Deus Ex Machina

Deus ex machine, a wonderful option, or an escape option?

In so many books that I’ve read, the authors seem to have the same plot: e.g. Get the hero boxed into a corner, make it a final battle between good and evil, make it so that the hero and his friends have nearly no chance to prevail over the evil.

What do you think happens in at least two-thirds of those books? You’re right! The authors use a deus ex machina of some kind.

The heroes are surrounded by an army of stone men bent of smashing the world into dust? No problem, maybe the hero suddenly remembers that his grandmother taught him a song when he was three which was in truth a spell for turning just such an army of stone men into meek deer.

The last small group of humans are surrounded by blood thirsty goblins? The heroine discovers that she is in fact the only daughter of a goblin king and human princess ad orders the goblins to go home.

A battle fleet of star ships is set upon by an unknown race that threatens to destroy all of humanity? Lucky thing that a passing pulsar just happens by and irradiates the aliens. Or maybe a super weapon has been in secret development upon the flagship of the said battle fleet and is suddenly finished (of course it destroys the attacking aliens and humanity is saved).

All of those are key examples of deus ex machina. Just to be clear, I’m not totally against deus ex machina, but I feel that some authors use it too much. It can be used in moderation without compromising a story, in some stories it can be used to win a key battle, I don’t mind that. What I do mind is when a trilogy gets so set in routine that just fifty pages into the book you can tell how the evil is going to be destroyed.

One exceptions that I’ll gladly make is if the author does it on purpose, if its supposed to be so easy to tell what’s going on that it’s clearly humorous, that’s just fine with me. However I don’t think I’ve ever seen this in a book, most authors seem to think that they are being clever.

What do you think? Does deus ex machina belong in most books? Tell me what you think.


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