Nemesis and the Deus Ex Machina

Today I am going to follow up my review of Heroes Proved with a few thoughts on the ending. This post will be specific and spoiler-heavy – not a review for those who haven’t read the book, but commentary for those who have.

While I was looking at the Amazon reviews, I saw one that complained that “the story is resolved through deus ex machina–Air Force One crashing into a lake.” On one level, this is hard to argue with. The terrorist attack that brought down Air Force One came out of nowhere; nothing in the book struggled against it, or for it. It also abruptly eliminated the broader importance of Martin Cohen’s rescue, at just the time he was rescued.

Yet the terrorist attack was not a deus ex machina in that it solved a dilemma that could have readily been solved ten other ways. Oliver North could have raised a Nemesis for the president from the story he had spent three hundred pages telling: Martin Cohen and his captors, the listening ears of Frances James, the Newman clan, the president’s own crimes and interminable intrigues.

All of them could have given the president an end. None of them could have given her an end as complete and dramatic as Air Force One crashing into Lake Erie.

And there were practical benefits. The terrorist attack was the sort of catastrophe that allows a nation to reset – and with that hopeful possibility, the dystopian Heroes Proved ends. Nor was the president dying by terrorism merely expedient; it was also a kind of grim justice, a poisonous reaping of her own poisonous sowing.

Nemesis is a goddess, and the pagan gods were always capricious. Yet she came as a response, a cosmic reaction to human causes. In the same way, the ending of Heroes Proved is not strictly a carry-though of the story’s logic, but there’s a certain cause-and-effect to it.

Caprice, it must be admitted, is generally inartistic in a novel. In fact, it almost always is. It can be interesting anyway. Heroes Proved, in its sudden end, did not reward the heroes’ efforts enough, or follow its own logic closely enough, to be satisfying in a classical way. But it is satisfying in a more obscure way; Nemesis usually is.