A lab assistant charged with one of the first machines of death refuses to test himself, while everyone around him succumbs.
Pure pleasure to read – or in my case, listen to. It’s the longest story so far, but every time reader Kevin McShane (who sounds excitingly like Peter from Fringe) pauses for more than a second, you’re hoping it’s not going to end.
The whole story is a log, that rapidly devolves into a journal, written in a friendly and clear-headed style. The watch-word of this collection has been ‘refreshing’, and what’s refreshing about Chernega’s protagonist is his almost complete lack of curiosity. He’s curious about other people’s predictions, but he’s one of the few characters in the book so far not even tempted by the prospect.
His diary charts the escalating public reaction to the machines, covering some of the same territory as my own, and I’m honoured they didn’t just scrap mine when they read this. ALMOND plays much more with the machine’s enjoyably sinister ambiguity – when it starts giving more than a few people GOVERNMENT, you know something interesting’s about to go down.
Some predictions are clever enigmas that are unraveled during the story, others are unexplained and seemingly unexplainable, and others seem to be openly fucking with you. That’s important, because the tension the story builds hinges on the narrator inferring a personality to the machine – one that becomes increasingly infuriating to him.
It has a punch, but doesn’t conform to the usual twist-story structure: the set up is almost immediately before the payoff, which prevents it from risking anticlimax. The voice, humour and escalating intrigue don’t need a giant question mark hanging over them to keep the story compelling throughout.
Machine of Death: a book that appears to be good so far. It’s now $18 whether you buy it from Amazon or Topatoco, and I think Topatoco have faster international shipping. The whole book is free in PDF form, and is trickling out steadily as an audiobook in podcast form. My story for it is online here.