Deus Ex Machina

Latin: god from machine.

From “The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition”:

  1. In Greek and Roman drama, a god lowered by stage machinery to resolve a plot or extricate the protagonist from a difficult situation.
  2. An unexpected, artificial, or improbable character, device, or event introduced suddenly in a work of fiction or drama to resolve a situation or untangle a plot.
  3. A person or event that provides a sudden and unexpected solution to a difficulty.

I have to admit that I’m a bit torn by the ending of “Brilliance Of The Moon” by Lian Hearn. The first two books were so great that I leaped into the third one with gusto. Overall I still liked “Brilliance”, but I’m left with a bad taste in my mouth at the resolution.

On one hand I can understand the idea that for Takeo, destiny and prophecy were far stronger than his own desires and actions. I understand that Hearn has continually been setting us up for this ending by revealing the words of the prophecy to us, with the wise-woman telling him that all beliefs are the same, with the outcasts telling him that his life is not his own, with the ever increasing rumbles from the ground, and with the continual references to a higher power pulling his strings towards peace and justice.

But still, the “last minute earthquake that saves the day for both Takeo and Kaede when all hope is lost” is a bit much. Clever writers take a plot-governing device like a prophecy and find interesting and unexpected twists for resolution. This is not clever—it’s too contrived. I’m unpleasantly reminded of the “… and then the aliens come and save the day” ending to an otherwise excellent “A.I.”

There’s also something a bit too “Gift Of The Magi” for my taste when Takeo and Kaede finally see each other again outside the caves in Shirikawa. “Oh, her magnificent hair that everyone says is her best asset got burned off in the fire? Well, that’s ok because his right hand was horribly scarred and mangled. Ain’t love grand?!” Sorry, no.

I think there is also an extra level of frustration for me because Hearn had set the bar so high with the first two novels in the series. They were so good that I was counting on that level of excellence through to the end. I still like the book. I would still recommend the series. I just wish the ending could have been better.