Monday, November 17, 2008

Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox (book) by Eoin Colfer

By the end of the previous book in this series, Artemis had disappeared from his own time and place for 3 years. Now that he's back, and still only 14 years old, he has to adjust to living a crime-free life with his parents and his young twin brothers, who were born while he was gone. He's doing reasonably well, but then his family is hit by tragedy - his mother is dying, and not even fairy magic can save her. The only cure for his mother's illness involves the brain fluid of the silky sifaka lemur. Unfortunately, the last of these animals died several years ago, as a result of a bargain Artemis made with an Extinctionist, someone who believes that any animal not directly contributing to the comfort and survival of humans should be killed.

Desperate to save his mother, Artemis enlists the help of Holly Short and his other fairy friends in order to go back in time and save the lemur. Artemis and Holly think they can manage this without causing irreparable damage to the timeline, but it isn't long before their plan unravels and things start happening that Artemis doesn't remember. Soon, Artemis finds himself up against not only the Extinctionists, but also his 10-year-old self. Fourteen-year-old Artemis might have the advantage of greater maturity and experience, but 10-year-old Artemis is a good deal more ruthless. Eventually, Artemis and Holly even have to deal with an old enemy, Opal Koboi.

Although I enjoyed this book, I don't think it's quite as good as some of the earlier Artemis Fowl books. Time travel stories have an increased potential for problems and plot holes, and this book was no exception.

I enjoyed getting to read about Artemis interacting with his younger brothers. I imagine one of the twins will turn out very much like Artemis. The other twin is more like a normal child, so one can only hope that he'll help to balance out the other twin and keep him from the life of crime that Artemis has pretty much abandoned - I suppose the other possibility is that he'll end up being his twin's sidekick or henchman.

I also enjoyed reading about a younger and older Artemis going head-to-head. I didn't remember Artemis from the first book being quite this ruthless, but it's been a while, and the pressure Artemis was under at age 10 makes his behavior believable. Overall, it was a wonderful way to see how far Artemis has come, emotionally.

There's a few hints of possible romance between Holly and Artemis in this book. Although I'd always thought Colfer might pair them up, after the previous book I had thought they'd just stay friends. My reason for thinking this is a character Colfer seems to have conveniently forgotten, Minerva Paradizo. The end of the previous book made it seem likely that Minerva and Artemis might start dating, or at least spend more time getting to know one another. However, Minerva doesn't show up at all, and Artemis doesn't ever think about her. While it might be interesting to see Holly and Artemis deal with romantic feelings for each other (despite the fact that Holly is quite a bit older than Artemis, even if you convert her age to human years), Minerva is a loose end from the previous book that should be dealt with in some way. Yes, Artemis spent most of this 6th book in the past, but it wouldn't have been odd for him to think about her. By not mentioning her in any way, Colfer seems to have taken the easy way out.

Actually, Colfer did a lot of things the easy and convenient way in this book. Many of the things Artemis and Holly did in this book could have caused a time paradox (hence the title). I was pretty sure I knew how Colfer was going to handle that situation, but I thought he might come up with something more clever. I was wrong. For those who are wondering, magic is involved in making everything better.

Depending on what Colfer does in later books, this book also ends with an enormous plot hole. The plot hole I'm talking about is Opal Koboi, who comes forward with Artemis from the past and then escapes before she can be taken back to her own time. Unless she's returned to her own time in a later book, with her memory wiped, the events of the 4th book in the series, Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception, can't happen.

Yes, I still had fun reading this book, especially when I didn't try to think about Minera and the Opal Koboi plot hole too much. However, this may be the sloppiest book in the Artemis Fowl series so far.

Read-alikes:
  • H.I.V.E.: The Higher Institute of Villainous Education (book) by Mark Walden - Thirteen-year-old Otto Malpense, a genius orphan, is among several children with interesting talents taken to H.I.V.E., located on a remote island. Some of the children excel at science, some are master thieves, some are inventors, and some are incredible fighters. Otto makes a few friends and eventually discovers that he and the other children are there in order to be trained to become the next generation of supervillains. Otto and his friends make plans to escape, but they may all be out of their depth. Those who'd like another story starring a genius criminal mastermind and featuring lots of action might like this book (which, from the look of things, is the first in a series).
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (book) by J.K. Rowling - After spending 10 years with his uncle, aunt, and their bully of a son, all people who hate him, Harry Potter learns that he is a wizard and has been invited to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Although things don't exactly become easy, as he tries to deal with a new magical world he knows nothing about, his celebrity status in the world of witches and wizards, and a powerful enemy who tried to kill him when he was just a baby, Harry still manages to enjoy himself and make friends. Those who'd like another story starring a young boy and featuring action and fantasy might like this book and series. In addition, the feel of Rowling's writing is similar to Colfer's.
  • Uglies (book) by Scott Westerfeld - This young adult science fiction novel takes place in a future where, at age 16, "uglies," teens who haven't had any cosmetic surgery yet, are put through a major surgical procedure that turns them into "pretties," gorgeous, placid, fun-loving, bubble heads. Tally Youngblood is an Ugly who wants nothing more than to become a Pretty, but things become complicated when she is asked to betray a friend who has decided to leave the city and remain an Ugly. This is the first book in the series - next are Pretties, Specials, and Extras (the only book not featuring Tally as a main character). Those who'd like another young adult series with plenty of action, a smidgen of romance, and an ecological/environmental message might want to try this.

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