The Horror Honeys: Hardcover Honey's Book of The Week!

Hardcover Honey's Book of The Week!

This is How You Die (Edited by Ryan North, Matthew Bennardo, and David Malk) 

The title of this one puts me in a mind of Beetlejuice, with the terrific Miss Argentina staffing the Afterlife waiting room and my favorite quote: “This is what happens when YOU die.....and this is what happens when HE dies, and I'll tell you something else (holds up scarred wrists), if I knew then what I know now, I wouldn't have had my little accident.”  Death is so individual, isn't it?  Something we know will happen to us all, but how?  When?  Where?

The highly entertaining “This is How You Die” is a book of short stories, selected from many submissions, all with one premise in mind – that there is a machine that, with just a prick of your finger, can tell you in seconds how you will die, spitting out a simple COD (Cause of Death) slip about the size of a fortune cookie fortune or a baseball card.  Not the time or place, necessarily, but the means.  And whatever you do to avoid it is pointless, as the machine in many cases seems to have a sick sense of humor (i.e., your death slip reads “Cancer”, so you eat tons of blueberries and stay out of the sun, but in fact, your fate is to be killed by someone born between June 22 and July 22, that is to say, a Cancer).  What would you do with this information?  Would you choose to receive it or live in suspense?  If your slip reads “Old Age, Surrounded By Loved Ones”, how many crazy risks would you take in your youth, knowing you were, for all intents and purposes, invincible?

Every story in a collection can't be a standout, of course, but for me, several were very engrossing and could have been novels of their own, including:
  • Old Age, Surrounded by Loved Ones (Nathan Burgoine), in which identical twins Leah and Julia each received two identical slips of paper from the Machine of Death that guides their decisions in fascinating ways.
  • Rock and Roll (Toby W. Rush) – Lucky Amanda has a backstage pass to meet her favorite hard-rocking singer, but when there is a seeming discrepancy in his much-mythologized COD, will his songs still hold meaning for her?
  • Shiv Sena Riot (Ryan Estrada) – Call centre rep Manisha talks people through their COD cards, despite having no knowledge of her own cause of death.  Will she defy her traditional mother in order to visit the local Machine of Death?
  • Execution By Beheading (Chandler Kaiden) – When curious kids Bradley and Izzy think their elderly neighbor is a terrorist in hiding, how far will they go to steal his coveted “Death by Beheading” trading card?
  • Conflagration (D.L.E. Roger) – When therapist Eliot hears shocking news from his researcher wife Lydia about the seeming approaching end of the world, will they be able to keep it to themselves?  Or is human nature an unstoppable force in our own eventual destruction?
  • Apitoxin (John Takis) – Although I wouldn't call myself a Sherlock Holmes fan, I enjoyed this old-fashioned twist on the Machine of Death tale, in which Holmes and Watson work to determine the plausibility of such a machine.
  • Machine of Death (Karen Stay Ahlstrom) – A fratty Machine of Death party is a huge hit with nearly everyone, but co-ed Marka has her doubts about the validity.
  • Monsters From The Deep (David Malki) – In this terrific Maximum Overdrive-ish tale, our friendly neighborhood vending machines and Redboxes are far more sinister than they appear. This one in particular was especially cinematic, and I'd love to have read more about this particular world.
  • Cancer (Ryan North) – When Helen Lawrence receives a wide variety of COD slips (unheard of), her doctors are puzzled.  What could be causing these never-before-seen readings and how can Helen help unlock the secrets of medical research?
  • Blunt Force Trauma Delivered by Spouse (Liz Argall) – Can Lara work up the courage to leave her abusive marriage and never return?  To what extent can we avoid our stated destinies?
  • Meat Eater (John and Bill Chernega) – A twisted and hilarious take on an explanatory book for kids, complete with illustrations, helping them face their fears about the Machine of Death, complete with a Q&A section from the US Dept of Homeland Security - “Q – Is there a way that people of a certain religion or conscientious objectors can refuse the test? A – No.
  • Your Choice (Richard Salter) – A story in the “Choose Your Own Adventure” vein.  Aside from reminding me of my own childhood enjoying said series, it made me think about the fact that, no matter what, all of our adventures are coming to the same eventual conclusion.  
  • Old Age (Brigita Orel) – Barely a page long, this quick picture of marriage will stay with you long after the fact.
I should add here that “This is How You Die” also features many beautiful illustrations accompanying the stories, which was a great addition. 

Hardcover Honey Verdict: Four out of five deadly prognostications for this one – I am looking forward to the next volume!