February 6, 2014 7:59 PM by Ken Gagne
Filed under Fiction; Comments Off on Review: Machine of Death
Machine of Death: A Collection of Stories About People Who Know How They Will Die, edited by Ryan North
A machine that tells you how you die, in vague yet accurate terms. It is never wrong, and your fate cannot be avoided. This anthology collects individual stories of people who encounter this machine. Although all the tales have the machine's functionality in common, there is no one persistent world: sometimes the machine is dismissed as a novelty; other times, an entire society will remodel itself around the predictions. For one couple, the machine means doom; for another, it brings hope.
I loved the variety of these 33 stories, each starting with an illustration and a prediction that somehow relates to the story, serving as its title. My favorite was "Almond", followed by:
- Torn Apart and Devoured by Lion
and, of course, "HIV Infection from Machine of Death Needle".
There was honestly not a bad story in the lot, but my least favorites were "Not Waving but Drowning", "Improperly Prepared Blowfish", "Love Ad Nauseum", and "Drowning".
Each story left me a degree of chilled. What would I do if faced with such an opportunity? Would I learn of my fate, or leave it unknown? How would I react to knowing how I'd die? Would my actions to avoid the prophecy serve only to fulfill it? Would I take up arms in protest of the machine? I hope I never need to know. I've already picked up from the library the sequel, This Is How You Die, and look forward to absorbing more macabre tales.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
November 10, 2013 11:06 AM by Ken Gagne
Filed under Non-Fiction; Comments Off on Review: The Moth
The Moth edited by Catherine Burns
I'm a big fan of The Moth. Ever since a friend introduced me to the podcast in May 2012, I've listened to every show and attended every local event I could. Despite that, I was originally uninterested in the book — the spoken medium doesn't always translate well to transcription. But a promotion offered two $18 tickets to their next show when preordering the $10 book, so I picked it up as a money-saving move.
The book contains 50 stories that they promise aren't necessarily the best, but are those that lend themselves well to the written word, with only light editing. These stories are taken from the mainstage show and thus are told by the likes of President Clinton's press secretary, astronaut Michael Massimino, rapper Run DMC, and others. Although these stories had at their core values we can all relate to — being alone, being afraid — I still found it a bit hard to penetrate the world of celebrity. (That some of the stories are by Moth staff, and the book has a preface, a forward, and an introduction, further contributes to the self-congratulatory air.)
I'd previously heard 14 of the 50 stories on the audio podcast so skipped those. The ones I did read, I could tell they were originally spoken: plenty of sentences begin with "And", I don't think much would've been lost if these transitions had been eliminated in the editing.
This ain't a bad book — but for the true experience, The Moth should be heard, not seen.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
December 2, 2011 1:00 PM by Ken Gagne
Filed under Science Fiction; Comments Off on Review: Gods of Justice
Gods of Justice: Edited by Kevin Hosey & K. Stoddard Hayes
Gods of Justice features ten stories, each by a different author and set in its own universes, giving diverse experiences at the applications and implications of superpowers. Some people are about to discover their superpowers; some are confronted with new challenges; others are called out of retirement. Be it the present or future, Earth or elsewhere, the different settings are easy to get into.
My favorites were Lisa Gail Green's "Identity Crisis", about a teenager who finds out her twin sister is a superhero; Kevin Hosey's "Blunt Force Trauma", about a murder-mystery surrounding an old teammate; and K. Stoddard Hayes' "The Dodge", inexplicably set on an Old West planet and starring a sheriff who must keep his power a secret from everyone. Least favorites were "Neutral Ground", set on the battlefields of World War I; "Breaking the Circle", about a temporal paradox; and "The Justice Blues", about an abusive superhusband.
If I understand correctly, this anthology's primary format is an e-book, which may've contributed to the occasional lack of copyediting, allowing "bowls" to be substituted for "bowels", for example. But such issues are rare and don't occur where they could confuse.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars