Machine of Death

Five years ago, Ryan North published on is comic (Dinosaur Comics) published this comic, presenting an idea that caught the imagination of his readers, his colleagues, and the public in general. Last week, The outcome, edited by Ryan North, Matthew Bennardo, and David Malki ! (yes, he spells his name with an exclamation point one space past his name), was released and on the release day hit #1 on the Amazon Bestseller list. Partly, this was due to many of the contributor’s pleas to buy the book that day solely to hit #1, but after reading the book, it definitely deserves that #1 spot, and I would encourage the world to do their best to get it back there.

The premise is simple: A machine has been created that 100% accurately predicts how you will die. It doesn’t give you a date, it doesn’t give you specifics, but it gives a word or phrase that, at least at the end of your life, describes your death. The word could be DROWNING, or CAR ACCIDENT, or OLD AGE. However, something like OLD AGE isn’t necessarily fair game. OLD AGE could mean that you get shot by a bed ridden old person when you try to rob their house. The machine almost seems to delight in toying with the users.

What each author does with this premise is not so simple. There are stories about irony, where someone gets a prediction, say BOAT ACCIDENT, tries to avoid that their whole life then all of a sudden, something happens and they die, like they’re driving and a boat on a trailer crashes into them knocking their car off a cliff. But there are other stories that go much deeper. There are stories about true love. There are sci-fi thrillers set in a totalitarian future. There is a heart wrenching story about a couple who had had multiple miscarriages and the only reason the machine of death was involved was the very end of the story. There is an AMAZING story that is only one page long. (The cause of death in that one is HIV INFECTION FROM MACHINE OF DEATH NEEDLE).

Further, each story made me feel something different than the next one. Some made me see positives of the machine (Such as TORN APART AND DEVOURED BY LIONS), some made me feel frustrated at how the only reason these people died the way they did is BECAUSE they read their reading. A couple stories deal with people trying to prove that the machine is fallible, by trying to die in a way unrelated to the machine’s suggestion.

More than anything, this book is a look at the human psyche. It is putting human reactions under the microscope and seeing how a simple change, like introducing a vague cause of death, can exasperate existing tendencies.

A free PDF download was published on the Machine of Death website, feel free to read it. But I would HIGHLY reccomend that you buy this book. They self-published the book after publishers told them it wouldn’t sell (after admitting that they loved the book). It has a plentiful amount of good stories, as well as a wonderful full page piece of art for each story. I can’t promise that you’ll find it as powerful as I did, but If you enjoy the book one tenth as much as I did, it’ll be worth the $17.95 you spent on it.

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