Machine of Death

Machine of Death, edited by Ryan North, Matthew Bennardo, and David Malki !

Machine of Death coverThe premise: When fed a blood sample, the machine will predict a person’s cause of death, usually in a non-straightforward way.

This anthology didn’t catch fire for me. The repeated explanation of the premise, even indirectly, became somewhat tedious. Maybe this is an anthology I’ll dig into occasionally, but it’s certainly not one I’m going to read straight through. Strike that.  Considering the amount of things I want to read, I probably won’t  come back to it. The stories are all very short, and out of the six I read, only one contained a character I remotely cared about.

And this is science fiction at its most simplistic: Here’s a technology. Don’t think about how it works or how it came to be,  only be concerned about how people react to it. I suppose you could look at the mysteriousness of the machine as a metaphor for the singularity, but technologies don’t come into being in a vacuum.


“Flaming Marshmallow” by Camille Alexa. First person, present. Female protag.

“Fudge” by Kit Yona. Third person, past. Is every story going to explain the concept? Male protag.

“Torn Apart and Devoured by Lions” by Jeffery Wells. Third, past. No explanation! No mall! So far, my favorite. Screwy protagonist. Male portag.

“Despair” by K.M. Lawrence. First, past. This narrator doesn’t sound female to me.

“Suicide” by David Michael Wharton. Third, past. Male protag.

“Almond” by John Chernega. First, past. Written as log entries. Male protag. Second favorite. First to imply that the knowledge itself might be harmful.

3 thoughts on “Machine of Death

  1. K M Lawrence

    Hello! Out of interest, was there anything particular that you thought made the narrator of “Despair” sound wrong?

    1. Katherine Nabity Post author


      First, a little disclaimer about me: I tend to be very gender and race blind when I read. For some reason, my brain defaults to white male until told otherwise. There was nothing solid to disabuse my brain of that notion until the seventh paragraph. In terms of a short story, that’s a long way in.

      Also, I think the lack of names being used made me think male. Patients are numbered for a good portion of the story. I can understand that as being a device–you saved their names for later when those details needed to emphasized, but it gave much of the story a feeling of distance that I don’t associate with female narrative voice.

      1. K M Lawrence

        Hmm. OK, cool. I will bear that in mind (too late for this one, obviously, but for future work). Thanks for the feedback!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.