Artemis Fowl

Powell’s Books

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

publication date: 2001
pages: 280
ISBN-10: 0786817070

Artemis Fowl is not compelling.  I realized just how dull I found it after I noticed I was reading anything else: articles from any free newspaper weekly I could get my hands on, old magazine issues, the entire Twilight series (I’m serious). But I did finally finish it.  And it wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever read.

The story follows Artemis Fowl, a 12-year-old evil genius, as he navigates between advanced technology and a hidden fairy underworld.  Artemis wants to reinvigorate the once-glorious Fowls by stealing leprechaun gold.  Artemis’s scheme has him bribing fairies in Ho Chi Minh City, kidnapping the fairy protagonist who is a member of the Lower Elements Police-recon unit (or LEPrecon), and battling trolls.

To be honest, the plot of this book is almost irrelevant because the reader is not given any chance to identify with the characters.  If I don’t like the heroine Holly Short or the titular Artemis, I don’t care what happens to them in the story. Colfer insists throughout that Artemis and his butler, Butler, are smart and capable people, but also completely unlikable and nefarious. Well then, why do I care if their plan is thwarted?  And readers are not given enough time with Holly to form much of an opinion of her, making it difficult to root for her.

Another reason it is difficult to engage with the plot is because so much of the plot is focused on obsolete technology. When the book was written in 2001, maybe it was exciting and innovative for a character to take pictures of the pages of a stolen book so “the entire volume was stored on the camera’s chip” but not in 2013, when entire books can be summoned with a few clicks on Google Books.  Additionally, as alluded to above, Colfer is not very adept at naming characters: a manservant’s name is Butler.  A centaur’s name is Foaly. The villainous main character is Fowl.

There are many other problems with the book, including frequent use of my personal pet peeve: the oft-employed and oft-abused foreshadowing.  I think you get the point, though, so I will just add one more misstep: Colfer actually utilizes a dwarf’s fart as a plot device.  Yes, a dwarf’s fart gets more than just a passing mention and in fact gets several paragraphs of discussion.

Artemis Fowl is not all bad.  Colfer set the book in some interesting places, including, as mentioned above, Ho Chi Minh City and Martina Franca, near the city of Brindisi in Italy.  And notwithstanding my lengthy criticism above, most of the book was serviceable, including certain moments of suspense.  However, when there are so many great things to read, serviceable is just not enough.

3/6: more good than bad

Fantasy Book Review
The New York Times