The Supernaturalist, Chap. 5: A Day at the Races

I think a lot of people believe that things will be smaller in the future. Smaller, solar-powered cars, nanotechnology, hell, we can wear tiny tablets on our wrists already. But not in Satellite City. According to this book, sometime in 20XX, we’ll have factories spanning at least five miles, three-story assault tanks, and vehicles with plastic treads and ten wheels.

The number of Parasites gathering in Booshka alerts Mona that something big is going to happen, probably during the drag race between the two gangs, the Sweethearts and the Bulldogs.

Mona seems pretty dismissive of her old gang when she talks about them. She’s grateful to Stefan for getting her out, and has no intention of going back. Even so, she still cares about them, saying they’re her old family, and you have to look out for family. Though he doesn’t like the plan, Stefan agrees that they can tail the gang for a couple hours. This is also where Mona’s backstory comes into play. Stefan traded a prototype vehicle, a Myishi Z-twelve, to the Sweethearts, in exchange for Mona joining his team.

Stefan grinned. ‘I liberated it from the Myishi experimental division. They were testing a couple and one didn’t make the curve. Ran straight into a fuel dump. I followed a swarm of Parasites into the facility and started blasting. The lawyers got a bit close to me, so I took the other car.’

Is that a metaphorical “didn’t make the curve”, as in, it wasn’t up to standards? More likely, though, it didn’t make a literal curve, hence running into the fuel dump. The phrasing there has always confused me.

When they get to the Krom factory where the races are being held, I have to admire Stefan’s genre savvy-ness. He doesn’t let Mona break up the races, in case that’s what causes the disaster. Sounds like someone’s learned from West Side Story. They break off into two groups, with Mona and Ditto in one, Cosmo and Stefan in another. This is probably my favorite part of the chapter, with the characters just talking to each other. Ditto and Mona’s conversation stands out to me the most, showing the relationship between the two characters. You can tell they’re close by the way they tease each other, with Mona making cracks at his height, and Ditto badgering her about a crush on Cosmo. Mona gets a little too defensive on that point, but then again, she’s also fifteen years old. To me, if you can poke fun at something your friend is sensitive about, and it’s treated as a gesture of fondness, that’s a solid relationship.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for Mona and Ditto to get caught. I love the descriptions of the gang members. They’re so colorful, it’s easy to picture them. Especially the gangster known as “Head Honcho”, named such because he has implanted lights on his body reading just that. This is also where everything gets big. They’re using conveyor belts at an abandoned factory for a drag race–and the “track” is five miles long. Gangs think that the Z-twelve looks “ridiculous”, with only four wheels. Just reading the description of the Z-12 is crazy:

Generally drag racers fed a nitrous oxide mixture into the regular fuel for that extra burst of speed when it was needed. But this thing actually used heated nitrous oxide as the regular fuel. Because nitrous was used up so quickly, the entire car had been converted into a fuel tank. Every strut and panel was filled with the explosive mixture. Nobody really knew how to drive a car like this.

The entire thing is rigged to explode, and Mona and Ditto get stuck driving it. Mona decides to use the car to punch through the wall at the end of the race, and here’s another difference from reading it then and reading it now. Fifteen-year-old me couldn’t figure out just why Mona would try to escape, and I thought about how awkward it would be for the Supernaturalists to blast Parasites after she and Ditto had gone. By now I’ve figured out that she had no intention of going back, proving once and for all that I was an idiot when I was younger.

Now, here’s where I start noticing previously unnoticed plot holes. Losing a car like this was huge for Myishi, and Stefan hypothesizes that the reason Myishi hasn’t taken it back yet is because the Sweethearts kept the car under a lead sheet so that it couldn’t be traced. But if this car was so valuable, why wasn’t the company able to get it back when Stefan stole it in the first place? Especially in this chapter, where they pull out all the stops. The lawyers from earlier chapters sounded bad, but they’re nothing compares to the paralegals:

 Paralegals were a three-way cross between layers, para-troopers, and pit bulls.
Shit. When I think of paralegals, I remember this annoying as hell commercial that came on every time I watched WB Kids. That ad is a staple of my childhood, along with the ubiquitous Sears air conditioning commercial. I could recite that commercial.

But I think this is the first chapter we see Cosmo’s character really start to come out. Instead of going back to the Supernaturalists’ vehicle, the Pigmobile, like he’s told, he follows Stefan into the chaos. Stefan calls Cosmo “pigheaded” for this, but he’s happy to have Cosmo with him. The two incur a significant amount of damage on the Myishi paralegals, and a three-story assault tank. Yes, three stories. Because everything is bigger in the future. Cosmo’s showing guts, ad a desire to really be part of the group. He has to prove himself to Stefan, but also to himself.

This is another chapter with a lot of action, made even more exciting because all the main characters are in significant danger, and its telling that they all put themselves in that position to help others. Mona and Ditto managed to get away; Cosmo and Stefan aren’t so lucky.
Writing action scenes is pretty challenging, at least, I’ve always thought so. For the most part, Colfer does it well. This might be because this isn’t the first time (or even the second) I’ve read this book, but this time around, the prose just seems so matter-of-fact. It keep up the fast pace, though, and it’s easy to stay interested, but it doesn’t give me vibrant visuals. This was the longest chapter so far, but also the most revealing for Cosmo’s character.

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