, among other markets. 

David Malki ! is the author of the Eisner-, Harvey- and Ignatz-nominated comic strip "Wondermark." His latest collection is Dapper Caps & Pedal-Copters, published by Dark Horse Books. He lives in Los Angeles and he likes to fly airplanes. Read his comics at

Randall Munroe, a cartoonist from southern Virginia, is the creator of the webcomic "xkcd" (, one of the most popular comics on the Internet. Formerly a roboticist at NASA, he now makes a living writing comics. He spends his time drawing, traveling, and training computers to beat humans at Rock-Paper-Scissors. He lives in Massachusetts.

Kate Beaton draws men in fancy hats for a living. On an exciting day she'll draw a character with epaulets. Visit her at

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Machine of Death 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 58 reviews.
Melizerd More than 1 year ago
This book might sound a little morbid, and it sort of is, but it is also a collection of funny, thoughtful and surprising stories about a really interesting machine that will make you have some pretty interesting discussions with those around you! I highly recommend it!
moon781 More than 1 year ago
Stumbled upon this book entirely by accident and I was really glad I did. I hate to sound cliche, but this book really makes you think. How would you react if you found out the way you would die? Would you want to know? The individual stories are well-written and draw the reader in easily. I breezed through this book in no time. The only flaw I could see is that you get so engrossed in some of the characters that you are disappointed when the story is over and you don't know what happens to them. Definitely worth a read.
huskerfan29 More than 1 year ago
Didn't know what to expect from this book, I was just purchasing off of the concept alone. The book has turned out to be many different things all rolled into one. This book is the perfect book for readers of any genre, because it absolutely has something for everyone. I would highly recommend this book to casual readers looking for a bit more, a bit more thinking in their enjoyment.
ampersande More than 1 year ago
Picked this up in a BN store and thumbed through it, it's why I bought a NOOK! Overall a fantastic read, one that made me think every time I got to a new story. What would like be like if you knew (sort of) how you were going to die? This book will make you wonder.
JuryNelson More than 1 year ago
So many Internet celebrities means lots of different angles on a compelling premise. How do governments react to facing mortality? How do teenagers? If you like the aesthetic of our young Internet, you will love these stories.
Diabolical_DrZ on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Some great stories here and some just OK. Many with intriguing illustrations. Amazingly little repetition considering everyone was working from the same limited premise.
shabacus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It is impossible to review this collection without reviewing the concept behind it. Spawned by a web comic that posed the question, what if a machine could infallibly tell us how we're going to die, this collection of reader-submitted short stories is a development of that theme. Only the theme unifies the stories, which are not set in the same speculative universe, but rather a whole continuum of such places, unified by the common theme.As one might expect from a collection of this sort, the quality is rather uneven, but it varies only between good and superb. From initial stories that explore the theme in a straightforward manner, through middle stories that focus on specific consequences, to final stories that underline the concept with bold strokes, the pacing is spot on.I avidly await the announced sequel, as this is a world, or rather series of worlds, that bears further exploration.
matthew254 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Machine of Death is a collection of short stories with a deceptively simple concept. A machine knows how you're going to die. It prints it out on a small piece of paper with a few vague words. It might read "POOL" which could sound like drowning in a swimming pool, so the person avoids swimming his whole life only to die by being beat to death with a pool cue. Or "BURIED ALIVE" might make someone fear cemeteries only to be crushed by a mosh pot of rock fans at an overcrowded concert. It's unavoidable. That's the concept that thirty something authors took and ran with. The best submissions were picked and published. It's one of my favorite books. My personal favorite? "ALMOND". It happens to be available for download free of charge as a pdf.
keristars on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As a collection pulled together about a single theme from authors with wildly divergent styles, the stories in Machine of Death are surprisingly monotonous, despite the difference in theme or narrative.It took me about five months to read the book. After I got more or less two thirds of the way through, I couldn't bear to read another story and so held off on finishing it for several months. I finally finished it mostly because I was avoiding another book I wasn't really enjoying, and I wanted to finally delete the PDF file from my computer (which I didn't want to do until I'd read it all).After the five month gap, most of the stories blur together in my mind, but a few stand out. Ryan North's was the most unique and interesting of the bunch, in that it was about the creation of the machine and in script form. Whereas most of the stories took place after the Machine was established and had a fairly serious tone, North's was entirely about the process of creating the machine and was much more humorous.Gord Sellar's "Improperly Prepared Blowfish" was another one I enjoyed. It takes place in a Yakuza office and thus has a gangster-story feel to it, which helps it be different from the rest, but it also doesn't linger too long on contemplations about what it means to know how one will die. Likewise, "Cocaine and Painkillers" by David Malki !, where the plot is partly about the character discovering what the machine does.Many of the stories relish in the wordplay present in the Machine's predictions and use them for plot twists. "Exhaustion From Having Sex with a Minor" by Yahtzee Croshaw is probably the most memorable of those that do this, with a good dose of absurdity and social satire in the mix.Of the stories that generally play the prompt straight, my favorites are "Love Ad Nauseum" by Sherri Jacobson, "Nothing" by Pelotard, and "Aneurysm" by Alexander Danner. The first is a very short story told through newspaper advertisements, the second is a reflection on what it means to live forever, and the third is a fairly humorous piece about a bickering couple who love each other nonetheless.For the most part, though, the 34 stories in the book are about fatalism, existentialism, and the whimsies of fate itself. The characters are different, the settings are different, maybe the writing styles are different, but the themes make them run together in my mind. Unfortunately, many of them have the same types of characters, making the glob even worse. But, I suppose, there's something intriguing about writing of teenagers, with all their youth and vivacity, as they learn of how they will die. (Not that all the stories are about teenagers, but enough are about young people that it feels to me like most of them are. Or else soldiers, or else weary adults in crap jobs who just want something exciting to happen.)Now that I've finished the book, I'm going to remove it from my harddrive and probably not think much more on it. The few memorable stories that really did something interesting with the premise of the Machine of Death aren't enough to save the book as a whole, for me, though I acknowledge that if the entire book were about that kind of story with only a few musings on fate, I might feel the same way but with the story types swapped. I suppose that the book is worth reading for fans of the authors, or if you like this kind of story, but mostly it's not something I'll recommend wholeheartedly to just anyone. And if I do, it'll definitely be with a recommendation to space out the reading, to not read it in one go.
rivkat on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Available as a download too, this hefty volume features dozens of stories based on the premise that there exists a machine, infallible but capricious in how it communicates, that can tell people how they will die. ¿Old age,¿ for example, sounds good but might involve an elderly person suffering a stroke as she drives and hitting the twenty-year-old victim. The premise is good enough that it can sustain a number of variations, though the stories naturally vary in quality. Some of them focus on twists, while others take seriously what it would be like to know you were going to die of cancer. How would insurers, employers, voters react? (The story about the politician whose card says ¿exhaustion from sex with a minor¿ doesn¿t quite do the job, unfortunately.) Good quote: Chris Cox, Vegetables: ¿He took the blood test, and it told him Pavement would be his demise. He never considered that falling off the roof is more probable than the ground swallowing him, but this is none of my business, and something I would be interested in witnessing.¿ I also liked the story by David Malki about the infomercial producer trying to sell the machines. Heavily but not entirely Western focused; not entirely internally consistent either, if you care, which I didn¿t.
waxlight on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is under a creative commons license, so I was able to obtain and read a digital copy. I will be getting a physical copy very shortly. I love this book - the premise is simple; a machine that, with a small blood sample, will tell the person how they die.However, that information comes about in unexpected, ironic and unexpected ways (simple example? Man gets 'JOY' on his piece of paper. Man is happy. Man gets hit and killed by a car - whose drivers name is Joy.I love how the short stories are completely different. From serious - humorous, plausable - unlikely, Free Will - Predestination, it covers the gamut of events that may happen when everyone in the world (and their governments) have access to the manner in which an individual will die.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very entertaining, quick ready and the stories varied enough to keep it entertaining, even if you hit a story you didn't like.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Started it but haven't picked it back up. Ordered book after a discussion with friends, which started with the movie (Fault of the Stars ?) and book. What would we do if we knew we were going to die from a certain illness or accident ? Felt the book was repetitive and rather silly. The book was put together by the editors who had made up a story line and had writers send a short story of what this death machine could do. Rated two stars due to writers created some wild ideas but it fell short of substance.
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I honestly found it hilarious when i was looking through the chapter names, the chapter named "death by sex with minor" was co-written by Yahtzee.
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