Dramacon 3: Big Eyes, Big Mouth

In the last post,I talked about how Christie grows as a character throughout the series. At first she’s a shy girl who lets everyone walk all over her. By the final volume, she’s a self-confident young woman taking steps towards a writing career.

She’s not there, yet, though. When she and Matt go for a coffee, she shows more of the “real” Christie. She’s witty and teases Matt, and it’s totally out of character of what we know of her. So much so that Matt calls Christie out on it.20190204_1128112218555465877020755.jpg

It’s kind of a jarring shift that gets hand-waved off. I interpreted it as Christie acting like her true self, a side of personality that gets subdued when Derek’s around.

We also get more information about Christie and Matt’s life outside the con. He’s a freshman in college, she’s a barely legal high school junior. I’m glad that the manga makes a point about Christie’s age. Otherwise, I’d just be too weirded out by the age difference to enjoy the story. Christie’s age also works well in terms of her character. It offers an explanation for her naivety, and reflects in her relationship with Derek. She’s in an unhappy, floundering relationship, but is still trying to make it work. She holds on to Derek too long because when you’re young and in love, you think you’re going to be that way forever.

We learn more about Matt, too, but not the full story yet. He wears sunglasses at all times, which Christie finds disconcerting. When she takes them off, she apologizes after seeing what he’s hiding. The audience doesn’t know exactly what she saw, but it’s enough to make her understand why he’s always wearing his trademarked sunglasses. Their banter and flirting come to an abrupt stop when Derek returns to the hotel and catches them in the act. He’s not happy with her, but she finally stands up to him. For a minute. 20190204_1130395556471477410251673.jpg

But when Derek says that he came back to the hotel to check on her – the bare minimum of what a good boyfriend should be doing – she instantly caves. It’s fair, I guess. I can’t get mad at Christie for not having a total change of character in a span of only a few pages.

Derek’s real motivation for returning to the hotel was to sleep with Christie while they had the room to themselves. It’s established earlier in the book that Christie lost her virginity to Derek, which is one of the reasons she’s holding on to him longer than she should. But she’s also expressed discomfort about sex throughout the book so far, to the point where she can barely say the word “sex”. Her blush when Derek pulls her close and general hesitation about sex  lead me to believe that she was pressured into sleeping with him for the first time.20190204_1133072403960851287740108.jpg

One of the things that’s disappointing to me reading this now is that Derek is just flat, flat, flat. He’s a bad boyfriend, and at no point is he given a shot at redemption. He’s manipulative and an all around antagonist. I would have liked to see more nuance from him, other than, “he’s a jerk.”

Well, I think Matt is right about this one.


Angelic Layer Chap. 5: The Art of Losing

Remember when I said we’re going to talk about Hatoko? It’s time to talk about Hatoko.

Misaki can’t land a hit on Hatoko’s angel, Suzuka. She keeps dodging Hikaru’s attacks, and Misaki can’t figure out how.

This is only Misaki’s second battle, and it shows. She’s making what is probably a rookie mistake. When she wants Hikaru to move right or left, she’s also moving her own body right and left. As soon as she figures this out, Misaki stops moving. She doesn’t give Hatoko any more hints about what she’s planning to do, and starts turning the fight around.

When we first met Hatoko, she’s just called an “Angelic Layer nut”, but it’s supposed to be a surprise when we find out that a six-year-old is the reigning champion of the game. I don’t remember if I was surprised when I first read this, but I have a feeling that I probably wasn’t.

There are two things I don’t like about Hatoko’s character. The first is that she’s a six-year-old, and doesn’t act like one at all. Hatoko is intelligent, calm and collected, and sure of herself. That’s not to say that young children can’t be smart and calm (though I’ve yet to see a kindergartner as un-excitable as Hatoko), but it seems highly unlikely to me that she would be so disciplined, and so well-spoken.

No one talks like this.

She’s a just a little kid, playing with her favorite toy, and being really good at. From the child prodigies I’ve seen in various anime and manga, they all seem to be set in one mode: calm and smart. I think a prodigy character would be much more interesting if she acted…well, acted their age. A child, smarter than most adults, given tasks required of adults and lauded for their intelligence…that’s a cool idea. But what if they just wanted to go to the playground instead of doing rocket science? Or their parents want to make them go to bed, but they really want to finish finding the cure for cancer tonight? I like that idea much more than one that treats child prodigies as just a smaller version of adults.

The other thing about Hatoko that I sort of disagree with is her concept. She’s already discovered something that she’s the best at, she’s already a champion. And she’s six. So…what the hell is she going to do with the rest of her life? And even though winning is a lot of fun, and everyone likes to win, if you go into every contest knowing you’re going to win, wouldn’t things get a little boring?

Pretty soon, Hatoko will just be like a tiny Forrest Gump.

“And then I played Angelic Layer, again…and then I became world champion, again…”

Or maybe she’ll just crash and burn horribly like other child stars. I hope not.

But back to Misaki and her second fight. It’s not a huge leap to guess that she’ll win the tournament, which she does. She’s the heroine of an upbeat manga, after all. But what I hadn’t been expecting, as a thirteen-year-old, was that she would lose this fight. It shouldn’t be much of a surprise to anyone that she loses to Hatoko; even Misaki accepts it.

Icchan says that the thing Misaki needed to learn to succeed in Angelic Layer was how much losing hurts.

I was a little conflicted about how I felt about this. Of course, I’m part of the “self-esteem” generation. That is, me, and people my age, all got told that we were special and unique snowflakes, that we should all believe in ourselves and have confidence. I do believe that it’s important to have self-confidence, so I’m okay with some of this.

However, I’m not okay with overly-sheltering children. Yes, kids need to be protected, but you can’t shield them from everything. You can’t stop them from failing, or save them from disappointment. The hope is that when children fail, they learn something, and strive to improve themselves. Kids need to learn how to lose, because life is full of losing and failing. Hearts get broken; dreams don’t always come true, no matter how much you want it or believe in it.

You have to learn how to fail, so you can pick up the pieces, and and strive to make yourself better.

And that’s exactly what Misaki does.

And, that’s it. We’ve reached the end of the book. It was nice to revisit these characters again, and remember the joy and excitement I felt watching Misaki’s journey through the first time. But the nostalgia isn’t enough to make me keep this book. Misaki grows up in her story, and so have I.

Final Verdict: For Sale

Next I’ll be starting up a rather long project–and I almost can’t believe I’m saying this–Eragon by Christopher Paolini. Stay tuned!

Snow Drop Chap. 2: Alcohol Abuse

Welcome back to Snow Drop, and Ha-Da’s inadequately explored hatred of Hae-Gi. Seriously, there’s no reason for Ha-Da to hate Hae-Gi. Is it because Hae-Gi’s good-looking? As I mentioned in my previous post, Hae-Gi has no friends, so it can’t be that Ha-Da is envy of his so-called “popularity”. Granted, the main characters are in high school, a wretched hive of scum and jealousy, but it just seems so stupid and petty.

Much like a seventeen-year-old, come to think of it.

Ha-Da challenges Hae-Gi to a drinking contest with shots of tequila, which Hae-Gi accepts, for some reason. The only logic I can attribute to this decision is “high school”.

I used to read a lot of fanfiction, and participated in online play-by-post roleplays. Every so often, a writer will decide that their character needs to get drunk, either to show how edgy that character is, or give them a chance to make a fool out of themselves. Nine times out of ten, you can tell that the author’s never had a drink in her life. Characters get drunk after one drink, they puke immediately after getting drunk, they magically sober up when a bucket of cold water is dumped on them…

And, okay, some of those writers might have been me, thinking that I knew what heavy drinking was like from the occasional sip my mom let me have from her wine glass.

10 shots?! That’s enough to put me in a coma.

And I’m not saying that Choi Kyuang-ah has never had a drink, but that’s what this scene reminds me of. Not only because Ha-Da doesn’t get entirely blitzed after several shots of tequila (granted, he owns the club so it’s likely that he has a higher alcohol tolerance than Hae-Gi), but because Hae-Gi wasn’t feeling tipsy before the contest began. Which doesn’t seem like it makes sense, until it’s revealed that Ha-Da spiked all of Hae-Gi’s drinks before the contest actually began.


That’s not okay.

Our heroes, ladies and gentlemen.

I’m not sure if I was okay with that when I read these books for the first time, but it definitely makes me uncomfortable now. If Hae-Gi was a girl, or Ha-Da was doing this to take sexual advantage of his rival, there’s no way Ha-Da would have gotten off scot-free. Ten shots of tequila are dangerous enough, especially when you only weigh 90 pounds like our pretty-boys here. Spiking Hae-Gi’s drinks beforehand could do some serious damage. You ever hear of alcohol poisoning?

Good, because I’m pretty sure Hae-Gi’s going to have it.

Fortunately, none of those terrible, terrible things that could easily happen after drinking all that happen to Hae-Gi, because he’s just too pretty to die. He just passes out for a bit, and then gets chatty. So-Na has the opportunity to search the unconscious Hae-Gi for her key, but opts not to. While normally I might complain about So-Na being stupid and missing her chance to get her key back, I’m actually okay with it. The poor guys taken enough abuse tonight, a girl who doesn’t like him going through his pockets would just be adding insult to injury.

Though I will point out that So-Na’s nameless bodyguard, who’s taking Hae-Gi home, thinks that black coffee will help Hae-Gi sober up.

I didn’t want to have to do this again, but take it away, Morbo:

Drunk!Hae-Gi wakes up and starts talking about “touching the sky” for his brother. What he means by this is that he wants to become a pilot. I really like this, and not just because I’m a student pilot. In a lot of romance manga, the characters are singularly focused on one goal, and then their S.O. comes along and sweeps them off their feet. I wasn’t too crazy about the idea of Hae-Gi being a model, because leads being models/actresses/superstars is pretty common in romance manga. Dreaming of being a pilot is something different, so it stands out to me, and gives Hae-Gi more depth as a character.

If only I could start liking the other leads.

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. 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.

The Supernaturalist, Chap. 4: Cringe-Worthy Cosmo

I love the beginning of this chapter. After a long night of blasting Parasites, the heroes return to their warehouse base to eat and rest for their next escapade. And Cosmo does something that we’ve all done before: 

‘I thought we did okay tonight,’ he said. ‘No one got hurt, and we blasted a hundred of those creatures.’

Cosmo, it’s your first night out. How do you even know what a good night is for them?

Stefan threw down his army-issue spoon. ‘And tomorrow there’ll be two hundred to take their place.’

Cosmo finished his food in silence, chewing slowly. “You know what I think?”

Stefan leaned back in his chair, arms crossed.  ‘No, Cosmo–what do you think?’

Cosmo, no. Cosmo, stop.

‘I think that if we could find out where they lived, then we could do some real damage.’

Stefan laughed sharply, rubbing his face with both hands. ‘For nearly three years I’ve been doing this, and I never thought of that. Wow, you must be some kind of genius, Cosmo. Find out where they live. Amazing.’

There you go, gentle readers. Your daily cringe. Something like this has happened to me more times than I can count. I think it’s most likely to happen when you’re the new guy, but even moreso when you’re the new guy who doesn’t want to be the new guy. You give a suggestion to prove that you’re competent, and it’s immediately rejected. It’s even worse when they make you feel like an idiot.

This chapter is also the first without a lot of action in it. No rooftop falls, no sick teenagers, no Parasite blasting. I’m not complaining, though. The book’s moved at a breakneck pace so far, and now the characters – and the reader – get a breather.

That doesn’t mean it’s not interesting. Along with seeing what Satellite City looks like during the daytime, we also learn more about Mona. It’s been all but outright stated that she was in a gang, and it’s confirmed when she and Cosmo go to her home turf of “Booshka”, named after the slang term for car theft.

I think it’s a little funny how audiences respond to scoundrels. I’ve always liked roguish characters. I’ve written plenty of stories (of varying quality) with a criminal as the star, and like to play the less than law abiding characters in roleplaying games. We cheered when the crew of Serenity stole medical supplies from a hospital in Firefly, but look at it from a different perspective: a bunch of freelancers, with a history of breaking the law, robbed a hospital. Whatever the context, however quickly the hospital could be resupplied, if someone robbed a hospital in real life, we would not be so forgiving.

That’s just one of the things I love about fiction. People we would hate in real life become the ones we cheer for in books and movies.

I bring this up because real life gangs are violent and frightening, and Mona’s old gang, The Sweethearts, seems more along the lines of West Side Story than Sons of Anarchy. They’re not about smuggling drugs or guns, they’re about illegal drag racing.

Now that I’m (in theory) a grown-up with a better understanding of the world, I’d say that’s not so bad. Much better than drug smuggling, at any rate. Reading this now, it seems pretty light, but this book was also written for teenagers. You can argue all day about what is and isn’t appropriate for kids to be exposed to, but I’m glad that it didn’t get much darker than this when it came to the gangs. They play a relatively small role in the overall novel, and a more realistic version may very well have scared the shit out of me.

Even so, I enjoyed Mona’s description of the other gangs in the area.

‘Those are the Irish I’s. They specialize in truckjacking from the docks across the bridge. [. . .] Those tall guys are the Zools. Body guards mostly, they all learn some kind of African martial arts. One of those guys throws something sharp at you, and it’s all over.  [. . .] Those men with the piercings are the Bulldogs. They can strip a bike down in seconds. You turn away to tie your bootlace, and when you come back, your bike is just a skeleton.’

I like the variety, but these descriptions, and other small details in the narrative, really flesh out Satellite City.

When she was a Sweetheart, Mona was the gang’s mechanic. The girl mechanic trope isn’t exactly an original concept at this point, but it’s one I’ve always liked. I like being handy when I can, and it’s good to know what to do when your toilet breaks and you can’t call your dad for help. That said, I rarely figure out things like that without guidance, and at this point I’m much more likely to pay someone to fix things for me than do it myself. Maybe the reason I like this archetype so much is because it’s what I’m not. Hell, maybe that’s the reason I like criminal characters, too.

I keep looking for more of Cosmo’s character to stand out, and it’s finally starting to. At least, his timidity is showing. As he and Mona walk through Booshka to get parts for the Supernaturalists’ vehicle, he shrinks, stares at the ground, trying to make himself small and invisible. Mona, on the other hand, tells him that he needs to walk tall, or the gangs will eat him alive.

C’mon, Cosmo, I know you can do better than that.

The Supernaturalist, Chap. 3: Blowing Bubbles

When I was in high school, my dream was to become an author. I would stay up late writing, and I would read author’s websites, and blogs written by people trying so damn hard to get published. I guess it’s still my dream, but I’ve also learned that you can’t live on the written word. Sooner or later, we all have to grow up and get real jobs. Despite what my younger self might think, being a grown-up isn’t all that bad. In fact, it can be pretty fun. Sure, I don’t have as much free time as I used to, and I have more responsibilities, but I also have money and more freedom. I want to go visit my friends in New Jersey for a weekend? I can just hop in my car and do that. But it’s really all a trade-off.

But I’ve gotten off track now. Point being, I used to read a lot about how to get published, and I learned that your first three chapters have to be really strong. I used to worry that the opening chapters of my cliché fantasy story wouldn’t stand up to editor scrutiny, especially because the plot didn’t really kick off until the third chapter.

Of course, rereading my old work now, I can guarantee that no publisher in their right mind would pick up my various novels.

I’m not a publisher of any kind, and I daresay that this book wouldn’t have any trouble catching interest in the first three chapters. Like I mentioned before, action in The Supernaturalist is continuous. Even when things slow down and there’s no Parasite-blasting, there’s always something happening.

With the magic of science fiction (shut up, that phrase totally makes sense!), Cosmo and Mona have recovered enough to go Parasite hunting. In the past two chapters I’ve talked about how Colfer mainly uses the narration to explain the world, but this chapter uses dialogue more frequently. Not only is Cosmo the new guy on the team, but he’s also spent his entire life in an orphanage. This means that he’s a great “Straight Man” character. 

When you’re writing sci-fi or fantasy, you need a way to explain the “rules” of the universe to the audience. Up to this point, Colfer has mainly put those explanations in the narration. In the first chapter, for example, Redwood threatens to “wrap” the escaping Cosmo and Ziplock, and the following paragraph explains that “wrap” means to “shrink wrap” someone, or coat them in a layer of plastic so they can’t move. In this chapter, the other three main characters have to teach Cosmo about the equipment they’re using, and what sort of crisis they’re running into. It’s his first day on the job, and he’s got a lot to learn.

Mona explained to Cosmo while strapping an extendable bridge on his back. ‘The Big Pig is a twenty-four hour city, so factories revolve their buildings just as they revolve their shifts. Everybody gets eight hours quiet and eight hours south facing. For the other eight, you’re working, so you don’t care where your apartment is. The Satellite tried to squeeze two apartments into one space. Nasty.’

Cosmo shuddered. The Satellite had messed up again. This was becoming a regular occurrence.

There. We’ve just learned about the technology the Supernaturalists are using, and a little bit about the world, too. If it isn’t obvious now, I much prefer when information is presented to the reader through dialogue, but adding Cosmo’s thoughts on the matter also works well. It makes the story flow better, I think, and doesn’t take the reader out of the world.

Colfer also gives us more information about the universe in this chapter. Most of this doesn’t get expanded upon later in the novel, but it helps flesh out the world itself.

Diplomatic immunity had become more or less redundant since the One World treaty, but there was still the odd remote republic that held on to its rights.

One World treaty? I would probably read a novel based on just that.

Cosmo’s first night out with the group is pretty action packed. They swoop into one of the apartments and blast Parasites, which burst into blue bubbles when the jolt of energy from the lightning rod hits them. Like the rest of the book, this chapter is fast-paced, and Cosmo’s doing the best he can to keep up. It’s a fun chapter that explains a lot of the technology the Supernaturalists use, like collapsible bridges to navigate across gaps in rooftops and “gumballs”, a nonlethal but nasty goop that can also be used with the lightning rods.

Mona hits the Parasites with deadly accuracy, Stefan kills them obsessively, and Ditto heals wounded victims. Cosmo, on the other hand, isn’t so sure about all this. The first time he takes aim at a Parasite, he can’t bring himself to shoot at it. When he sees a group of them sucking life energy out of injured people, he realizes – or, perhaps, remembers – what monsters they are, and is finally able to start blasting them.

The Supernaturalists attract a fair amount of attention, bursting in, shooting at apparently nothing, and then fleeing as soon as the lawyers arrive. Lawyers might not sound so bad, until you realize that these guys don’t carry brief cases; they carry lightning rods and rappelling rigs. Atticus Finch they ain’t. Their job is to make sure the victims at the scene sign waivers, and make sure no one gets away from the scene. There’s a delightful exchange between our heroes and a pair of lawyers, which ends with the lawyers getting hit with the aforementioned gumballs after Stefan distracts them. And then they’re off to the next crisis.

In every action movie I’ve ever watched, the explosions don’t start right away. It starts with the hero – usually some divorced, tough dad with a son who hates him – in his every day life. Going to work, getting a beer with friends, trying to get your kids to love you again. Then the aliens come, or the daughter gets kidnapped, and that’s when shooting and throat-punching begins. Between Cosmo falling off the roof and Mona’s nearly fatal illness, we haven’t actually seen a normal day for this motley crew until this chapter.

Going out to emergencies and blasting Parasites, it turns out, is a normal day.  The rest of the novel can’t be like this, or it would get pretty boring. This chapter was really laid out to show what their day-to-day (or, rather, night-to-night) life is like. Which tells me that the novel is going to change from here on out.

One thing that kind of annoys me is that Cosmo’s not very defined as a character. It kind of makes sense, because he spent his whole life in an orphanage, and is out in the real world for the first time in his life. In the previous chapter, Cosmo even notes that the only thing he ever wanted was to get out of Clarissa Frayne, and now that he’s done that, he doesn’t know what he wants. He showed more personality when he hesitated killing the Parasites, but he’s just not that well of a defined character.

Following Mr. Plinkett’s memorable characters test: describe a character without mentioning their appearance, occupation, or role within the story.

Stefan: Tall, dark, and brooding. He’s a natural leader, dedicated to his goal, loves and misses his mother, obsessive when it comes to hunting Parasites.

Mona: Street-wise, quick to act, but also sassy. We know she has a soft spot at Stefan’s mention of her always wanting to take in strays.

Ditto: Pacifist, humorous, alturistic, compassionate, and left his well-paying hospital job to work with Stefan. To him, helping people is more important than getting paid.

Cosmo: Hates Clarissa Frayne, isn’t sure what to do now that he’s out and…uh…

Well.  The good news is that it’s still early in the book, and Cosmo has time to develop his character. That is the point of main characters, after all. They change.

I’ll just leave you with one last quote, and if this doesn’t explain why fifteen-year-old me though Stefan was sexy as hell, nothing will:

“Stefan would be a big hit with the girls, if he ever stopped working long enough to bring one out on a date. He had all the right ingredients. Tall, dark, handsome in a beaten-up-once-too-often way. But Mona knew that Stefan did not have time for himself, let alone anyone else. He only had time for the Parasites.”