June 08, 2003

Artemis Fowl, by Eoin Colfer

The bookstores around here have been pushing Colfer's "Artemis Fowl" juveniles pretty heavily recently; I keep seeing those little cardboard displays with a compartment for each book in the series. From the blurb they looked like they might be amusing, and so I picked up the first one so that I could read it, and see if it might be something Dave would like to have me read to him.

Having finished, I can say "Absolutely not." Or rather, he might like me to, but I'm not gonna.

It's about a twelve-year-old super-genius and master criminal named Artemis Fowl. He's the heir of a long line of super-genius master-criminals. And he's hit on a scheme. In addition to the legendary pot of gold, every leprechaun (he's Irish) has a Book that they carry always that contains all of the rules and regulations that govern life as a fairy. He manages to get access to a copy and translate it; he then plans a caper to piles of fairy gold.

It had its moments, but I didn't like it much.

To begin with, it's only so-so as a book. The whole time I was reading it (and I was predisposed to enjoy it), a little voice in the back of my head kept saying, "Well, there's another stupid thing I'd better not think about too much." For example, there's a scene in Fowl's computer room that was ludicrous. Authors should either get technical details correct, or leave them out altogether. Vagueness isn't the key to timelessness, but it helps. Obsolete products in a supposedly up-to-date computer lab (as of the publication date) are just silly.

Second, many of the characters in the book are Fairies, and yet the nature of Faerie seems to be completely opaque to the author. This is a fantasy, but it's written in a science fictional manner.

Third, most of the characters (fairy or otherwise) are rude, obnoxious, cynical, double-dealing, corner-cutting, and they'd probably be foul-mouthed and oversexed if Colfer could get it past his editor.

Let's face it, my kids are too young for hardboiled detective novels.

Posted by Will Duquette at June 8, 2003 06:41 AM

Lorna Fleming said:

Think Fariy Think Again

Your review of the artimas foul books where totaly wrong. You are looking at the book through very cynical adult eyes, i thought the book had a great storyline, so most of the charictors where fairys and thats cool,so most of them where double dealing? most people are (not everyones truthfull, and as for the scifi thing thats good and if the deatails arnt correct (i never noticed any problems) so what its a fairy story - but cool. A lot of people like that kind of thing (me for example) i just think that you are being overly crytical of eoin colfer and that you should only critise if you could do better which frankly i donr beleave you could i mean have you ever published a book? i dont think so. So give eoin colfer what he deserves, some praise.

Will Duquette said:

Lorna,

You seem to have missed the point of my criticism, which was three-fold.

First, the book isn't appropriate for my six-year-old. That doesn't make it a bad book; but as I was reading it to see if I could read it to my son, it was a disappointment.

Second, quite a few details don't bear scrutiny. I didn't care about this when I was a kid--but there are many other books from my childhood that still hold up very well. I'm thinking of authors like J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Madeleine L'Engle, and Lloyd Alexander.

Third, I don't have a problem with it being a fairy story; that's a plus in my book. I just didn't like Colfer's handling of fairies. There's nothing mysterious or perilous about them; they're just people who happen to live underground.

If you'd like to know what I'm talking about, see if you can find The King of Elfland's Daughter, by Lord Dunsany, or "Smith of Wooton Major" by J.R.R. Tolkien. (That last is a short story; it's appeared in a number of books by Tolkien, including Poems and Stories.)

anonymous said:

I think you are totally wrong. In a fictional book, technical details don't matter. It's his imagination. It is better to be detailed than to be vague, and it is not a factual novel, so the exact details don't need to always be correct, as the story is fictional. You are too judgemental when reading a book that requires some imagination. You need to read the book with an open mind. Maybe it isn't the best book for a 6 year old to you, but that doesn't mean that it isn't good for anyone else. I would recomend it for children of all ages, it is just a delightful read, and lets the children let their imagination flow freely unlike most factual books. You would only be happy if you molded the book to fit your own image of such things, which isn't right.

Will Duquette said:

Actually, in a work of fiction technical details do matter--because anything that distracts the reader from the story is bad.

I agree that my six-year-old wouldn't have noticed the errors; that's not why I wouldn't read it to him.

I wouldn't read it to him for two reasons: he's too young for the content, and I wouldn't enjoy reading it to him. If he wants to read it when he's older, that's fine.

Finally, I'm not reviewing the book from the point of view of its target audience; I'm reviewing the book as an adult, for other adults--and pointing out that other books I loved as a kid, and still love, do not share its flaws.

Will Duquette said:

One last thing: I never said, anywhere, that you are wrong to like it. There are lots of books I dislike that other people love dearly.

anonymous said:

pesonaly, I beleive the artimas fowl searies is great. it allows old to meet new. like stories of leprecons, we now have an explenation of what happened since then. and if you do not like this book i urge you to read books by piers anthony but do not let your kids read it. also look up the lost years of merlin and read that searies. and look up the circle of magic searies, it is a kid loving searies. you got to read books believing that these are true stories to fully injoy them. use your imagination to look deeper into the storie make your own images of the places and people. i live to read and i would love to have someone injoy reading also.

john biddums said:

I love Artemis Fowl, It was great

artemis Fowl 2 said:

hey person who posted the one on march 30. you spell artemis fowl worng. just fyi for everyone else. ( fyi= for you info)

jon spiro said:

i will get you artemis fowl. i will get you. you tricked me in pheonitix lab, but you wont trick me again. Arno Blunt kill butler, and he will get you next. SEE you later Artemis, got to go take my pill. remember.... i know ....

jon spiro said:

i will get you artemis fowl. i will get you. you tricked me in pheonitix lab, but you wont trick me again. Arno Blunt kill butler, and he will get you next. SEE you later Artemis, got to go take my pill. remember.... i know ....

jon spiro