Reviews of This Is How You Die:

Tasha Robinson, A.V. CLUB, July 15, 2013 :

…At heart, This Is How You Die is a celebration of creativity, exploring how impressively far one idea can be stretched without breaking…While the second book keeps everything that worked in the first anthology, it also improves on the format. The previous redundancy has been ironed out; the stories consistently take the machine for granted rather than spelling out repetitive backstories. The internal illustrations are more ambitious and thoughtful. And the push for more conceptual diversity let the editors dodge the original book’s biggest problem: the sense that many of the stories, however well-written, were just minor variations on the same story about learning to live philosophically with death. This Is How You Die keeps the intellectual curiosity and empathy, but its variations are anything but minor. Grade: A

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY – BEST SUMMER BOOKS 2013 :

…A second hilarious, tragic, splendid anthology of stories and comics in which people learn just enough, or not quite enough, about their future demises. Like death itself, this simple premise provokes a broad range of questions and some surprising answers.

NEW YORK MAGAZINE – SUMMER READING GUIDE 2013 (Featured) July 14, 2013

KIRKUS REVIEWS, May 13, 2013 :

…Whether the cause of death is “Screaming, Crying, Alone, and Afraid,” “Blunt Force Trauma Delivered by Spouse,” “Peacefully” or “Old Age,” none of the stories unravel in the way one might think. Funny, frightening, clever; no one in these stories emerges unscathed.

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, May 13, 2013 :

…Not every story ends with death, but each does an interesting job of presenting characters’ reactions—resignation, defiance, joy—to acquiring this incredible knowledge. This fun, thoughtful, and sometimes dark anthology will stir readers to wonder about their own “results.”

DRUNKEN ZOMBIE, July 1, 2013 :

…A collection of stories that are varied, nuanced and fascinating…I heartily recommend you check this anthology out. I found it to be well worth my time, despite going in expecting something far darker.


Reviews of Machine of Death:

Hannah Strom-Martin, STRANGE HORIZONS, March 16, 2011 :

…This sort of Man vs. Fate dilemma has obsessed us since Sophocles, so it’s not shocking to report that Machine of Death hooks you from page one. But where this collection could have been a one joke wonder or merely skated by on its own cleverness, it turns out to be a lot deeper than that. A lot more intelligent. A lot less predictable than its theme of inevitability would have you suppose…

As editors, Malki !, North, and Bennardo should be commended. If it’s cheap, sadistic thrills you crave you’d do better to let Machine of Death alone and catch up on your Jersey Shore—but if you’d like to think as well as be mightily entertained, you’re in the right place.

Sheri White, THE FUTURE FIRE, February 27, 2011 :

Machine of Death is an incredible idea for an anthology, and each of the stories is very well-written and engaging. It may be odd to say I enjoyed a book about death, but actually death is not the forefront of most of the stories. Morality, mortality, fear, love and sex are just a few of the underlying themes throughout this anthology, which make Machine of Death more than just a book of dying; it’s also a book about living.

Jim Higgins, MILWAUKEE JOURNAL-SENTINEL, January 22, 2011 :

Machine of Death is a collection of stories the whole family can enjoy, especially the Addams Family.

…The Machine of Death, like the Delphic Oracle, is artfully, sometimes cruelly, vague in its predictions. For example, a girl who drew BOAT as her terminal fate avoided the sea but was killed when a towed cabin cruiser jackknifed in front of her on the freeway. The anthology’s authors, including comics creators, bloggers, gaming writers and fictioneers, enjoy tormenting their protagonists with those fatal ambiguities. But as a group, they also do a remarkable job of exploring the cultural changes such a machine could bring.

Karen Ingram, KANSAS STATE COLLEGIAN, January 21, 2011 :

I give The Machine of Death five out of five stars. It is a fantastic read and I believe there is something for everyone in it. Nearly every single story held an unanticipated twist, and nearly all of them took on perspectives and ideas I never could have dreamed of.

Bill, FROM A SCI-FI STANDPOINT, January 21, 2011 :

Styles run the gamut, including adventure, humor, horror, fantasy, and sci-fi; but no matter what style each author uses, they all pay careful attention to how this invention would change our world, and its social, psychological, economic, and legal effects.

Rod Lott, BOOKGASM, January 18, 2011 :

With a little genre-hopping and excellent illustrations from the likes of Jeffrey Brown, Shannon Wheeler and Kean Soo, Machine of Death is unlike anything you’ll read this year. That’s a good thing, people, provided it doesn’t kill you.

Dietrich Stogner, THE LIBRARY POLICE, January 5, 2011 :

At times delightful and brutal, hysterical and twisted, Machine of Death shows the true strength of the short story: brief, bite-sized morsels that offer us a taste of possibilities. A fantastic compilation, and one that I enjoyed immensely.

Tasha Robinson, A.V. CLUB, December 30, 2010 :

Machine Of Death is a marvelous collection, riddled with intelligence, creative reach, and a frankness that makes the best use of the central gimmick. While the seed idea seemingly lends itself to twist-ending stories about people who try to evade their predicted deaths, there are only a few of those; more often, the stories examine how the death-predictor machine would change the world.

EXPERIMENTS IN READING, December 15, 2010 :

…The variety in Machine of Death is fantastic. The many different creators take many different approaches to the same basic premise and the stories aren’t necessarily consistent with one another. Instead, it’s like peering into a number of different parallel worlds and “what ifs.” … Machine of Death really is a delightful and multifaceted collection.

Chris Gladis, THE LABYRINTH LIBRARY, December 12, 2010 :

It’s a fascinating group of stories, illustrated by some of the internet’s best artists … It will do what all really good writing should do – make you think. As seductive as it sounds, knowing the means of your death is information that you really can do without. It is the end to your story, whether you know it or not, but everything until then is still up to you. While you may not have any choice over how you die, you still have plenty of control over how you live.

Jeff VanderMeer, OMNIVORACIOUS (Amazon books blog), November 20, 2010 :

Personally, I found Machine of Death a lively, self-assured, and diverse read. The stories aren’t as similar as you might think from the premise, the editors have done a good job of breaking up the text with the art, and the whole enterprise has an air of subversion and energy that supports the outrageously cool way in which they managed to get the book world’s attention. This is DIY publishing at its best, and a perfect example of the way in which creative, clever editors can use to their advantage the new leveling of hierarchies, existence of more accessible means of distribution, and diversity of ways to make a project visible to readers.

BROKE AND BOOKISH, November 14, 2010 :

Man I love this book. And let it be known, I’m not usually a fan of short stories. I don’t have anything against short stories in particular, but if I’m given the choice between a short story and a novel, I’m going to choose the novel. But these stories are sooo good! And there’s such a wide variety too. It feels like each time I sit down to read it, I think, there can’t possibly be a better story than that last one I read. And it proves me wrong every time!

SARAH’S BOOK JOURNAL, November 13, 2010 :

A lot of topics can’t help but arise in this stories: fate, the nature of human behavior, mortality, our feelings about death, and the overall point of living. I really enjoyed this collection and have been telling many friends about it. I didn’t recognize the any of the authors, so I don’t know how many of them are “unknowns”, but do them (and yourself!) a favor and do go find this book and read it.

Mallory DuVal, NEEDCOFFEE.COM, November 13, 2010 :

Some of the stories definitely deal with the darker side of the existential quandary of knowing how you’re going to die but there’s an excellent balance between light-hearted and soul-crushing. [...] Whether you’re a fan of sci-fi, what-if scenarios or just want to stick it to Glenn Beck, Machine of Death is a great read.

BEATRICE.COM, November 9, 2010 :

I’m about a third of the way through, and I can tell you that I’m happily impressed. The premise is simple: There’s a machine that will tell you how (but not when) you are going to die, but the messages are not always straightforward: “Suicide,” for example, may not refer to your own attempts at self-annihilation. Each of the stories is titled with a death prediction; one of my favorite so far is “Torn Apart and Devoured by Lions,” in which Jeffrey C. Wells describes the enthusiasm with which an insurance salesman embraces his fate because, hey, it means he’s not going to be stuck in this cubicle for the rest of his life. (But there are also some seriously bleak tales here, like Bennardo’s “Starvation,” and more quietly disturbing stories like J. Jack Unrau’s “Firing Squad.”) I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the book whenever I can steal time away for a story or two, but based just on my initial impressions, these guys totally deserve all the success they’ve gotten and (if the momentum holds) will continue to enjoy.

THE DIRTY PUNX COLLECTIVE, November 9, 2010 :

One of the few criticisms of the book that I have is that quite a few of the stories you want to read more, you want to read a full book on the topic… I cannot recommend this book enough.

Romana Challans, TIMELADY.COM, November 8, 2010 :

…There was something in this that grabbed me by the throat and whispered at first, then screamed over and over. Possibilities. It is all about the possibilities.

I have bought it as a present. I have bought it also for myself. I don’t care how you get it – free, dead tree, electrons dancing. Whatever. Just read it.

Christine Cabalo, HAWAII MARINE, November 5, 2010 :

Picking just one good story in the independently published Machine of Death anthology is like any of its characters escaping their foretold deaths — impossible. Rating: 4/4

Andrew Cunningham, CHARGE SHOT!!!, November 4, 2010 :

…The only consistent entity is the presence of the Machine of Death; the appearance of the machine, the depth of its integration into culture, and peoples’ responses to it and its predictions vary from story to story. This is both wonderful and frustrating – each story offers up a uniquely interesting take on the Machine of Death, which is impressive, but sometimes I found myself so taken in by one writer’s universe that I wanted it to serve as canon to the rest of the book. It’s not a bad complaint to have, and it’s the only one I can muster… The book is just too good to pass up.

Tim Wiellert, THE OREDIGGER, October 31, 2010 :

This book is a must-read for any student of engineering and is highly reminiscent of the technocratic-satire popularized by the late Kurt Vonnegut. While the writing styles are incredibly easy to read, the content is by no means an “easy read.” Each story will present the reader with plenty of questions about the role of technology in society and room for reflection on how science can influence philosophy.

Chris Greenwood, TOR.COM, October 26, 2010 :

For an anthology that deals with the inevitability of death, Machine of Death is a lot of fun. The editors knew not to start off heavy, nor does the tone of the anthology lean too long in any direction, providing a lot of singular entertainment for the reader… Highly engaging, interestingly crowdsourced, and crafted with a great deal of care. You’ll be thinking about it long after you’re through reading.

Maurice Underwood, PARADOX MAGAZINE, November 2010 :

It’s a simple concept: put your finger in the machine, feel the prick as the needle takes a drop of your blood. Wait a couple seconds of nerve-tensing anxiety and then find out the answer to that ever-present question that lurks in all of us…”How will I die?”. This is the precept to Machine of Death – a new anthology of speculative fiction that recalls the best writings of Harlan Ellison and Charles Beaumont and easily one of the most engaging slices of short stories I’ve had the pleasure to read in quite a long while.

In 2010, Ryan North published an episode of his web-based “Dinosaur Comics” which posited the concept of a machine that will tell when you’re going to die. While humorous (as are most of his comics), the ides struck a chord in the minds of several folks – most notably Matthew Bennardo and David Malki – who decided to solicit submissions (of which there were roughly 675), compile the best of them and release the Creative Commons-licensed book that became #1 on Amazon’s best-seller list on the day of release as well as garnering rave reviews from Seattle’s Stranger, ABC News Australia and a pedantic, childish rant from Glenn Beck on his radio program since this book beat his in sales.

Not too shabby, eh?

Far from being a downer, this collection runs the gamut of ideas – there’s tales of teenage angst (“Flaming Marshmallow”), truly uplifting epiphanies (“Piano”), analysis of human nature under stress (“Starvation”) and a beautiful love story that really brought home the whole concept (“Heat Death of the Universe”). I was most definitely touched by Pelotard’s entry “Nothing” with it’s healthy sense of nihilism and release. Go have a have a couple glasses of wine and attempt to read this without melancholy. As you can tell, the titles are the the cause of death listed by the machine to the protagonists in each story and it’s engaging to try and figure out what may actually happen as the machine appears to have a very ironic sense of humor. Another saving grace is that these stories don’t all take place in the same world structure. In some stories, the M.O.D. is a pop culture fad, in others, an oppressing device used by corporations to determine life benefits.. That coupled with a very black humor (and would one expect anything else from such a tome?) makes M.O.D. a must-read.

After all the years of picking up short story collections that inevitably disappoint, Machine of Death brought me laughs, terror and tears which is a rarity in these days of conspicuous consumption and one that rewards repeated readings. I’ve also found it helps as modern Grimm’s Fables for bedtime reading (although not to the young, so be warned).

I’m happy to see there’s so much creativity and D.I.Y. attitude out there and something tells me that if these stories are indication of the talent inherent in the contributors then you’ve got Cliff’s Notes to the next generation of forward-thinking writers.

Highly recommended.