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Literature / The Supernaturalist

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The Supernaturalist is a Cyberpunk novel by Eoin Colfer. In the future, fourteen-year-old Cosmo Hill escapes from the abusive Clarissa Frayne Institute for Parentally Challenged Boys in an product-testing accident that nearly takes his life. He's saved from his injuries and a pack of strange alien-creatures invisible to all but those dying or survivors of a near-death experience, by a group of teenagers calling themselves "The Supernaturalists." The Supernaturalists believe the creatures, which they call "Parasites," suck the life out of the wounded or dying and are set on destroying them.

However, they soon discover a horrifying secret that turns their world upside-down and gets them caught in a web far more complicated than anything they've ever imagined before.

A graphic novel adaptation was released in 2012 by Disney Hyperion Books.

Contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Anachronic Order: The graphic novel, in comparison to the original book. In particular, the first chapter of the graphic novel jumps between the main events of the first chapter of the book. It can be slightly confusing to people who haven't read the original novel.
  • And the Adventure Continues: The last scene of the book has Cosmo, Mona, and Ditto gearing up to search for other supernatural beings. Could also be seen as a Sequel Hook, though whether or not a sequel will actually be released remains to be seen.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: "Abracadabra Street was no great challenge for a squadron that had broken into several foreign banks, two crime lords' strongholds, and a private kindergarten."
  • Artificial Gravity: The gravity on the HALO doesn't work. Played straight in the graphic novel where the gang can sit and stand normally.
  • Asteroids Monster: Turns out each piece of an exploded Parasite grows into a new Parasite.
  • Automated Automobiles: Most non-racing cars are controlled by the satellite. This causes problems when the satellite abruptly loses connection, since no one knows how to drive manually.
  • Big Brother Is Employing You: Faustino, who is working for Myishi, manipulates the Supernaturalists into helping her collect parasites.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Mona Vasquez and her Spanish, Pierre from Booshka and his French.
  • By the Eyes of the Blind: The Parasites can be seen only by those who have suffered near-death experiences.
  • Bond One-Liner: That was for Ziplock, Bugs.
  • Book Ends: The graphic novel starts with Faustino's approach to the Antarctic Base. Said graphic novel ends with Faustino working in the Antarctic base. It should be noted that neither of these two events were ever depicted in the original book, although they provide a familiar backdrop to people who did read the original book.
  • Cannot Talk to Women: Cosmo, in regards to Mona. The most notable example is on the rooftop, where Cosmo digs himself into a hole by mentioning "Little Piggies." Mona is playfully amused.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The metal plate in Cosmo's head.
      Mona: When your skin heals up, Ditto says you'll be able to head-butt your way through a brick wall.
    • Unknowingly brought up a Myishi Vatman, as the metal plate is used to armor assault tanks.
      Vatman: Plasti-glass. Nothing short of an assault tank is going to get you out of here.
  • Chekhov's Skill:
    • Being raised as a product-tester has brought Cosmo into contact with a wide variety of questionably ethical or safe substances—including the biological agent that likely would have killed Mona if Cosmo hadn't remembered the antidote the orphans accidentally discovered after it was tested on them.
    • Shrink-wrap bullets include a sedative that puts the unfortunate victim to sleep. By the end of the book, Cosmo has been shrink-wrapped three times and is developing a resistance to the sedative. This allows him to stay conscious just long enough to head-butt his way out of the acid tank.
  • Conveniently an Orphan
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Ellen Faustino.
  • Cyberpunk: Set in a polluted futuristic setting.
  • Darker and Edgier: Compared to Eoin Colfer's other works.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Clarissa Frayne's Automated Automobile school bus has a pilot who has no idea how to drive it when the satellite goes down.
  • Digging Yourself Deeper: Ziplock's inability to keep his mouth shut often leads to this, much to the frustration of whoever is immediately next to him and thus likely to suffer the consequences along with him.
  • Dystopia: According to this book, the future will behold a polluted, enviromentally destroyed planet, where sunsets are purple because of smog and technology is god.
  • Evil Lawyer Joke: Colfer seems to be going for this; the heavily militarized police in Satellite City are referred to as "lawyers", and they work for the bad guys to silence witnesses to incidents and accidents involving them, to ensure that they can avoid potentially costly lawsuits. There is an Elite version of them called "Paralegals" who are more armored, armed, and more ruthless than the regular 'lawyers', and are sent out as a last resort whenever the business that employs them stands to lose lots of money.
    • Two examples of this: the first is when they ambush the drag race in the Krom Factory when the Myishi Z-12 nitrocharger race car Stefan gave to one of the gangs to buy Mona's freedom from their ranks. According to Stefan, the car cost them billions of dollars (or 'dinars') for them to develop and they took it as a giant kick in the teeth.
    • example number two is when they infiltrate the Supernaturlists' HQ to try and kill them, once Faustino learns from Stefan about Ditto's rightful belief that the parasites aren't monsters, but natural painkillers. She sends them to silence them before they can catch on to Faustino's plan for them.
  • Feed It with Fire: The energy shocks don't blow up the Parasites, they make them replicate.
  • Fun with Acronyms: HALO stands for High Altitude Low Orbit.
  • Good All Along: The Parasites feed on pain, not life force.
  • Goofy Print Underwear: Marshall Redwood is revealed to have Bugs Bunny underwear.
  • Ineffectual Loner: Stefan. As Ellen Faustino points out, he and his group might be able to take out small groups of Parasites, but there are only a handful of them and dozens of people are injured or dying around the city at any one time. On top of this, Parasite numbers have been increasing lately because the energy charges the Supernaturalists shoot them with make them replicate far faster than normal.
  • Invisible to Normals: The Parasites can only be seen by people who've had near-death experiences, or Bartoli babies. At the end, Ditto says he can see many more things, and some of them are far worse.
  • It Can Think: As Stefan lays dying, he notes that the Parasites surrounding him look sympathetic, rather than mindless.
  • Joke and Receive: When Stefan gets the results for the location of the Parasite nest, Cosmo tries to lighten the mood by saying "It's not as if the Parasite nest is under Clarissa Frayne?" only to be met with dead silence. Sure enough...
  • Law Enforcement, Inc.: Police are widely seen as incompetent and useless compared to "paralegals" — a cross between special forces and lawyers who show up at a crime scene well before the police, to gather evidence for their clients by any means possible. Not to mention silence potential witnesses by forcing them to sign waivers that demand their silence so that their clients can avoid costly lawsuits
  • Line-of-Sight Name: This is explicitly stated to be the modus opernadi for naming John Does in this society.
    • Cosmo Hill was named for the Cosmonaut Hill, the place where he was found.
    • "I once knew a man from San Francisco named Holden Gate. Guess where they found him?"
  • Tall, Dark, and Handsome: Stefan. Mona notes he'd be a big hit with girls if he ever dropped his single-minded pursuit of the parasites long enough to date any.
  • Magical Defibrillator: Stefan restarts Cosmo's heart by shooting him in the chest with a Shocker round "strong enough to fry a rhinoceros" (notable for being much more powerful than the weaker versions used against the Parasites). To be fair, though, he had just had thousands of volts go through him and his heart was in fibrillation.
  • Meaningful Name: Faustino, which basically means "little Faust" (-ino being an Italian diminuitive). As Faust was said to have sold his soul for power, it fits the Corrupt Corporate Executive Faustino rather nicely.
  • MegaCorp: Satellite City seems to be controlled by Myishi.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Both Stefan and Cosmo have one of these moments after seeing the real reason Faustino helped them locate and take out a Parasite nest: she wanted to use the Parasites as the medium in a nuclear reactor. The imprisoned Parasites are clearly in pain, and there are thousands of them. This isn't helped when Faustino taunts them with the knowledge that Ditto was right, and the Parasites consume pain instead of life force.
  • Near-Death Experience: Each of the main cast has had one; it's also the only way to see parasites.
  • Newcomer Saves the Day: Cosmo saves the rest of the team no less than three times over the course of the story. He saves Mona when she gets poisoned, he manages to get Ditto and Mona away from Myishi security, then he breaks out the whole team from the acidic tank.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Subverted. Stefan is quite horrified to realize that the shocker weapons he thought were destroying the parasites were actually causing them to multiply, but then it turns out that the parasites are actually quite a benevolent species, so this wasn't as bad as Stefan thought.
  • Noodle Implements: Cosmo has a nightmare involving Ziplock, two parasites, and a hair dryer.
  • Noodle Incident: Cosmo was shrink-wrapped at least once prior to his escape from Clarissa Frayne.
  • Not Growing Up Sucks: Ditto, who appears 6 when he is actually 28.
  • Older Than They Look: Ditto as stated above.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Ditto, real name Lucien Bonn.
  • Parental Abandonment: To be expected, since Clarissa Frayne is an orphanage. Cosmo himself was found near Cosmonaut Hill as an infant and sent to the institute when a computer check failed to find any relatives who might take him in.
  • Playing with Syringes: The origin of the Bartoli babies, Ditto included. Their creator, Dr. Ferdinand Bartoli, experimented on infants like Ditto in a mad attempt to create a superhuman. Needless to say, not only does he not succeed, but his efforts are exposed.
  • Portmantitle: "Supernatural" + "naturalist".
  • Pun: Satellite cities are a real concept, but in that case 'satellite' refers to municipal adjacency rather than an actual orbiting platform.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Happens literally to Faustino at the end.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Downplayed. After realizing that the Parasites are benevolent and feed on pain, not life force, Stefan's final act is to trick the sniper who shot him into shattering the glass on Faustino's Parasite-fueled reactor. This drops both Stefan and Faustino into the reactor itself, where the Parasites can absorb their pain and use it to escape.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: The titular satellite of satellite city is described as being in a geosynchronous orbit 50 kilometres above the earth. Little wonder then they are having trouble keeping it up.note 
  • Shout-Out: To Colfer's other works.
    • Stefan Bashkir is one of Artemis Fowl's aliases. Phonetix, a company that has a rivalry with Myishi, had a rivalry with Jon Spiro's Fission Chips in The Eternity Code.
    • Myishi is a scientist working for the demons in The Wish List.
  • Supporting Protagonist: While Cosmo Hill is the protagonist, the story is far more Stefan's.
  • Space Plane: The HALO.
  • Taking You with Me: Attempted by Stefan Bashkir.
  • Tempting Fate: Page 36 features Cosmo Hill swearing to never return to Clarissa Frayne. Cut to page 199, when the Parasite nest is revealed to be under Clarissa Frayne, forcing Cosmo to return as he's the only Supernaturalist who has been there.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: Any time someone points a gun at Cosmo, he takes a deep breath and holds it. This is because the guns fire bullets that encase the target in a tight coating of cellophane, and inflating his chest before being shot makes it easier to breathe. It's briefly mentioned that Cosmo learned this the hard way, as his first experience with being shrink-wrapped ended with him in a body cast.
    Paralegal: You've done this before.
  • Title Drop: Several times, usually in plural form.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Ditto is a huge fan of a new fast food craze called "pazzas," which are basically calzone stuffed with pasta shells and other various sauces. The "vomit comet" incident in orbit doesn't do anything to lessen his love for pazzas.
  • Traumatic Superpower Awakening: Exploited. Faustino engineered the accident that killed Stefan's mother to make him able to see Parasites.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: The graphic novel never actually depicts any of vomiting moments in the book, instead just mentioning the act of throwing up in the text boxes. For that, a lot of readers can be thankful.
  • Waking Non Sequitur: Mona Vasquez after reawakening in the Myishi Corporation's vat room.
    Mona: No way, Mamá! No way am I going to wear that dress!
  • What Could Possibly Go Wrong?: Spoken by Cosmo.
    Ditto: [Face Palm] You had to say it, didn't you? You're jinxed now, for sure!
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: From the way the Chemist is introduced (a boy who, by watching medicine shows on TV, is the closest thing the orphans have to an in-house physician), you'd think he's built up to be a pretty important character. After the first night, he is never mentioned again.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: The only thing we know about Satellite City's location is that it's in the northern hemisphere, but for a geosynchronous satellite to be feasible it would have to be on the equator. Given that Cosmo and Stefan are specified to be Irish and Russian respectively when nobody else is, the city is unlikely to be in Ireland or Russia.
    • Satellite City's main currency is the Dinar, which is used in several Middle-Eastern and North African nations. This may narrow down the possible locations, but not by much.
  • Wrench Wench: Mona.