Tag Archive for Eoin Colfer

Reading Through the Bookcase: Artemis Fowl

My five Artemis Fowl books

I saved this till I had read all five of my Artemis Fowl books by Eoin Colfer. (Even though I detoured twice before I finished the lot.)

When the Harry Potter books were well underway, a few other books began to appear that seemed to be taking advantage of the YA desire for fantasy novels along similar lines: stories that involved older kids or younger teens from our own world who suddenly discovered that there was a magical dimension to the world that remained hidden from everyone else (especially adults). One of the main series that started in the midst of Pottermania was the Artemis Fowl series.

It’s about a wealthy, pre-teen genius boy who discovers that the denizens of the old Faerie world of the legends (primarily Irish) had really existed but had just moved underground to create a whole new society there, when they came into conflict with humans. Artemis, being a self-proclaimed criminal mastermind, calculates how to find this fairy world, reasoning that he should be able to trick that society into handing over the legendary “pot of gold” that has been talked about in so many tales and myths. He manages to capture Holly Short, an elf who is the first female captain of the Lower Elements Police Recon squad (LEP Recon. Leprecon. Get it?), and  demands a large amount of fairy gold as a ransom.

And so it all begins! In the five books I have (naturally I don’t have all eight; when do I ever have a complete set??), we watch Artemis get more and more human and, more importantly, humane. Even while he retains his deviousness, he comes to appreciate and even love the citizens of Haven City, below ground (including such characters as Foaly the technowizard centaur and Mulch Diggums, a member of the dwarf race who burrow underground in a most…interesting way). And most of all, Artemis appreciates that the existence of Haven City and all the fairy races must remain a secret from humanity, lest other humans try to exploit the magical races and end up destroying them. So the fairies and Artemis do a great deal for each other over several years, and Holly Short develops a lasting friendship with Artemis and his brilliant and worldly-wise bodyguard, Butler, with all his underworld connections and martial arts skills.

Eoin Colfer at the Toronto Public Library, September 2011

Eoin Colfer at the Toronto Public Library, September 2011

I have friends who think that the Artemis Fowl books were just a “ripoff,” of sorts, of the Harry Potter books. The first Fowl book was published flush in the middle of the Potter popularity. And the series, as my friends are swift to point out, isn’t nearly as unified and deep in its ideas. Nor, they say, is it written all that well.

Frankly, I don’t agree, and I don’t care anyway.If this series were a clear copy of the storyline from the Potter books, that would be a different matter. (She says, shuddering at the horrible memory of The Sword of Shannara and the plot of The Lord of the Rings.) It’s true that this series takes up figures from legend and folklore and brings them into this world. So did the Narnia books. So do a lot of other books. And yes, the main character starts out about the same age as Harry Potter. (Artemis, too, was eleven years old at the beginning, and given that there are three more books after the ones I have, he’s likely to end up about the same age as Harry did.) It is said that there are only, really, about seven or eight basic storylines in the world, and that every story ever told is a variation of one of them. It doesn’t bother me that there are some similarities between stories. A pre-teen discovers a secret magical world connected to this one–how different could you make it, really?

And as to this series’ “not being written very well”…well, that has been a big complaint from people who don’t like the Harry Potter books too. (“She’s really not a very good writer.” How often I’ve heard that from people! The adults, that is, who weren’t sitting eagerly waiting for the next book or the next movie.) Neither of these series is grand, High Literature. But who cares? Eoin Colfer tells a really good story for the people who enjoy this sort of tale, and he adds some good laughs into the mix as well.

So I had a really nice trip through this part of the top shelf of my SF&F bookcase.

If you’re an Artemis Fowl fan yourself, it might interest you to know that Disney is supposedly developing a movie. If so, I can’t wait to see it!

And check out my own description, three years ago today, of an evening with Eoin Colfer at the Toronto Public Library.

Eoin Colfer: Get Ready to Laugh

Eoin Colfer at the Toronto Reference Library

Eoin Colfer at the Toronto Reference Library

Eoin Colfer, author of the Artemis Fowl YA novels and several other books, is a very, very funny man.

In a recent book event and interview at the Toronto Reference Library, Colfer kept the audience laughing as much as he informed them about his work. He was actually in town promoting his newest book, Plugged, but naturally there was as much discussion of his other books as there was of that one. In fact, there is a lot to talk (and laugh) about, when it comes to this prolific writer.

Even when he writes a book like Plugged, which is a darker crime fiction novel and a decidedly not-for-kids book (“It has some bad words,” says Colfer), you can’t escape the humour. The book itself was predicated on a pun. And the main character’s constant inner dialogue resembles imaginary conversations that Colfer says he conducts inside his own head, with his characters, with reviewers, with interviewers, and anyone else who wants to join in.

Book cover: The Atlantis Complex (Artemis Fowl)He puts himself (and his friends and relatives) very much into the books he writes, yet surprisingly, Artemis Fowl is not his own alter ego. Artemis is in fact patterned after his brother, who had a very “James Bond mastermind” moment during a solemn picture-taking at a church. This brother, according to Colfer, is “quite pleased” with his fictional transformation. Another brother was the source for kleptomaniac dwarf Mulch Duggums, primarily inspiring Duggums’ rather “windy” characteristics. This brother, understandably, is “not so happy about it.” Holly the diminutive leprechaun, who is the moral centre of the Artemis Fowl books, was also patterned after someone Colfer knew: a plucky girl he used to teach, who was eager to learn, and who never backed down from anyone.

Discussions about Holly, and leprechauns in general, provided much of the laughter throughout the evening. Colfer mentioned that people are always asking whether Artemis and Holly will eventually “get together” — if you know what I mean. Aside from the fact that Holly is about eighty years older than Artemis, there’s another problem. To explain, Colfer leaned toward the audience and informed us solemnly, “I have a rule: only the same species.

He also described how a doctor arose in the audience of one interview and pointed, his hand shaking with anger, to say, “That high a dosage of that medicine would have killed that leprechaun!” Colfer talked to him afterward, and agreed that the dosage should have been less. Another man in an audience said indignantly, “There’s no such thing as a female leprechaun!” So, as Colfer said, “I had to explain to him that there’s probably no such thing as leprechauns at all.”

Book cover: Plugged, by Eoin ColferColfer plans another two Artemis Fowl books before the series winds down. He is also likely to follow Plugged with a couple of sequels. Airman, in his opinion, is as perfect and complete as it can get, so it’s likely to remain a standalone book. But the sequel he’s probably most famous for, and notoriously so, is And Another Thing…, a completion of Douglas Adams’ unfinished sixth book in the Hitchhiker’s Guide series.

Colfer felt he could never do the book justice, yet also felt he couldn’t say no, especially when Adams’ widow, Jane Belson, welcomed the idea. But even here, Colfer ran into some amusing sorts of trouble. He was on Facebook at the time (he isn’t now), and Facebook’s randomly generated “you might like this” page suggestions brought up a group wanting to stop Colfer from writing the book! So naturally, he joined the group.

Some writers view their work very seriously, and spend years and much angst as they produce their great work of art. Eoin Colfer makes sure to do a thorough and well-crafted job, yet refuses to take himself that seriously. And as the audience at the Reference Library discovered during the interview, that more light-hearted attitude takes him (and us!) a long, long way.

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