Funny thing death. It’s the only thing that every human on earth is afraid of. It is the focal point of every religion and it is the end of every war. Wouldn’t life be so much simpler if we all just knew how we were going to die and so it no longer weighed on our minds? Well, perhaps not.
If you happen to follow a certain group of webcomic artists on Twitter you may have already heard about Machine of Death. The book, while not written by said artists, does feature their artwork and on October 26 they were busy promoting the book in an effort to push it up to the top seller of the day position on Amazon.com. An endeavor, I might add, which was successful. The book is a collection of story written on a similar premise and an intriguing one at that.
Turns out it is morbidly interesting. What makes this collection so interesting is the breadth of approaches included within. Ryan North teamed up with Matthew Bennardo, and David Malki ! to solicit stories on the subject and sorted through 675 or so entries to find excellent examples of nearly every genre imaginable. The result is a study in the human psyche. The stories were written by amateur and professional writers spanning five continents and each of the 34 chosen writers has a very firm grasp on irony indeed.
Death is something we all pondered at some point in our life and it is death, this time limit to our existence that drives strong men to conquer and weak men to cower. While no one can conquer death, conquering the fear of death and coming to terms with its inevitability is the only way to attain a fulfilling life. This is where religion enters the picture. But you didn’t come here to discuss religion. Machine of Death brings these thoughts and more to the forefront of discussion in an often entertaining, often depressing, and generally morbid way.
Of course when one casts the net so wide and brings in such a large number of fish one must expect a fair number of fish ill qualified to swim on the world stage. Even after narrowing down the selection as these three have done so diligently cannot exclude all of the guppies. Though my bias against the naiveties of frivolous junior high girls may have clouded my judgment in that regard.
Since I was one of the masses who bought the book on October 26 you may be wondering why I am only now reviewing it. Well the fact is it is extremely morbid. Even I have my limits when it comes to the end of a human life. Hmmm, that’s not to say I’m some sort of serial killer. I only mean that I, like so many of our generation, have been dutifully numbed by the violence of mass media. I enjoy Apocalypse Now and Kill Bill and the like. But as I said in my review of Pictures for Sad Children, if I dwell on it for too long the world becomes a dark and dreary place and that really isn’t the point of the book. Every story ends horribly for the people who actually found out what their death will be, with the possible exception of the guy who was to be eaten by lions but he could not be described as sane, because once they knew it was all they could think about and it drove them mad. It’s not good to dwell on death, but this book certainly offers a good number of perspectives on the subject. After all, if you’re going to conquer your fear you’re better off considering it from a number of angles.
Should you like to laugh, cry (well, maybe not cry but certainly feel sad), and contemplate what would happen if the world suddenly found out its mode of death I feel it is my duty to mention that you don’t actually have to buy this book. It’s available free right here in both pdf and audiobook formats.