Written by the author of the acclaimed Artemis Fowl series, The Supernaturalist takes place a thousand years from now in a place called Satellite City, where much of the city is controlled by a satellite that rests high in the atmosphere, above the thick layer of smog and the thinning ozone layer…so yes, Eoin Colfer’s usual themes of environmentalism are just as present here as in Artemis Fowl. The main character is an orphan named Cosmo Hill, and he lives at the Clarissa Frayne Institute for Parentally Challenged Boys, where he and the other boys are used as lab rats for testing dangerous hygiene products and various chemicals. Eventually, he is introduced to a team of people that calls themselves The Supernaturalists. They spend their time hunting and destroying creatures called Parasites that feed on the life force of dying people.
The Supernaturalist features the same wit, humor, and creativity found in Eoin Colfer’s other books, and, like Artemis Fowl, the technology is advanced; we see windows that automatically tint to match the outside light, mechanical bridges that are used to travel across rooftops with ease, and rods that shoot projectiles containing electricity, goo, or cellophane. Colfer expertly sets up this world where everything is controlled by a corporation, where lawyers act as the law enforcers, and where these Parasite creatures are growing in number, making The Supernaturalists’ jobs even more difficult. These characters have dark, emotional pasts that we see develop throughout the book; Cosmo, who has never known his parents, wishes for a family that eventually comes to him by way of The Supernaturalists. Stefan, the group’s leader, lost his mother to the Parasites, making his fight against the Parasites a personal one, though he discovers that what he thinks to be truth is all a lie.
While the plot is fantastic and filled with twists and turns that will always keep you guessing, I took issue with the amount of information Colfer was expecting us to take in. Unlike in the Artemis Fowl series, where there are often moments for things to slow down and be better explained, The Supernaturalist comes across something new, gives a brief, hardly adequate explanation and then speeds on to the next moment. I often had difficulty in picturing objects or events in my head because I felt like I didn’t have a detailed enough explanation. Now, I’m not saying that I would have liked Colfer to go all Tolkien on us and spend five pages describing a tree (exaggeration; note: I really like Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings), but slowing down just enough to properly introduce new objects, ideas, or situations would have been helpful.
Aside from this small issue, The Supernaturalist is a thrill ride that manages to entertain and to teach on high levels. Satellite City almost parallels the world’s current state: concern for environmental welfare, a growing nuclear threat, and the implications of an ever-evolving technological society are all issues addressed at some point in the book. These lessons – or warnings, as they very well may be (they do feel rather Bradbury-esque at times) – don’t overshadow the story, though, which is begging for a sequel…a sequel that Colfer has reportedly already outlined. If you enjoy Colfer’s other works, The Supernaturalist will certainly be a treat for you; if this is your first Colfer book, then prepare for quite an enjoyable read.
Rating: 4 (out of 5)
P.S. – Read my review of the graphic novel adaptation of this book here!