This fucking chapter.
Like I said, I devoured this book not long after I got it. I loved the non-stop action, the humor, the characters. But this was the chapter that made me put it down for a couple days. It’s the scene that comes in every movie, where the protagonist is down, and you can’t imagine how they’ll get back up. Where things look so bleak, you can’t imagine how the hero will recover in time to win the day.
I knew, in my fifteen-year-old heart, that good guys win, bad guys lose. I’d also been learning, more and more, that things weren’t as straight forward as that. Good guys win, but it costs them something.
So even though I knew the Supernaturalists would get their happy ending – somehow – this chapter was so frustrating I probably would’ve quit halfway through if it wasn’t so intriguing.
But before we get into that, I want to give Cosmo some credit for his self-awareness:
“Who was he now? Cosmo Hill fugitive no-sponsor, or Cosmo Hill Supernaturalist? Who was Cosmo Hill anyhow? A product of Clarissa Frayne, with no personality to speak of.”
A big part of Cosmo’s character is that he’s never had a chance to be his own person, and he’s trying to figure it out. The first night he’s running around on rooftops with the group, he asks himself if this is what he wanted, and if he even had a choice.
I wonder if Colfer did this on purpose, or if he never bothered really fleshing out Cosmo’s character and threw in this as the reason why. Thinking back to the one other Eoin Colfer YA novel I’ve read (The Wish List), I don’t think it’s the latter. In fact, this might only be on my mind as something I’m working on in my own writing.
This is because Cosmo and Stefan find out that everything they’ve been doing to save the world is actually making things worse.
While previous chapters have focused on action, this one is all about the plot. It introduces a new character, Ellie Faustino, who was Stefan’s mentor when he trained at the police academy. She’s now president of Myishi’s Research & Development. Faustino can see Parasites as well, and she’s been watching Stefan since he left the police academy to start hunting them. In the conversation Stefan has with her, we learn three very important things:
1. The Satellite, which controls almost all of the city, is becoming dangerously destablizied.
2. After they feed, Parasites expel clean energy from their bodies, causing this destabilization. Or, as Cosmo puts it, the Satellite is losing its links to Earth because of “Parasite poop”.
3. The Parasites are breeding out of control, and it’s all the Supernaturalist’s fault.
Whenever they blast a Parasite, it bursts into bubbles. The bubbles don’t just drift away…they become fully-grown Parasites, ready to siphon life.
This was the twist that made me shut the book in frustration, but it’s nothing compared to how Stefan must have felt. The last three years of his life were dedicated to destroying Parasites. Not only did he fail at that, he made more of them. Things were bad, and Stefan just made them worse. In the words of GLaDOS: “Nice job breaking it, hero.”
What kept Stefan – and me – from falling into despair is a glimmer of hope provided by Faustino, in the form of an EMP bomb, which would kill Parasites for real. All she needs is someone to plant it. Myishi’s spent years trying to kill Stefan and his squad, and he’s understandably wary about working with a corporation.
“‘Some things we’ve been able to cover up, but word is getting out. Myishi stock is taking a real hammering.’
‘Sick and homeless people don’t care much about stock,’ said Stefan. [. . .]
‘People are dying. It’s a red-light crisis for the corporation.’
‘People have been dying in Satellite City for years, and Myishi has done nothing about it. Now, when there’s money involved, suddenly they’re interested.'”
This is what I like, and have always liked, about Stefan. While the angst doesn’t appeal to me so much as an adult, I like that he’s an idealist. Despite the Parasites, despite living in a shitty future, he doesn’t let go of what he believes in. If anything, the hardships he endured make him hold on to his ideals that much more. He knows how harsh Satellite City is, and that things could have been easier for him, had he chosen a different path. His attempts to rid the world of Parasites – however misguided – to me, shows that he cares more about making lives better for others than himself. His obsession with Parasites probably isn’t healthy, but there’s still and admirable quality about it.
When we grow up, we accept certain things as facts of life: big corporations will triumph over the little guy; you face unbeatable odds — why bother fighting?
Stefan knows all this, and he fights anyway.
Be still, my fifteen-year-old heart.