Saturday, March 19, 2011

Book Review: Artemis Fowl, by Eoin Colfer

Artemis was propped on his elbows. "You hit me," he said in disbelief. 
Holly strapped on a pair of Hummingbirds.
"That's right, Fowl. And there's plenty more where that came from. So you stay right where you are, if you know what's good for you."
For once in his life, Artemis realized that he didn't have a snappy answer. He opened his mouth, waiting for his brain to supply the customary pithy comeback. But nothing arrived.
Holly slipped the Neutrino 2000 into its holster.
"That's right, Mud Boy. Playtime's over. Time for the professionals to take over. If you're a good boy, I'll buy you a lollipop when I come back."
And when Holly was long gone, soaring beneath the hallway's ancient oak beams, Artemis said, "I don't like lollipops."
It was a woefully inadequate response, and Artemis was instantly appalled with himself. Pathetic, really: I don't like lollipops. No self-repsecting criminal mastermind would even be caught dead using the word lollipops. He really would have to put together a database of witty responses for occasions such as this.

And such, like that dry-humoured excerpt above, is what I encountered when I opened up the first book in the Artemis Fowl series.

If you can get over the fact that the main character is a twelve-year-old criminal mastermind with the same name as a Greek goddess, then you can appreciate this book.
(Honestly, I don't understand the name, but if you can forget who else shares it, Artemis totally fits him.)

And if you can get over the fact that it's about said criminal mastermind in a conflict with fairies, LEPrechauns to be precise, then you just might like this book.

And if you can appreciate the mastermind and the fairies, centaurs, and dwarves, and enjoy a rip-roaring tale with plenty of wit, sarcastic  narrative and dry humor, then you might just love this book enough to read it more than once, and maybe even write a review on it.

I must say, I spotted this book at the library and picked it up just because I had heard the name a lot around that time. I knew nothing about the story until I picked it up.

The unusual hero, and really, the unusual and original premise is attractive in and of itself. I mean, who doesn't find a twelve-year-old criminal mastermind, millionaire, genius intriguing??

The conflict is with fairies, who are not exactly the kind you'd find in a bedtime story. Rather, these fairies are even more technologically advanced than we are, they're armed.... and dangerous.

After extensive research, Artemis is convinced that fairies exist and decides to kidnap one for a ransom of gold. He happens to kidnap one named Captain Holly Short, who is the only female member of the Lower Elements Police.... or, LEPrechauns. The story is being told from both sides: after Artemis and his sidekick named Butler kidnap Holly, a rescue group is sent out by the LEP to get her back.
What happens afterward consists of negotiations, strategy, and playing outside the rules-- and scattered across the story is chuckle-inducing, sometimes laugh-out-loud jokes and humor.

Eoin Colfer thrusts you straight into the action, or rather the calm before the action, and the jumps between backstory/explanations and the action are seamless.

Talk about a variety of characters! If there's one thing to make a story that has a good plot and good writing better, it's a myriad of characters with drastically different personalities and goals. The primary characters in the book are:

Artemis Fowl: calm, cool, and calculating, who's after the fairy gold.
Butler: the stoic, bodyguard type who's mostly muscle but has a good dose of brains too, who's Artemis' sidekick.
Holly Short: the impulsive, brilliant LEP captain who is trying to escape from the Fowl manor.
Foaly: the cheeky "computer geek" centaur who is the technological brains behind the LEP.
Commander Root: the red-faced, no-nonsense leader of the LEP who's voice is never under 115 decibels.
Mulch Diggums: the bad-boy dwarf who will work for the highest bidder-- and may even switch loyalties smack in the middle just to get some extra dough.

That's not quite the whole list, but it's a start. They're the primary characters, I think.

As well, what's sweet is as we try and puzzle out Artemis' family life, we do see his mom who's very ill, and criminal though he may be, we still see him wanting to get his mom better and do the best things for her.

While there are fairies, and they do use a whole lot of technology, there is a small bit of magic, which is absolutely not weird and enchantment-y and... I don't know, spiritually weird, I guess. Think of their magic as superpowers, or special abilities that just need to get re-charged like batteries sometimes. I guess that's how I would put it.

See, if there's one thing I never tolerate in books or movies, or real life for that matter, it's anything that even remotely deals with the occult, and dark magic and stuff like that: I will have none of it.
So it's practically a guarantee that the magic isn't icky in Artemis Fowl if I read the whole thing. (Yes, I will do the impossible if there's dark magic in a book-- I'll stop reading it completely. Yup.... breaks my heart to put down a book for something like that though.)

Also, as long as you don't mind the occasional h-word, or the fairy profanity word D'Arvit in the midst of the action, and you can deal with a little bit of potty humor (which I promise is there if Mulch Diggums is on the scene), then you'll probably enjoy the book.

Oh and also, there's a slightly environmentalist message that came up whenever the fairies are grumbling about how people are destroying natural resources and what have you, (not that I'm against environmentalist people, but those sort of implications jerked me out of the story a wee bit). As well, this didn't bug me, but it might bug someone else: the fairies call humans Mud People, and either I can't remember the explanation for that or there wasn't one, but if there wasn't some sort of reasoning, some people might see that as coming from an evolutionary point of view. Of course, this is a secular book, and I didn't mind personally. It didn't distract from the story.

So, those are just some things to consider.

But I thoroughly enjoyed Artemis Fowl, and I've read the second book and am planning on checking out the third sometime soon. Full of action, extremely clever, three-dimensional characters, and a great take on fairies/trolls/centaurs/et. cetera, anyone up for fast-paced adventure should definitely check out Artemis Fowl.


Lainie said...

I would think the humans being called, "Mud People," would be more Creationist rather than Evolutionist since God did "form man from the dust of the ground" and in Gen 3:19, Ps 104:29, and Ecc 12:7 there are references to our deaths as our bodies being a returning to dust (while our spirits return to God).

Other than a few missed commas-- Great Post! You make me almost want to read it ;)

<3 you :)

~Miss Raquel said...

I have this book, but I still have not read doesn't really seem like it would interest me...?? Maybe I should give it another try? :P :D

The Director said...

Hey, good point Mom :P Haha, I have the book still if you really want to.... XD

Raquel, it might not be your type, but I would give it another try :]

Millardthemk said...

Well, I read the series--and was disappointed. Too much poor humor and language. Really, the characters were excellently developed and the plot even survived all, what, five books? And yet, just too many detractors for me to recommend them. :(

Pathfinder said...

Millard: not to be mean, but there are now seven. Artemis Fowl, The Arctic Incident, The Eternity Code, The Opal Deception, The Lost Colony, The Time Paradox, and The Atlantis Complex.

I really enjoyed these books (though I will admit that I did throw one of the books across the room on anger). I've read a couple of them a few times. I like Colfer's style: bantering, well-developed characters, witty humor(though a at times), and interesting theories and plots.

what's funny: I have a friend that looks and talks a lot like Artemis. (BTW Chayal, his name is somewhat explained in book 3) He loves the series and thought it was funny when I asked it about him.

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