Book review: Artemis Fowl and the Atlantis Complex

Posted on August 7, 2010 by

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Eoin Colfer is a talented writer. It says something about how talented he is that, when it was decided that there needed to be a sixth book in the Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy trilogy …And Another Thing (Douglas Adams had always expressed regret that he ended the series on a down-note, and sadly never got around to rectifying that before his death), he was chosen to write it, and it was good.

I was, I suspect like many people, dismissive of the Artemis Fowl books when I first became aware of them. ‘They are-‘ I would say, all-knowing, ‘For kids’. I am not ashamed to admit that I was prodigiously wrong on that front. Okay, yes, the target demographic is younger readers, but the same can be said about the Harry Potter books, Doctor Who and indeed, some of my favourite books by Terry Pratchett were those geared towards a younger audience. When, one day, in a fit of boredom, and in lieu of being able to do anything else, I picked up the first book, simply titled ‘Artemis Fowl’. I proceeded to read it through in one sitting. Twice. Since that revelation, I have made no secret of my love for the series. Yes, The Time Paradox wasn’t quite up the to usual high standards of the series, and left me feeling a smidge underwhelmed, but Colfer has returned on fine form with the latest instalment of the series, The Atlantis Complex.

The title refers to a mental illness contracted by Artemis, now 15 years old, caused by his feelings of guilt (and abuse of Magic) from his early adventures, where he was a criminal mastermind (Before his heel/face turn into a good guy, and environmentalist to boot), which causes paranoia, delusions, obsessive compulsion, schizophrenia and multiple personalities (Not the same as Schizophrenia. Common misconception). The condition isn’t the driving force of the plot, but is an important story element throughout. (His eventual treatment for it is essentially a magical detox, turn his magic abuse into a protracted drugs metaphor to go on top of the slightly anvilicious green message of the series whole)

The complex is essentially Artemis’ character development (And pretty much the only development experienced by any character in this book), he’s become overwhelmed with guilt for all the trouble he has caused The People, several of whom soon became the only real friends he’d ever known, and it is pretty much the only character development anyone in the book gets, even though half the time he’s stuck in a second personality, the hopelessly romantic Orion, who spends most of his time trying, unsuccessfully, to woo Holly.

Artemis arranges to meet up with Holly and several other Fairies to discuss his newest scheme- a plan to secretly reverse global warming with a new invention, which is rudely interrupted by a crashing space probe, which proceeds to head onwards towards Atlantis. This all turns out be the Work of Turnball Root (Older Brother of Julius, first seen in The Artemis Fowl Files), who is plotting to escape the High-Security Atlantis Prison to be re-united with his ailing human wife. As a villain, Root is a lot sympathetic than previous foes faced by Fowl, like Opal Koboi (The series’ primary antagonist) who’s only real motivation is basically ‘take over the world ’cause i’m crazy’.

The plot in this one is very straightforward, and indeed, refreshingly so after all the time travel in The Time Paradox, and it flies by very quickly of the 320-odd pages. The writing is, as ever, sharp, witty and engaging, and it fulfils all the needs of a fan of the series, although, if I had to complain about something, it would be that the climax is far too brief, and a wee bit anticlimactic, and could have benefitted from being drawn out slightly more. It’s also somewhat refreshing to come across a book so far into the series that can stand on it’s own without requiring a large knowledge of the continuity from new readers. Obviously I would recommend new readers start at the beginning, but if someone were to start by picking up The Atlantis Complex, they wouldn’t be bogged down by a lack of knowledge about the previous books or their events.

Another excellent book in the series, and further credit to Eoin Colfer’s supreme talents as a writer. Totally recommended.

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