"Existentialism was never so fun. Makes me wish I could die, too!" - Cory Doctorow
Perhaps Machine of Death editors Ryan North, Matthew Bennardo, and David Malki should have subtitled their self-published anthology "The Resurrection" or "Not Dead Yet!" Pursuing an aggressive guerilla PR and marketing campaign, they recently managed, through strength of fan/reader support, to shoot to the top of Amazon's book ranking system. Along the way, they dislodged heavy hitters like John Grisham and Glenn Beck, creating a maelstrom of discussion, chaos, and discussion in places like the Atlantic Wire.
Now that the dust has settled, what about the anthology itself? The premise is simple: it's a collection of speculative stories about a machine that can tell you the cause of your eventual death, but not the time or place. The book also contains copious illustrations/comics.
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.
But, when it comes down to it, you have to have the quality to back up the hype. You have to bring the heat, and Machine of Death does bring the heat. Not only that--it showcases a lot of talented writers you might not have encountered before. I know I have a few more "check out their other work" names after reading the anthology.