The Supernaturalist Chap. 9-10: Goodbye from the World of Tomorrow!

I’ve decided to combine this post to include the final chapters of this book, because Chapter 10 is about four pages long. Chapter 9, though, is another one that could have been broken up into at least two, if you ask me. It’s pretty long, probably the longest in the book. And, boy, does it sting.

It’s a pretty common trope for villains to stand in front of the protagonists, explain their plan, and then walk away, certain that our dashing heroes are going to die in whatever death trap that’s been laid out for them. It’s also widely acknowledged that this is a pretty dumb thing to do. That, and I feel like it’s cheating. Suddenly the book (or movie, as the case often is) has to come to an end, and you haven’t figured out a way to explain to the heroes what’s really going on. Or, in this case,  you need to drop one last bombshell on the characters,  and have no way of doing it other than by some good old-fashioned monologuing.

All that said, I’m not entirely against the “now that I’ve captured you, let me explain my heinous plan” speech. The audience gets information, you have an “ah-ha!” moment, and then the heroes get to save the day, equipped with new knowledge. What bothers me about it here is that it’s Ellie Faustino giving them the speech, though the only person who’s surprised she’s behind this is Stefan. Faustino is too smart and too thorough of a character to tell the Supernaturalists her plans and motives, but does anyway. She even adds a little bit of extra information, just to hurt Stefan. Then she leaves them in a vat of acid to drown. That last sentence makes sense if you’re reading the book, I swear. What makes the villain monologue even worse is that she does it for the dumbest reason:

There are two more things you should know, just to punish you for slowing down my plan.

Really? Killing him wasn’t punishment enough?

Worst of all, Faustino could have had them killed then and there, but she decided “slow death by acid” was the better way to go. Even though she had a sniper, just in the other room, who could have shot them all and saved her some time and pain. Once she leaves, the group breaks out, equipped with new knowledge and…hang on a second, this sounds familiar.

Faustino confirms that the Parasites are benevolent and only feed on pain, that the “Parasite poop” mentioned earlier wasn’t causing the damage to the Satellite, and that Stefan’s accident that also killed his mother was set up by Faustino as an experiment. Ouch.

And I will give her credit for just one thing here: she actually didn’t reveal her entire plan. Once the protagonists escape, they uncover the reason Faustino was so interested in the Parasites in the first place. She’s using the ones Cosmo an Stefan knocked out at Clarissa Frayne (which didn’t die after all) to power a nuclear generator.

Another difference between reading this as a kid and reading this now: relying on nuclear power doesn’t seem that awful to me right now. Sure, it’s not without its own issues, like what to do with all that spent uranium, but I also don’t think that using nuclear power is going to end the world as we know it. But I first read this in 2005, when “weapons of mass destruction” was a pretty common buzzword. Nuclear (or “nuke-you-lur”, as was the pronunciation at the time) anything was associated with weapons and destruction in my mind back then.

I’m also not sure how it’s a nuclear generator if it’s powered by Parasites.

As you might have suspected, they beat Faustino, but the Supernaturalists all take a hit. Stefan gets shot by the sniper that Faustino should have used much earlier in the chapter, and ends up dying to free the Parasites trapped in the generator. Such ends our penultimate chapter.

Somehow, even as a kid, I knew that he wouldn’t survive to see the end of the novel. And even as an adult, Stefan’s death still makes me sad.

One thing I didn’t really think about until I re-read this was the story’s main character. I’d always assumed that the title referred to Cosmo. He’s the first character we meet, we follow the story from his perspective, and we can see that he changes from a meek kid to a pretty gutsy one. But this isn’t his story. It’s Stefan’s. Even at the end of the novel, Cosmo’s character isn’t well-defined, but Stefan’s always has been. He was the leader, and he was the one that pushed his group to fight. When another twist came along – and there were plenty along the way – he was directly involved in all of them. Looking at it now, it almost feels like Cosmo is a vehicle to tell Stefan’s story, rather than his own. I wonder if this was Colfer’s intention, or just something that ended up happening.

The final chapter is pretty brief, more like an epilogue, if epilogues were full of nothing but sequel hooks. We learn that Faustino has survived and will carry on her work anonymously elsewhere, and also that there are other supernatural creatures that Ditto sees, a lot worse than Parasites, and that he, Mona, and Cosmo, should rebuild and do something about them.

But it’s been more than ten years since this book first came out, and I have yet to see a sequel. Which is pretty damn disappointing, if you ask me, because I would buy that so fast.

Final Verdict: Keep/Give Away

Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t sell this as a book. I loved it in high school and read it so many times my copy’s pretty battered. Reading it again, I found it a delightful adventure, fast-paced, full of action and humor to keep the story interesting. The only reason I wouldn’t keep this book is because I have a fourteen-year-old cousin who would probably love it as much as I (still) do, and I may hand it down to him. Or possibly find him a copy that isn’t so beaten up.

Coming up next: the over-the-top manhwa Snow Drop!

The Supernaturalist, Chap. 6: What a Tweest!

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 destabilized.

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.