Wednesday, April 29, 2015

This Is How You Die

ed. by Ryan North, Matthew Bennardo, and David Malki !

Why You Should Read This:
  • It's an even more brilliant sequel to the awesome collection The Machine of Death.
  • So in a similar fashion, it is original, and thought-provoking, and twisty, and awesome.
  • But there's also more inventiveness, more world-building, and more science!

And Why You Shouldn't:
  • It's all about death, so obviously somewhat dark and creepy. Frankly, that's actually a selling point for me, but it could be an issue for some.
  • And...nothing else really. It's an awesome book.

Thoughts: I don't really have any criticisms. Individual stories could be less good than I was hoping or expecting, but as a whole, it was immensely entertaining.

And now for a few notes on specific stories that struck me (lacking depth since it's been a while since I read it--so sorry for the boringness):
  • "Zephyr" was a definite standout. Not only was there cool statistics stuff (and science/statitistics almost always makes the stories more fun for me), but there was a neat and different way to look at the predictions and a twist ending. This is one of my very favourites, I think, simply because of the interesting ideas presented.
  • "Execution by Beheading" had a slightly eerie "Lord of the Flies" vibe. Not quite as gruesome as that, but with some similar elements, such as children's lack of morality. It was intriguing and I enjoyed it.
  • "Lazarus Reactor Fission Sequence" was a fun and amusing written from villain's pov's, and I greatly enjoyed it.
  • I didn't actually enjoy "Drowning Burning Falling Flying" all that much, despite it being one of the more scifi stories. But it was fairly unique in showing a world where people committed suicide over not having the machine, as opposed to vice versa.
  • I didn't like "Conflagration" at all at first, thinking it was just another one about a depressing relationship. But then the statistics and causality stuff started, and it become one of the most memorable.
  • "Apitoxin", an actual Sherlock Holmes story, was quite a surprise in a book like this. The tone was obviously wildly different, as the writing and style was as similar to the actual Conan Doyle stories as I've seen. But it fit in surprisingly well with the vague, contradictory mythos these stories have set up so far.
  • "Blue Fever" was another departure in tone, being in a fantasy-esque world. But it was a cool one--I loved the singing, being a singer myself. The description of the song was beautiful. I especially liked a certain quote: "Her expression came not from her heart, but from a place she pictured behind and to the right of her, a repository for imaginarye emotions." (pg. 192) This is exactly what I do when performing, and it was fascinating to see it actually described. Especially since non-performers seem to have this idea that in order to perform superbly and emotionally, you need to actually feel those emotions in your depths, and you really don't.
  • "Machine of Death" was a really cool reverse of the assumptions built up by the stories so far. One reason why this volume is better than the previous--so many excellent twists on what's come to be thought as "canon" in your brain.
  • I found "Monsters from the Deep" really, really fun, despite how horrible and Lovecraftian it is. Man, that Snickers bar... probably the most memorable part of the whole book.
  • "Two One Six", by all appearances, should be a story I loved. But I didn't. Partly because I didn't really understand it, or what exactly was supposed to have happened. That never helps.
  • "Meat Eater" was actually the creepiest in the whole book for me. Weirdly enough considering there was a Lovecraft story in this volume. But hat children's book...sheesh.
  • "Your Choice" was a choose-your-own-adventure story, which I always love. I just wish it wasn't about yet another failed relationship. There are so many of them in these volumes. I guess it's a thing that happens in our world so often, but I haven't experienced it much myself, so it's very depressing to read about it so much. (And yeah, I realize I'm complaining from a place of extreme privilege. And yet, I don't think the fact that so many people experience it necessarily means it's a good idea to talk about it sooo often.)
  • "In Battle, Alone and Soon Forgotten" was another story in a completely different world. And it was awesome. So fun.
  • And "In Sleep"! This part of the book is just one amazing story after another. The originality of this world is breathtaking and I loved it so much. I want mooooore. Also the illustration was beautiful.
  • And then we go to a disappointing "Cecile", which is purely about the Romance. Only way the Machine comes into it at all is showing briefly that the main character would die for her love.
  • "La Mort d'un Roturier" was historical fiction, and another one that I would have loved to have more of. The central character was really cool. And again, I really liked the illustration for this one.
  • "Furnace" was yet another great twist, although I didn't like it all that much. Characters and world-building just not to my taste. But it was a good one to end off on, due to the far-flung future world, looking back on the past with the Machine. Suitable, I thought.
You can tell it was better than the first one because of how long this list ended up being.

As a note, I didn't actually like most of the one-page comics, which surprised me. Usually that sort of thing is one of my favourite parts. Must be the particular cartoonist, I suppose.

Grade: 4 1/2 stars

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