Deus Ex Machina

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On a distant island, reality show contestants battle for bragging rights and a slot on next week’s episode. They’ve perfected their dramatic roles and are prepared to do whatever it takes to win. There’s the take-no-prisoners Marine sergeant, the gay hairdresser, the ruthless lawyer, the brainy poet. But one player refuses to compete—Gloria Hamm, a sullen dental hygienist, voted least likely to win by the show’s crew.

The higher-ups are desperate for ratings and sensational twists to trump the plots of seasons past. But the producer—haunted by personal tragedies all too real—is losing control of the show and its crew. While he obsesses about Gloria, the crew plots mutiny, a contestant dances with insanity, and disease threatens to halt the show completely. When real catastrophes strike, the producer finds it harder and harder to navigate his surreal landscape, where boundaries of the real, imagined, and orchestrated have blurred beyond recognition.

Deus Ex Machina by Andrew Foster Altschul. The next selection from The Rumpus Book Club.


Stephen Elliott is the author of seven books, including the memoir The Adderall Diaries and the novel Happy Baby. He is the founder of The Rumpus. His feature film debut, About Cherry, was distributed by IFC. More from this author →