Sunday, August 8, 2010

Artemis Fowl and the Atlantis Complex

Since the children quit school for the summer I've been dashing into Bahrain's one bookshop to seek out light-weight, escapist reading. I desire short sentences with no introspection as I cannot settle while the children are bickering and bouncing on beds; they can't go outside to play since it's 45 degrees in the shade. The solution, of course, is to get them reading, too, so I dragged them down to the bookshop and in the children's books section I discovered a curious thing; many internationally successful children's books are written by Irish men - John Boyne, Darren Shan, Derek Landy... and this week splashed all over the shop is Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl and the Atlantis Complex.
I'd never read an Artemis Fowl and this is the ninth book about him but I didn't allow that to put me off. I plunged straight in and I'm delighted to tell you The Atlantis Complex is so cleverly written there's no need for back story or explanations..
So, who is Artemis Fowl? He is, to quote himself, 'a child prodigy from Ireland who has dedicated his brilliant mind to criminal activities. His mother says: 'People are afraid of you, Arty. Girls are terrified of you. You're a fifteen year old in bespoke suit and nobody died."
Not a regular boy then? Well, no for 'Arty' is away with the fairies.
In The Atlantis Complex he has summoned the fairies to Iceland to demonstrate his latest invention to save the world from global warming. The Ice Cube shoots out nano wafers -each one 'smart enough to know which way is up when it hits the surface and configures itself to insulate the ice and reflect the sun.'
Sounds great except the fairies find it hard to believe Artemis might care for the environment; the Artemis they know is notorious for extortion and kidnapping. Also he's not himself - he's got galloping paranoia and is obsessed with the number five. Could he be suffering from Atlantis Complex - a mental illness caused by too much magic and a guilty conscience?
Meanwhile, imprisoned deep in Atlantis (second city of Fairyland) disgraced Captain Turnbull Root has been patiently working on a escape plan. Thanks to a gullible prison warden and a brainwashed personal guard his cell is full of sophisticated computer equipment. Root hacks into the command centre of a fairy space shuttle on its way to Mars and the shuttle changes course. It lands in Iceland to kill the fairies who are meeting with Artemis Fowl then dives into the ocean, heading fast and hard to Atlantis.
Captain Holly Short and Foaly a centaur survive the attack, as does Artemis. Under normal circumstances Artemis would now hatch a cunning and ruthless plan to recapture the hijacked shuttle but unfortunately Artemis is not himself - he's suffering phase 2 of Atlantis Complex; an alter ego, Orion, has taken over his consciousness. Orion is a lovely boy, not a bit cunning or ruthless and when appealed to for help he suggests they build a bivouac and wait to be rescued.
I have heard the Artemis Fowl books described as 'Die Hard with Fairies'
but such a description does not do them justice. I have never before been so seduced and convinced by the imaginary world Eoin Colfer creates.
VERDICT: There is nothing lightweight about Artemis Fowl. Prepare to be mesmerised.

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