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Artemis Fowl and the Atlantis Complex

July 18, 2010

Artemis Fowl and the Atlantis Complex is out from Puffin Books on 20th July, 2010 and Eoin Colfer is doing an awesome live webcast which you can sign up for right now.*

There was once an Irish boy who longed to know everything there was to know, so he read book after book until his brain swelled with astronomy, calculus, quantum physics, romantic poets, forensic science and anthropology among a hundred other subjects. But his favourite book was a slim volume which he’d never once read himself. It was an old hardback that his father often chose as a bedtime tale, entitled The Crock of Gold, which told the story of a greedy bucko who captured a leprechaun in a vain effort to steal the creature’s gold.

When the father had finished reading the last word on the last page, which was Fin, he would close the worn leather-bound cover, smile down at his son and say, ‘That boy has the right idea. A little more planning and he would have pulled it off,’ which was an unusual opinion for a father to voice. A responsible father at any rate. But this was not a typically responsible parent – this was Artemis Fowl Senior, the kingpin of one of the world’s largest criminal empires. The son was not so typical either. He was Artemis Fowl II, soon to become a formidable individual in his own right, both in the world of man and in the fairy world beneath it.

A little more planning, Artemis Junior often thought as his father kissed his forehead. Just a little more planning.

And he would fall asleep and dream of gold.

Two years since Artemis Fowl and the Time-Paradox, the titular teenage genius is back, and this time with a plan to save the world – a change from his usual various and nefarious criminal activities. The book opens in Iceland, on Artemis’ 15th birthday.

At the end of the Time Paradox, things had become hopelessly tangled and complicated (that tends to happen when timestreams are involved), especially between Holly and Artemis. What do you need after that?

Action.

A lot of it.

This a book chock-full of awesome. Here is a list.

  • Butler. Does anyone else geek out over at TV Tropes? There is a whole page about AF’s crowning moments of awesome. What is great about this series (among all the other things) is that the author never allows literary snobbery to interfere with storytelling.
  • The fear of cliché never stops him from writing the baddest, worstest crowning moments of funny. In fact, it’s full of CMs: CMs of awesome, funny AND heartwarming.
  • Brilliant one-liners: Colfer is master of the hilarious throwaway remark. You have to read ’em.
  • The relationships: I love the interplays and by-plays between the cast: Artemis and Foaly, Mulch and Artemis, Foaly and Mulch, Holly and Butler, Artemis and Holly – there’s a real camaraderie hidden under all the quipping. And they’re a bunch of geeks shamelessly geeking out – it’s great! Geeking out is almost my professional pastime, and AF hits all my geek buttons whilst also hitting all my fangirl buttons.
  • Twins: a glimpse of Artemis’ now older twin brothers, in what is the most entertaining side-story of the book.

Artemis has been on the road to reform since the Arctic Incident, when he gets his father back, but old habits die hard. In the Time Paradox, Artemis faced his past self, and this book finds him trying to deal with the consequences of the person he used to be – and making an awful mess, because when magic involves itself, nothing is simple. The story is increasingly psychologically complex: Colfer begins to address the questions of motivations and consequences, and the greyness of subjective moralities, with two completely different criminal minds.

In children’s books, it takes a kind of editorial bravery to introduce irreversible changes, things that won’t be repaired by a deus ex machina to return everything to the happily-ever-after that the reader wants – and this is new ground for the Artemis Fowl books, and I love it. Without giving too much away, what was happening in Artemis’ own head was the most complex and satisfying part of the story. I first thought the Atlantis Complex referred to…some fairy mega-corporation in Atlantis. It doesn’t.

Mental illness in children’s books can’t be easy to write authentically, and Colfer does not disrespect his reader – there is no watering down or shying away. Artemis faces it, and you, the reader, face it with him. I find this account extraordinarily nuanced and moving; as Artemis slides into severe obsessive compulsiveness, paranoia, hallucinations, and finally multiple personalities, it’s impossible not to feel a kind of cold shock. You think, ‘this can’t happen to Artemis’.

Every so often, you read a book that is utterly satisfying in almost every way – like meeting an old and dearly-missed friend after a long time. Artemis Fowl and the Atlantis Complex right now is that book. After over a decade of Artemis in my head, I still only want more – I want to know how he’ll change. It doesn’t answer all the questions – because there will be more.  Artemis will be back, and so will Holly, and that’s another book.

The great beauty of a serial with child characters is its magnified scope for evolution, where the things that have happened affect and shape what will happen, and where there are no easy answers. It takes you from a child’s tumultuous world of growing and changing into one of inconstancy and ambiguity: people do bad things for good reasons; bad things happen to good people. It’s life: complicated and multifaceted – and hopeful.

What fictional character(s) do you feel you have grown up with?

* Update because judging from the search terms, people want to know: in the webcast, Eoin categorically said that there is one final book after the Atlantis Complex. I know. My heart is breaking, too – did you hear that crack?

All quotes are taken from ‘Artemis Fowl and the Atlantis Complex’, supplied to The Rock Pool for review by Puffin Books, an imprint of the Penguin Group.

There was once an Irish boy who longed to know everything there was to

know, so he read book after book until his brain swelled with astronomy,

calculus, quantum physics, romantic poets, forensic science and

anthropology among a hundred other subjects. But his favourite book was a

slim volume which he’d never once read himself. It was an oldhardback that

his father often chose as a bedtime tale, entitled //The Crock of Gold//,

which told the story of a greedy bucko who captured a leprechaun in a vain

effort to steal the creature’s gold.

When the father had finished reading the last word on the last page, which

was //Fin//, he would close the worn leather-bound cover, smile down at his

son and say, ‘That boy has the right idea. A little more planning and he

would have pulled it off,’ which was an unusual opinion for a father to

voice. A //responsible// father at any rate. But this was not a typically

responsible parent – this was Artemis Fowl Senior, the kingpin of one of

the world’s largest criminal empires. The son was not so typical either. He

was Artemis Fowl II, soon to become a formidable individual in his own

right, both in the world of man and in the fairy world beneath it.

//A little more planning//, Artemis Junior often thought as his father

kissed his forehead. //Just a little more planning//.

And he would fall asleep and dream of gold.

– doesn’t let cliche stop him from

Two years since Artemis Fowl and the Time-Paradox, the titular teenage

genius is back, and this time with a plan to save the world – a change from

his usual various and nefarious criminal activities. The book opens on Artemis’ 15th birthday (we worked out he was older than Alex Rider).

At the end of the Time Paradox, things had become hopelessly tangled and

complicated (that tends to happen when timestreams are involved),

especially between Holly and Artemis. What do you need after that?

Action.

A lot of it.

Which means you need Butler. You need Foaly, a tech-genius centaur (a noble

steed). And Mulch Diggums, that old fart (literally). AND you get JULIET,

Butler’s equally deadly and awesome – and sassy – sister, now a

pro-wrestler in Mexico. And of course – of course – Holly and Artemis. Oh, and Orion, Artemis’ //other// personality, who is everything Artemis isn’t (a romantic idiot with actual physical co-ordination).

This a book chock-full of awesome. So here is a list.

– Butler. Does anyone else geek out over at TV Tropes? There is a whole page about AF’s crowning moments of awesome. What is great about this series (among all the other things), is that the author never allows literary snobbery to interfere with storytelling.

– The fear of cliche never stops him from writing the baddest worstest crowning moments of funny. In fact, it’s full of CMs: CMs of awesome, funny AND heartwarming.

– Brilliant one-liners. You have to read ’em. Colfer is master of the hilarious throwaway remark.

– The relationships. I love the interplays and by-plays between Artemis and Foaly, Mulch and Artemis, Foaly and Mulch, Holly and Butler, Artemis and Holly – there’s a real camaraderie hidden under all the quipping. And they’re a bunch of geeks shamelessly geeking out. It’s great. Geeking out is almost a professional pastime for me, and AF hits all my geek buttons while also hitting all my fangirl buttons.

– Twins: a glimpse of Artemis’ now older twin brothers, in what is the most entertaining side-story of the book.

The threads of the story combine to bring them all to the same place, and

it’s a point where as a reader, you really appreciate that this is a book

and this is a series where the characters grow and change along with you.

Colfer now addresses the question of criminal motivations, and the greyness

of subjective moralities, with two completely different (ex-)criminals

motives and consequences.

Artemis has been on the road to reform since the Arctic Incident, when he

gets his father back, but old habits die hard. In the Time Paradox, Artemis

faced his past self, and this book finds him trying to deal with the

consequences of the person he used to be – and making an awful mess, because when magic involves itself, nothing is simple.

In children’s books, it takes a kind of editorial bravery to introduce

irreversible changes, things that won’t be repaired by a deus ex machina to

return everything to the happily-ever-after that the reader wants – and

this is new ground for the Artemis Fowl books, and I love it. Without

giving too much away, what was happening in Artemis’ own head was the most complex and satisfying part of the story. I first thought the

Atlantis Complex referred to…some fairy mega-corporation in Atlantis. It

doesn’t.

As Artemis slides into severe obsessive compulsiveness, paranoia, hallucinations, and finally multiple personalities, it’s impossible not to feel a kind of cold shock. This can’t happen to Artemis.

Mental illness in children’s books can’t be easy to write authentically, and Colfer respects his reader – there is no watering down or shying away. Artemis faces it, and you, the reader, face it with him. Because of what I do, I’m interested in any exploration of mental illness in fiction, and I find this account extraordinarily nuanced and moving. It doesn’t answer all the questions you want – because there will be more.  Artemis will be back, and so will Holly, and that’s another book.

Every so often, you read a book that is utterly satisfying in every way –

like meeting an old and dearly-missed friend after a long time. Artemis

Fowl and the Atlantis Complex right now is THAT book. After over a decade of Artemis in my head, I only want more – I want to know how he’ll change.
The great beauty of a serial with a child characters is its magnified scope for evolution, where the things that //have// happened affect and shape what //will// happen, and where there are no easy answers. It takes you from a child’s tumultuous world of growing and changing into one where right and wrong are more ambiguous. People do bad things for good reasons; bad things happen to good people. It’s life: complicated and multifaceted – and hopeful.

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25 Comments leave one →
  1. ShadowsDawn permalink
    July 18, 2010 5:47 pm

    Thank you for pointing out that the new Artemis book is out next week, I’ll have to go pick myself up a copy.

    If I had to name character’s who I’ve kind of grown up with, it would have to be Alex Rider and Artemis. Probably throwing in Harry Potter as well, but since that’s been finished for a while…

    It’s now an hour later and I have 9 TvTropes tabs open. I never can resist it. :S

    • July 18, 2010 5:57 pm

      YES Alex Rider, me too! I got disenchanted with Harry Potter.

      I actually mentioned in this review (before deleting it for ruthless editing reasons), that we worked out that Artemis is a little older than Alex. Both series appeared at around the same time, so my siblings and I think of them in tandem. Crocodile Tears ends two weeks before Alex’s 15th birthday (in January sometime), while Atlantis Complex starts on Artemis’ 15th (1st September).

      TV Tropes is like a vortex…I always get sucked into a compulsive link-clicking spiral on it XD

      (edit hours later: SD, did you read the theory that Artemis Fowl is the son of Havelock Vetinari? That is so awesome it can only be true.)

      • ShadowsDawn permalink
        July 20, 2010 7:11 pm

        Hehe, that would make a lot of sense. I wonder if Colfer would get to write a Discworld book when Pratchett can’t any more, he didn’t do a bad job on the new H2G2.

        I have my copy now, so I’m going to resist clicking on the TvTropes link for fear of never getting to read it. 😛

      • March 17, 2012 5:13 pm

        I feel like I grew up with Alex Rider too, btu somehow his intelligence is colder than Artemis’s, so i always connected better with AF…I somehow feel like AR needed more life in him.

  2. July 19, 2010 1:01 pm

    I read the first three or four books years ago and absolutely fell in love with them. This is making me want to go back and do a reread and catch up 😀

    • July 20, 2010 8:28 pm

      Do, do! It gets BETTER. My favourite is AF & the Time Paradox.

      The author said there’s only going to be one more book. O_O

      (there is a lot of ‘nooooooooooo’ going on in this quarter. Nuuuuuuu!)

      • March 17, 2012 5:12 pm

        Oh me too! I want Eoin Colfer to keep Artemis alive, even if he has to send Artemis to Limbo a hundred times 😀 I dont care…AF forever!!

  3. Kaimalino permalink
    July 19, 2010 3:42 pm

    Don’t hate Harry! I don’t know where you get a numpty vibe from him, Saya. . . I remain devoted. But I couldn’t say I grew up with him, exactly. I related more to the female characters, but Hermione and Ginny are both so much cooler than I am that wasn’t “growing up with,” either. I’m the Colin Creevey of readers.
    “Charlotte’s Web” is only one book, but I’ve read it a thousand times and I do think I’ve grown up with Fern, and maybe even Wilbur the pig. Fern outgrows sitting in the barn all afternoon with the animals, and Wilbur grows into understanding what it means to be a friend. Even after a thousand reads, I am still “growing up” in those ways, but I love those characters a little more every time.

    • July 20, 2010 8:48 pm

      He’s just…such a…argh. If it’s possible with a fictional character, I lost respect for him after book 3. He had serious character decay, and while book 4 was passable, I felt it took a massive departure from the spirit of the series towards the end, like Rowling was spinning stuff out simply to satisfy the machine – i.e. introducing the Deathly Hallows in the last book? Poor move. I’ve read the HP books multiple times, but after reading book 7 once, I was so disappointed that I haven’t touched them since.

      Charlotte’s Web! I haven’t read that for such a long time.

      I think there’s a difference between the reader growing up as a person and re-reading books, and the reader ageing with the character…I think the latter has not happened for me with too many books simply due to the nature of the conditions required – an ongoing series with a character close in age to me, as well as being young/old enough to relate to the character. Off the top of my head, I can think of this (Artemis Fowl), Alex Rider, Animorphs, and Harry Potter, and to a lesser extent, some crime writers I started reading in my early teens, whose ‘lives’ have changed over the past decade+. There may be a few more, but I can’t think of them right now.

      On the other hand, you have books where even a hundred books later, everyone is still in eighth grade, despite 3 Christmases, 4 Thanksgivings, several Summer vacations and even a Hanukkah/Kwanzaa (I still don’t know what that is). What amazing series is this? Babysitters’ Club, of course!

      Man, I used to read those. Every accusation of bad taste is justified, in view of that.

      • Kaimalino permalink
        July 20, 2010 9:30 pm

        I actually considered putting down “The Baby-sitters Club” for this question, but couldn’t bring myself to admit it. Thanks for removing the shame! At least it wasn’t Sweet Valley Twins/High! BSC is bad, but it’s not so slow you can actually feel your mind numbing as you crawl from paragraph to paragraph looking for something to care about.
        I noticed at the book store the BSC is being re-issued with new covers. I was into them when they actually WERE new, back when it really was just the first Christmas/Thanksgiving/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa (which is a winter celebration honoring the heritage of African-Americans, but you already knew that much). Clearly this dates me as being 100 years older than you.

      • Allumer permalink
        July 21, 2010 1:13 am

        WAIT – I remember BSC, I don’t think I read many of them, but still. And to my everlasting shame, thank you Kaimalino for reminding me of this, I DID read some of the Sweet Valley Twins books. I had to sneak them home from the library because my parents would have flipped, but even the sweet taste of rebellion could not make me enjoy their putrid immaturity. At 12, it was a cheap thrill.

      • Kaimalino permalink
        July 21, 2010 5:12 am

        Ha! Sounds like you had a Jessica streak even though your parents insisted you be more Elizabeth!

        My parents started refusing to purchase the BSC books for me once they realized I’d devour them in a single afternoon. One of the biggest fights I’ve ever had with my mother was as a child in a bookstore when she said she would buy “Heidi” but not “Claudia and Mean Janine.” Somehow I managed to survive to forgive her and go on to have a similar argument with my son only last week about how and why I would purchase “White Fang” but not “SpongeBob: Man Sponge Hero.” If he wants to read low-level commercialism, he can get it for free at the library, just like you did, Allumer! 😉

  4. Allumer permalink
    July 19, 2010 6:32 pm

    I have to say, as cliche as it is, Anne of Green Gables was with me through my whole childhood. The only other non-adult books I really remember well (besides picture books) are the Narnia Chronicles. We read a lot of books when I was young, The Trumpeter Swans, My Side of the Mountain etc. but none of the characters stick with me. Also, our parents encouraged and made available adult books (um, not that kind of adult) from a really early age so I never really read anything for children or young adults past age eleven. My sister is a huge YA fan now and has compiled a list of books I have to read – Artemis Fowl was on it. I’m going to have to go to the library.

    • July 20, 2010 9:01 pm

      Artemis Fowl isn’t YA – it’s proudly a children’s book!

      Anne is definitely not cliche. Anne is wonderful. Do you have a favourite among them? I love that her whole life, more or less, is there, and that every time you re-read them, your mind highlights something different depending entirely on who you are and what is relevant to your life at the time of the re-read. I also read Alcott a lot (a LOT), as well as books like Pollyanna and a Girl of the Limberlost. They get better with every re-read.

      I just read this on Jackie Dolamore’s blog (she wrote Magic Under Glass), which is essentially a chronology of her life in obsessions. I found it interesting, because I could divide my life up by a similar standard, and also bybooks that I kept re-reading at certain times. Like there was this period where I read a book called The Heartstone Odyssey over and over again. Ah, Heartstone Odyssey.

      • Allumer permalink
        July 21, 2010 1:20 am

        I really loved Anne of Windy Poplars and Anne’s House of Dreams. I love all of them, and I have always liked Emily of New Moon and Pat of Silver Bush too, but I identify with Anne more than the other characters. And I forgot about Alcott, read her also. Did you know she also wrote thriller type novels not for children? Behind the Mask is a great story collection, they are pretty shocking if you are used to Little Women. Harry Potter never did it for me. Especially after one of my college professor’s best friend(who specialized in mythology etc.) dated JK Rowling and he said she essentially ripped off a lot of obscure mythology. Not sure how I feel about this because, as we all know, EVERYTHING has been done before, but still. Bad taste.

  5. James permalink
    July 20, 2010 11:48 pm

    My (baby) cousin used to read a lot of AF and said it was his favourite series, I always meant to look into it but I will definitely check it out at the library, though I might get some odd looks hanging around in the children section…

    • July 28, 2010 10:52 am

      I always head straight for the children’s…I’m always on alert for being told off for being there unaccompanied by a child.

      Must be my youthful looks. XD

  6. James permalink
    July 20, 2010 11:52 pm

    Oh & also (& sorry for reposting, I can’t work out how to edit a post >_< ), but wanted to add that Hardy Boys were at least as bad as if not worse than Babysitters Club (which I have not actually read), they were eternally 17 & 18 and never aged, no matter how many cases they solved. Also it was fairly formulaic (sp?) stuff, but I think I worked out that they must have solved an average of a case every 3 days the whole year if they did everything at that age, then I gave up…

  7. Molly J. permalink
    July 21, 2010 2:14 am

    I grew up with the Animorphs, Hogwarts students, and valiant warriors of Redwall in addition to Artemis, Holly & co. Can’t wait to get this when it comes to the US. My birthday is September 1, too, and so once in a while I’m the same age as Arty dearest – that is, if he hasn’t been time traveling too much. I hope there’s still more books after the next. I can’t foresee not wanting more of the characters I’ve grown to love and respect and, well, laugh at a lot. Thanks for the review!

    • July 28, 2010 10:57 am

      Hi Molly, thanks for your comment!

      There’s one more after this – Eoin said that in the webcast. I yelled ‘nooooooo’ at him but I don’t think it will change anything XD

      After I wrote this, my sister and I started talking about Animorphs again (I had sworn never to think of it again after that BIZARRE and AWFUL conclusion), and she noted we didn’t actually know until the end how much time had passed, and there was a long period of static non-plot-advancing adventures. We finished that discussion with how much I hated Everworld, and Remnants, and just Katherine Applegate in general. And also with sleep because we were having the conversation in the middle of the night XD

  8. Ticia permalink
    July 21, 2010 3:28 am

    Menolly, from Anne McCaffrey’s Pern series. I loved her so much, I’ve owned three copies of Dragon Song because I’d wear them out so fast rereading them.

  9. Kaimalino permalink
    July 27, 2010 3:41 pm

    Wait–I can’t believe I forgot this character, but OF COURSE I grew up with Ramona Quimby! She is every kid’s alter-ego and although the stories sometimes seem . . . I dunno. . . dated? sugary?– in this age of snarky-children-are-funny there is something so timeless and enduring about them.
    And Anne Shirley, well, yeah. That’s a given. Same sort of irresistibly timeless qualities there. Ramona and Anne are not all that different, actually.

  10. March 17, 2012 5:02 pm

    I fel i have grown up with Harry Potter, Georgia Nicholson, and many others, but Artemis is still the one i love best! I cant wait to read his next ‘adventure’…I love Eoin Colfer.

  11. March 17, 2012 5:09 pm

    Somehow, Eoin colfer does what so few good childrens writers can do (J.K.Rowling is a good example of one who can)- he writes childrens books, but he makes it so unpatronising, he takes his readers seriosuly, and never makes fun of them with poor writing. That is what i love about him.

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