Gods of reality

Northern California author Andrew Foster Altschul brings readers into the inner workings of a fictional reality-TV show in his second novel, Deus Ex Machina. The show’s somewhat-jaded producer struggles to make seemingly predictable contestants become more marketable in a television genre where everyone has a predetermined role. It wasn’t always that way. This particular show began with every intention of letting nature run its course and allowing its characters to choose their own paths. However, as readers are taken behind the scenes, it becomes apparent that the show has become more reminiscent of, say, The Truman Show, where everything is orchestrated and free will is boring. In a society of glorified Biggest Losers, Survivors, and Idols, Altschul presents a poignant critique on our favorite cultural obsession: “reality.” Reality-TV buffs might enjoy Altschul’s somewhat realistic behind-the-scenes narrative; the rest of us will love his literary take on pop culture.