It's readable enough, I suppose. By which I mean, I read all of Andrew Foster Altschul's novel Deus Ex Machina, and for the most part, I enjoyed reading it. But when you get right down to it, it's a book about a producer of a Survivor-type reality TV show, without any new thoughts about reality television. It wouldn't have felt fresh if it were published in 2002.

Altschul is a capable writer. On the perils of putting together a reality show when so many reality shows have already been done:

...now their revolution is in trouble, their innovations passé. Once upon a time people had wanted an unfiltered window into the lives of their fellow men and women, a mirror held up to the world. Sure, that mirror had to be adjusted, the window tinted, a nudge here, an edit there, to reel the story in—reality, after all, is infinite and ever changing; television, by contrast, is all too finite. You needed to schedule your spots with some degree of accuracy. But the idea! The idea had been sound.

The problem is that Altschul is capably describing his own problem. It's sound writing, but I've read this before. A few passages and characters stand out—the producer's fascination with a minor, do-nothing character and the pathetic seduction scene that results, for example, is so well-written that you can't look away—but there are so many bad ideas here that it's not worth the journey unless you really like fiction about reality television. An ill-considered midpoint cameo from a hyperfamous reality TV star will feel dated in less than a year. The conclusion is forgettable. This is the kind of book you come across in a used bookstore years after reading it and say to yourself, I think I read that book a long time ago. Yeah! I think I might've thought it was pretty okay.