Aurum est potestas

Saturday, 4 September 2004 — 12:41pm | Literature

Those of you who know me know that I am an avid reader of children’s literature. Today, I have a recommendation to make. I recently finished reading all three books in Eoin Colfer‘s ongoing Artemis Fowl series (Artemis Fowl, Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident and Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code), starring a preteen criminal mastermind who crosses paths with the underground kingdom of the fairies.

Colfer’s flagship novels can best be described as a modernization of traditional fantasy, which should and does draw comparisons to Harry Potter, but there are a few key differences between them and J.K. Rowling’s juggernaut franchise. Some of it has to do with the fact that the Fowl books are firmly rooted in the land and lore of Ireland, but where the two really begin to differ is in how they approach the historical development of the respective secret magical society. Whereas Muggle artifice is incompatible with the magical world in the Potter series, in Colfer’s universe, the fairy creatures of the Lower Elements embrace technology full-on in such a way that jet packs have gradually replaced wings and goblin rebels carry illegal laser weapons. The stories primarily revolve around how Artemis, our title antihero, tries to capitalize on this futuristic fairy technology for his own ends.

The downside is that the longevity of the series is questionable, given how closely it is tied to the context of this specific decade; references to current trends in technology abound, with mentions of everything from Apple to Napster. But at the moment, Colfer’s fast-paced, high-octane yarns exhibit an aura of high technology, and this includes much of the nomenclature and wordplay. (‘Leprechaun’, he tells us, is actually derived from ‘LEPrecon’, the reconnaissance unit of the Lower Elements Police.)

While they are not the deepest read – you won’t see endless debates of symbolic extrapolation about how everything thematic should pan out in the next book, Artemis Fowl: The Opal Incident – they are fun, stylish techno-thrillers that, while squarely aimed at the twelve-year-old bracket, can be enjoyed by all ages. And unlike similar authors in the genre like Tom Clancy and Clive Cussler, Colfer gives himself every excuse to be ridiculous. His wit keeps the occasional Russian mob or Italian gangster clichés from being outright annoying and even goes so far as to make them look fun, in a tongue-in-cheek kind of way. The cast of recurring characters is especially likable, and make the already comfortable cover-to-cover reads all that smoother.

Take that, The Da Vinci Code.

By the way, word on the street is that the afternoon I spent playing Scrabble with Dan Lazin is the cover story of today’s ed Magazine supplement in The Edmonton Journal. I have yet to see it myself, but I hear there is a picture of me looking like (I quote) “some sort of evil Scrabble doctor.” Who knew?

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