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That's what Eoin Colfer thinks about Artemis Fowl, and he should know—he's the guy who wrote the book, after all, and the seven books that come after it in the series. Published in 2001, the novel is Ender's Game meets Tomb Raider meets a mythological soup of sprites, goblins, dwarfs, elves, and trolls.
The story goes like this: pre-teen Artemis Fowl II plans to restore his family's billions by kidnapping a fairy and holding her for ransom, which he does by generally being smarter and more criminally-minded than everyone else. His plans get derailed by the fairy authorities though, who prove to be equally ruthless in dealing with dangerous "Mud People" (humans), forcing Artemis to do some quick thinking if he wants to escape a devastating bomb and walk away with his life and the fairies' gold.
Sound a little gritty and amoral for a book aimed at readers ages eight and up? Certain critics thought so too, even though most of the reviews were positive. It was a bestseller on the New York Times, Publishers Weekly, and USA Today lists and has won numerous awards in both the U.S. and U.K. (including the one where it was declared Irish Book of the Decade in 2010).
Colfer partly credits the release of the first four Harry Potter books with the success of his own because they made people want to read young adult fiction again (check out the "Best of the Web" section for more on this), but the lasting appeal of his novel doesn't really need the help. Heck—Disney even snatched up the movie rights.
Meet Artemis Fowl. Artemis is what happens when we root for Draco Malfoy instead of Harry Potter.
Now, some of the novel's critics thought this was exactly the book's problem (we're looking at you, USA Today)—what they're missing though, is that this is exactly what makes the novel such an interesting read.
Every so often in literature we get a protagonist who is known as a Byronic hero: a moody, aloof, and usually friendless character. The most popular version now is the "bad boy" character we love for all of his rough-edged qualities (Wolverine from X-Men, anyone?). Artemis Fowl is brilliant, ruthless, and oozing with condescension, but he also has one of the crucial qualities of a Byronic hero: the ability to form deep, affectionate connections to the few people he can actually stand.
There are a few tender scenes with Artemis and his mom, plus the kid ends up returning half the gold he wins in exchange for her mind being healed, even though he knows this will cramp his criminal style. So though the epilogue openly tells us not to romanticize Artemis for these fleeting moments of kindness, we sort of can't help it—he's a classic literary character transformed into a 21st-century pre-teen genius, the ultimate bad boy for the junior high set.
The Honest to Goodness Official Site
An online mash-up that advertises the novels and characters with their comic book illustrations and weird surveillance sounds.
The Honest to Goodness Official (UK) Site
Though it's mostly a place to order all the books in the series, it includes links to live talks with Eoin Colfer and "files" on many of the main characters. Plus, there's a great gimmick where Colfer pretends he's Artemis and disavows any relationship to himself as a writer.
Artemis might be a kid still, but he's big enough to fill up the silver screen.
Eoin Colfer talks about his writing process, his family, and his books.
"Despite the Hype, 'Artemis Fowl' is no 'Potter'"
Deirdre Donahue in USA Today takes issue in a huge way with the comparison between Rowling's books and Colfer's.
Puffin Virtually Live with Eoin Colfer
To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Artemis Fowlseries, Colfer talks about life, his work, and his most famous character.
Fan-Made Trailer for the Artemis Movie
An Artemis fan cuts together a bunch of wildly different movies with some captions and somehow they all kind of work.
This nearly six-hour sound clip is the full text of the first book.
A brief excerpt of the book read by Adrian Dunbar, with some techno intro music.
When the book first came out, fans immediately translated the script running along the bottom of each page by piecing together the Gnommish alphabet. Now readers don't have to expend that much effort.
The original US book covers for the series, not including the latest novel, were almost all pretty abstract and mystical. The UK covers brought in some of the first character images, followed by a re-release of the US covers with similar updates. Later UK covers (not pictured) went for an antiseptic, all-white feel.
Author Eoin Colfer
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