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The Supernaturalist Paperback – July 10, 2012
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About the Author
Eoin Colfer (www.eoincolfer.com) is the New York Times best-selling author of the Artemis Fowl series, Airman, Half Moon Investigations, The Supernaturalist, Eoin Colfer's Legend of... books, The Wish List, Benny and Omar; and Benny and Babe. He lives in Ireland with his wife and two children.
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Note that I don't really do stars. To me a book is either worth reading or it isn't. I can't rate it three-fifths worth reading! The only reason I've relented and started putting stars up there is to credit the good ones, which were being unfairly uncredited. So, all you'll ever see from me is a five-star or a one-star (since no stars isn't a rating, unfortunately).
I rated this book WARTY!
WARNING! MAY CONTAIN UNHIDDEN SPOILERS! PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK!
This is a novel that's far more griping than gripping. It's a dystopian future where a city called Satellite harbors so much pollution that everyone would actually be dead were it real. The descriptions are so asinine that they're caricatures worthy of a Saturday morning cartoon rather than a serious attempt at decent young-adult fiction. Not one of the main characters is remotely interesting, and I couldn't stand to listen to the audio book after a few tracks. I kept skipping the boring bits to find interesting bits only to find that I was skipping everything because it was all uniformly boring.
Everything is extreme - there is no middle ground which made it completely unbelievable. I had resisted reading Colfer's (first name I thought was pronounced like mine, but it's actually pronounced 'Owen') 'Artemis Fowl' series because it just looked stupid and boring, and now I know what a wise decision that was - especially after starting on one recently and finding it boring so I;m done now with Colfer's books. I picked this one up only because it was on close-out, and that's coincidentally the best thing for it.
The disaffected narrator is known as Cosmo. He lives in the absolute worst orphanage (Clarissa Frayne Institute for Parentally Challenged Boys) that it's possible to imagine. There is no way something like this would exist. We're told this is in the near future - "soon", but there is no conceivable way in hell that society could backslide to this extreme degree in so short a time-frame.
Indeed, this entire novel was so farcical that it very effectively undermined everything that came afterwards. We're expected to believe that this is a highly advanced technological society, yet there's still pollution to a degree that makes Chernobyl look like a fruit-juice stain and no one seems to have any idea how to fix it!
By a ridiculous fluke, Cosmo escapes the orphanage and lucks into joining a band of "supernaturalists" who are hunting down strange translucent blue "creatures" which appear after accidents and suck the life out of the victims (so we're expected to believe, but this is a lie). The creatures used to appear only for badly-injured people but now are propagating and appearing on even mildly injured people. Given what the creatures are really doing, why they aren't appearing on literally everyone in a polluted society like this is an unexplained mystery.
I was turned off this from the very start by the absurd description of the orphanage, but although I thought I was starting to get into it after a little bit, I really wasn't, and I got to the point where I could stand to listen to any more of this ridiculous farce.
- The city where this story takes place is run from a satellite in geostationary orbit over it. That means the satellite has to be about 26,000 miles up. Yet, near the beginning, the book drops constant hints implying it's much closer. Specifically, it talks about atmospheric drag. The big shock is about two-thirds through the book where we find the satellite "orbiting" about 50 miles up.
- There's a trip on a rocket ship to the satellite. That little trip has so much wrong with it that it broke the book:
-- They strap armored vests on their chests to protect themselves from the g-forces. My jaw dropped.
-- Immediately after taking off, they deploy some kind of array of solar panels to tremendously boost their speed. I won't even get into the amount of power you could get out of solar panels. But, they deploy these things while still in the atmosphere going "fifteen hundred miles per hour." What about atmospheric drag? What about the thick, permanent cloud cover mentioned throughout the book and in the same paragraph?
-- They reach the edge of the atmosphere and brake to 400 mph (sigh). We're treated to the knowledge that a wisp of smog has somehow clung to the windshield (sigh). But, that's minor. The sky is blue (sigh), there's a cloud on the horizon (sigh), they're supposedly orbiting at geostationary altitudes, but they're at one-fifth of a g (sigh). So, they try to turn on the artificial gravity. What? If they have artificial gravity, why are they using reaction jets to reach orbit and why is their satellite having altitude problems (oh, according to a character, it's because it's too heavy)?
-- It's not a science issue, but throughout all of this, all of a sudden their 15-year-oldish uneducated car mechanic has become an expert on maintaining and flying rocket ships.
- A bit later, there's a scene involving electricity and we're told "their rubber-soled boots conducted the worst of the shock away from their bodies." Rubber is an insulator, not a conductor.
- And the last bit I'm going to reference is the characters' horror at nuclear power. We're treated to the following: "After all the disasters the world has seen? There isn't a government alive that would buy into nuclear power." Yet, the world's atmosphere is apparently a toxic, opaque stew, rain chemically hardens on the way down to the extent it pounds things apart and dissolves them, and people are treated like lab rats and vermin as a matter of course. All of that is OK, but nuclear energy... Oh no!
As I noted, above, I can't understand how anyone above the age of 10 could write this kind of stuff. Even worse, I can't understand how any editor would allow it to pass into print.