Eoin Colfer is a remarkably stable author. I always get what I expect out of an Artemis Fowl novel, and not in stagnant manner. He’s found a method that works, and he sticks to it. This is the eighth and ostensibly the final one in the series, which is just as well. Colfer can’t keep continually coming up with the high-concept plots that the series needs to thrive on, so he’s decided to wrap it up with a bang.
The strengths, as always, are the punchy writing and dialogue, which remain a stunning combination of quirky world-building, punny authorial exposition, and biting sarcasm from the mouths of almost every single character. The sarcasm is a norm for the series, but I got a little tired of it. There’s only one way to make a sarcastic joke in the Artemis Fowl world: state the opposite of what you are trying to say, pump up the hyperbole, and use it to diss your friends. That’s about half of the jokes in this book.
Another point to address is the book’s habit of rushing through plot points at a break-neck (though only occasionally literally) pace. The Atlantis Complex, a fairy mental disorder ailing Artemis in the last installment, is decreed to have completely healed the the opening scene of this book. That makes sense; the complex was the last book’s high concept plot, and we’ve got a new one this time. The series has always been about plot over boring believablity, as you might be able to tell from the fact that it’s about fairies with laser guns. Colfer might be reaching a little more in this book, since he needs to make sure it’s a thematically appropriate send-off, but the plot still hold together decently.
A cover comparison. For fun.
Those problems included, I still enjoyed the book a great deal, mostly because it’s heavy on an element that I don’t see often enough. It has entire vignettes dedicated to moderately irrelevant, yet fun (and funny) side-stories. For example, Artemis’ introduction in the opening six pages has the character of Dr. Jerbal Argon, who attempts to diagnose Artemis, fails, and is instead diagnosed by Artemis. The only purpose is to establish Artemis as a capable super genius, but it still tells us about Argon’s personality. More examples include the unneeded but entertaining chapter titled “Engineer Ozkopy Has The Last Word” in which a perfectly ordinary dwarf named Kolin Ozkopy (get it?) who, knowing he’s about to die by the hand of the recently escaped Opal Kobi, decides to at least annoy her as much as possible beforehand. Also, a slim chapter is devoted to explaining to the reader how intelligent trolls are, how they’re drawn to magical hotspots, and how Gruff is the biggest and baddest, having been called both Bigfoot and the Abominable Snowman in the past. This chapter does tie into the plot later, when the troll turns up and confuses everyone with his random arrival.
Colfer’s habit of writing entertaining side-stories not only serves to expand his world in a fun, anything-can-happen way, but it also lets him hide future plot points, setting up twists later. He understands the essential element to writing good plot twists: he must write in a manner so fun that no one realizes he’s setting up the future story. I haven’t liked any of Colfer’s other books as much as the Fowl series, but I’ll definitely take a look at what he comes out with next. I’m sure he’ll have another best-selling series in the pipeline.