Strange Horizons, December 2, 2013
Reviewed by Louis West
Elliott Essex’s “Why Don’t You Ask the Doomsday Machine” is a fun story told from the point of view of a few, of a billion year-old death machine created to solve unresolvable interstellar conflicts by destroying all life—everywhere. Fortunately, its creators instilled a sense of cautious optimism and self-deprecation into this machine, which allows it to elude madness as it whiles away the long interludes watching intelligent life reform from scratch. Inevitably, however, they come again, seeking the machine as the last resort to solve their problems.
Underlying its tongue-in-cheek, space opera tone, I discovered a charming coming-of-age story. It could be argued that all sentient life must go through such a phase, even entities with multi-billion year life cycles. This machine suffers the same as any human: childhood (powerless to guide its own destiny, manipulated by those around it), a rebellious teenage period then into adulthood. Only when the machine finally decides to act on its own behalf does it finally achieve relief from the interminable demands of all other sentient life and realize a sense of fulfillment. This is the author’s first published work. Congrats and recommended.