Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Artemis Fowl and the Atlantis Complex by Eoin Colfer and General Retrospective

Let’s get this out of the way right now. Artemis Fowl has remained a favorite series of mine for quite some time. As such, I’m always eager for another installment. Before diving into the review, I’d like to touch on a sentiment that will better explain my opinion.

There comes a point in any long-running series, whether it be television, cinema, or literary, when it arrives at a crossroads. No matter which direction it chooses, it’s markedly changed and sometimes quite noticeably so. In enough cases, this is not equivalent to “jumping the shark” which is defined as doing something drastic, and oft times out of character, to spark interest once more with fanbases. Some series handle it quite well, heading in a fresh and inspired direction. Others cling desperately to what made it first popular by trying to outdo itself to the point of being a parody of its former self. Deciding between the former and the latter can quickly turn into a heated discussion.

It’s my humble opinion that the Artemis Fowl series hit that crossroads around the fifth book. That’s when Artemis went “good,” when he acquired a love interest, missed three years of his life without aging, and received the news of now having twin brothers. As a quick note, if any of that spoiled the reader then it’s their own fault. This is a review of the seventh book (and a retrospective of Artemis Fowl in general) and all of that was established before the seventh novel.

Anyway, back to The Atlantis Complex. It opens with Artemis in dire straits, mentally. He’s developed Atlantis Complex, the book’s namesake if you weren’t paying attention. This particular disorder causes the victim to develop obsessive compulsive disorder, paranoia, multiple personalities, and other such pesky symptoms that muck up one’s rational thinking process. This alone was a curious enough hook to draw me in. However, I didn’t find the rest of the novel nearly as compelling. Fowl is a fascinating character because even if he is the protagonist, he’s also played the part of the villain. While the protagonist generally wins by the end of the book, the villain faces defeat. Artemis is both. That element was gone once Artemis turned into a 100% force for good, abandoning his shadier enterprises. I certainly enjoyed Complex but would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the book doesn’t completely focus on its title character, a missed opportunity, and ends half-heartedly. The villain is sympathetic, the Butlers get a few chapters all to themselves, as does a few other supporting characters. A highlight is a section where Fowl is trapped in his own mind, forced to observe his alternate personality and completely helpless to prevent it. The plot is another “save the world” scheme with the Atlantis Complex being taken advantage of from time to time.

I wish I could be more enthused concerning Colfer’s latest effort, but, in all honesty, I can’t. Perhaps it was too radically different from what I was expecting for me to enjoy it properly. I was hoping for a more focused take on Fowl dealing with his mental disease since his intelligence is so integral to the series; it’s almost a separate character. Maybe it was the unsatisfying ending that seemed to only bridge to an inevitable eighth book or the short page length and long waiting period. Whatever the reason, my personal feelings aside, I can still heartily recommend it for readers looking for something with clever writing, excitement, and entertainment. In any case, Atlantis Complex is buoyed by its intriguing plot device that was, unfortunately, not taken full advantage of. Although, I can definitely see that as a focus in the next one, even if it seems less appropriate considering the title of the disease is the title of this particular book. It’s excellent, but doesn’t quite live up to its predecessors. 4 stars

Review by Alisa Heskin

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