In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I’m going to do a short review on the Artemis Fowl series of novels.
A New Take on a Popular Myth
Author Eoin Colfer has a wonderfully creative take on the world of leprechauns, sprites and pixies. In this series of novels, he mixes both magic and technology — beings living deep underground who have magical powers, as well as ultra-advanced computers technology and cool gadgets galore.
The Kid Factor
Throw into the fray a 12-year old boy, Artemis Fowl II — an evil genius in his own words — who uncovers the secrets of this hidden world, and you get a fun series that should delight a lot of readers, both young and old (assuming you like fantasy or science fiction). The use of a protagonist who’s not all on the up-and-up is a little different from norm, but we’re used to lovable rogues like Han Solo, or the vigilante Batman.
Action and Thrills
Artemis is aided in his exploits by his more than able-bodied bodyguard, Butler. And then there’s the true action-heroine, Captain Holly Short, a female elf who is a member of the LEPrecon — Lower Elements Police Reconnaissance — who’s a bit cocky, but has a “good head on her shoulders” as they cliché goes.
And because Artemis is not without his faults, Captain Holly puts him to the test, challenging his schemes and intellect, and teaching him some important life lessons in the process. And so throughout the series young Artemis slowly begins to change, to grow (up) and actually become “good”, even hero-like in his own ways.
The two characters butt heads in the first novel — in fact he captures her, but in subsequent novels, the two often team up, at first reluctantly, but later willingly.
Colfer’s explanation for the existence of elves, trolls and other “fantasy” creatures, known in the series as “fairies”, is that they were driven underground by man ages ago, and today mostly live the underground metropolis called Haven. The LEPrecon forces are responsible for tracking fairies who accidentally or intentionally meet with humans, and wiping those humans’ memories. At their disposal are stealth technology to mask their comings and goings between the two worlds, advanced surveillance equipment and communications with Foaly, a centaur who the super-geeky IT guy of the underworld. Certain races, including the elves, have their own magic that can also be called upon.
Of course, we wouldn’t have a series if there weren’t any bad elements, both above and underground. Threats of exposure, harm to either worlds, and some very human subplots all make for very enjoyable yarns.
It’s not heavy reading in any sense of the phrase, but all in all, the Artemis Fowl novels is still a fun series — easy to digest for younger readers, and offering some care-free fun for the rest of us.
photo credit: furiousgeorge81
I’ve been slowly exploring the excellent blog, Zen Habits — one of the inspirations for this blog — and author Leo Bautista has a wonderful post entitled Best All-Time Children’s Books. It’s an extensive list, and I agree with his choices, at least for the ones I happened to have read.
I thought I’d write my own little post on books that I recall first borrowing from the library:
- Henry Huggins – by Beverly Cleary. I distinctly remember reading this book in 4th grade, when I first got my very own library card. It was great fun to imagine the seemingly ordinary life of young Henry Huggins, where nothing happens until the day he comes home with a stray dog. The various situations he gets in are fun, yet filled with the kind of lessons every child should learn. I believe these were the first books where I became fully immersed in the world of the characters, feeling what they were feeling, and experiencing their challenges and how they overcame them. I read many of the other books in the series (such as the Mouse and the Motorcyle, and really became aware of how to find books by author. Zen Habits recommends the Ramona series, which I have not read, but it seems anything by Cleary is good. I noticed that many of Cleary’s books have been recently reprinted with new illustrations. I’m partial to the original, but still, I would highly recommend any of her books.
- The Mad Scientists’ Club – by Bertrand R. Brinley. I was enthralled with books that really emphasized independence from adults. It was a chance to escape into a different world, into a kid’s world, and to see things from their perspective. Since I WAS a kid at the time, it was easy, and appealing. And in this book and others in the series, I got to do that. It really helps that the title was really enticing: mad scientists as in bwah-ha-ha-ha, and a exclusive club — how much more of an invitation does a kid need? In this series, a band of kids often uses science as a way to pass the time but sometimes achieving something more. Whether it’s pranks or something heroic like rescuing, the series is truly entertaining. If you’re really interested in learning more, there are a couple of websites worth checking out:
- www.MadScientistsClub.com – looks like the official website by the author’s son, Sheridan Brinley
- www.PurpleHousePress.com – a site dedicated to bringing back great children’s books from years past
- Danny Dunn and the Anti-Gravity Paint – by Jay Williams and
Anyway, I feel these books really helped shaped and developed my appreciation for fun, involving stories, and set the stage for my my burgeoning childhoold curiosity of science.
If you have some favorite childhood books, I’d love to hear about them.
I hope to continue writing about them as periodic topics in the future.