[Perry] Deus Ex Machina

…and the Dire Earth trilogy by Jason M. Hough.

Please, for the love of all of the fluffiest of kittens and puppies in the world: Just. STOP. (Warning, the following post may contain more than a little rambling due to ANGER!)

For those not in the know, deus ex machina refers to a literary device where, at the end, all of the problems of the plot is resolved by having god or a godlike figure descend from the heavens and make everything alright.

One of the most heinous examples of such things can be found in Peter Hamilton’s Night’s Dawn trilogy.

It’s cheap.

It’s tawdry.

Just. Fucking. STOP.

In Hough’s Dire Earth trilogy, the world has been consumed by a disease that turns the affected humans into mindless animals that are driven by their base, primal urges (fight/flee/procreate).

The only save haven is the town of Darwin, where the mysterious Builders (aliens) have inexplicably left behind a space elevator of sorts which gives off a sort of ‘immunity aura’.

The story follows a number of people as they deal with the revelation that the Builders will likely return and what that may mean for humanity, given that the characters have no idea what the Builder’s motivations were in the first place.

So the mystery builds, and the action intensifies, chapter by chapter, book by book.

See, I was feeling a little nervous when I hit the 50% point of the final book and they still hadn’t gotten to the climax of the series yet.

I was SCARED when I hit 80% and the final act seemed to just be starting.

I knew what was going to happen when I hit 95% of the book and STILL NO END IN SIGHT.

Sure enough, around 97% of the way through the book, the mysterious aliens swoop down, cure the plague, gift mankind with technologies to make up for experimenting on them and whisk away a few of the main characters for a mysterious purpose…which is all explained in the scant 5-10 pages of the epilogue.

How the hell do you wrap up a super complex plot and mystery in just a throwaway epilogue?

That is NOT good closure.

I felt completely dissatisfied at the end of it and would have thrown the book into the damned trash if it wasn’t on my Kindle.

Hells, I might have set the fuckers on FIRE.

Deus ex machina is a cheap and tawdry story-telling device. Even using it in an ironic and self-aware sort of manner tends to leave a bad taste in the mouth. It makes me feel like reading the novel (or novels) was a complete waste of my time and that is NOT how you want a reader to be feeling when they put down your book.

It’s bad enough when it’s in a one-shot novel, but when it’s in a lengthy trilogy? Full of mystery and suspense and action and it ends like THAT?


Such a STUPID way to end a complex story.

Don’t subject readers to this tripe because you’re too lazy to figure out a believable path to the ending.

Getting to the end of a complex plot and having the author just “okay, and then god waved his hands and all was right with the world again,” is tantamount to admitting that you have no fucking clue where your plot is going and that you’ve given up.


Please tell me that I’m not the only one that’s suffered through this. Have any of you run into deus ex machina endings that made you want to set the book on fire?

…I could use a support group.

10 thoughts on “[Perry] Deus Ex Machina

  1. Mother of Three, Anne


    I wish I read the same type of books as you so that I could rant with you. I do have some ranting skills!

    • Perry

      Let ‘er rip!

      I’d love to hear you flay an offending book/series!

  2. If I’ve ever read any that end that way, it was such a traumatic experience that I’ve repressed it.

    Interestingly, the one “series” I thought (hoped?) would have a deus ex machina resolution was Arthur C. Clarke’s Rama trilogy (I think it was a trilogy). Instead, I never really had a feeling of fulfillment after finishing, and it’s not like there was another book to look forward to. In fact, it was depressing: the only thing I’ve ever read by one of the Holy Trinity of SF (Isaac Asimov and Robert A. Heinlein being the other two, for those not into SF) that left me feeling that way.

    • Perry

      I think I’ve only ever read the first Rama book and it was…interesting. Very mysterious.

      I didn’t get hooked enough to keep going, though I loved a lot of Clarke’s other works.

      Surely you must have run into some sort of deus ex travesty, Steve! A man of your storied background and profession must have run into things like this before hehe.

    • willydd3

      I have to admit that I didn’t really understand the ending to the Rama series, which was a complete let-down. I was so excited to find out the meaning behind everything, and even though I don’t really remember the details, I know it was disappointing.

      • KristenSue

        I’m with you this one. That’s how I feel now, looking back on it.

        But the rest of it was delightful and descriptive and intriguing!

  3. Lauren

    I’m currently re-watching all of Stargate SG1, about halfway thorough season 8 right now. SG1 does this all the time. Several times the Asgard just swoop in and literally wave their little grey fingers and make the bad guys go away. Sometimes it’s actually the earthlings that save the day, but when that happens it’s usually because they just find a piece of technology that fixes everything (I’m looking at you Ancient outpost in Antartica). I really loved the show the first (and let’s be honest, second) time around, but this time all the deus ex machina is getting on my nerves. I really want us earthlings to prevail over the evil aliens on our own merits. We’re inteligent and resourceful people, use that to give the story a satisfying ending!

    • Perry

      You know, the thing is, a VARIANT of deus ex machina can be done extremely well.

      In the Mistborn trilogy, it’s SORT of deus ex machina ish…but the setup and the lead up to the whole thing was done so well that by the time I was done, I was just…sort of wowed and he managed to pull it off in a way that didn’t feel cheap to me at all.

      But the ham-handed, arm waving and all the bad things go away?


  4. willydd3

    Don’t get me started with the Night’s Dawn trilogy! It was so bad, I really did repress the memory. (You can find the evidence in my comments on this blog)

    I absolutely loved the world that Hamilton created, and it was my favorite series of all time until the very end. To my eternal shame I have actually recommended the series to others. The good parts were just so good.

    I still own the hard cover versions of these, perhaps I will take Perry’s advice and burn them.

    • Perry

      You know, I loved parts of it too.

      Barring the super perfect, amazing captain main character guy, who can do no wrong and can fuck like he’s made of viagra for women, apparently *rolls eyes*.

      But the whole thing about the seed ships that are grown in the outer shell of stars? And have personalities? And bond with living pilots?

      The group of folks with the cities infused with the gestalt AI personas of everyone that’s died?

      All pretty awesome.

      I even thought the whole dead spirits coming back and possessing the living sort of cool.

      But to end ALL those wonderful, intriguing ideas with just a….character gets godlike powers and waves his hands and sets everything back to how it should be?

      That. Is. VILE.

      I don’t even care about spoiling it to anyone, to be honest.

      And the entire series spans over 1000 pages! ALL that reading to get THAT sort of ending?

      If you don’t want to burn them, send them to me. I will. GLEEFULLY. As I rant and rave over my trashbucket fire about how horrendous it was XD.

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