Machine of Death

Machine of Death is a concept anthology, which is in itself a pretty cool concept (if an old one), and more so because it's certainly the first anthology in over 65 million years to have been inspired by the mostly offhand remark of a T. rex to a Utahraptor and a Dromiceiomimus.

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What if, T. rex wondered one day, while stomping on a log cabin in front of which was parked what appears to have been a Plymouth Reliant, someone invented a machine that could use a simple blood test to declare infallibly how someone would eventually die? And what if (heh heh, heh heh) the machine "delights in ironically vague deaths"?

Utahraptor asks, "Natural causes?"

Quoth T. rex, "Hit on the head by a falling koala bear!"

This was in 2005, and then the internetz went crazy with people falling over themselves to imagine ironically vague death predictions that'd come true in fashions either amusing, heartbreaking, or Tarantino-esque. Flash five years forward, and you've got this pretty sweet anthology full of stories from all over, doing all kinds of things with T. rex's madcap premise.

Flash forward three more years, though, and I'm sad about a follow-up anthology that doesn't seem likely to do anything not done already by Machine of Death. I feel like I'm stupidly a fan of the early Velvet Roadkills, before they, like, sold out, you know?, but jeez.

And it's not that I distrust the early Amazon reviewers, all of whom are so excited they can't hardly stand themselves, when they say that the stories might be more mature and yearning and blitzkrieg, as appropriate in the given case, but I'm still not reading it.

At bottom, the virtue and crime of a concept anthology like this one is that you're going to get variations on a theme. You might happen to love the theme, and you might adore the very idea of a cover version, but how much "Hallelujah" do you really need?

It was lots of fun reading the first third of this book, and there were probably some better stories in the last two-thirds, but by then I was kind of feeling like whole stories were unnecessary: just give me tweeted summaries of unmade ideas (like these!), seriously, or titles like those of Friends episodes (season 3, episode 8: "The One with the Giant Poking Device").

Honestly, I slag not these authors or editors. It's not their fault that this book wasn't for me, or I wouldn't have enjoyed most of it and wouldn't have been grumpy that I wasn't enjoying stories I knew I should've been enjoying.


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