Thursday, December 6, 2018

Juxtapositions! All the Juxtapositions! | Eternity Code 1-3 | Artemis Fowl Read Along


Welcome to a new month and a new Artemis Fowl book! This week we're talking Chapters 1-3 of The Eternity Code.

My thoughts and commentary:

I've mentioned before how I not only love Eoin's sense of humor but that, growing up with these books, it was an influential building block for my own. And Fission Chips is a brilliant name for a tech company. Fight me.

"No, mademoiselle, I would not like to see the children's menu. I have no doubt that the children's menu itself tastes better than the meals on it. I would like to order a la carte. Or don't you serve fish to minors?"
This is a favorite and memorable quote of Artemis' -and for good reason! But it's not until a little farther down, when Butler admonishes his young charge for putting that waitress near tears, that it hit me.
This is the FIRST time we see Artemis dealing with 'normal' people in the entire series. Throughout the first two books it's been fairies and criminal contacts and school psychiatrists and Mafiya enforcers. But this is Artemis Fowl the Second, faced with an irritant of no compare -the condescending waitress. This is our first peek at how Artemis behaves out in the real world, on a daily basis (which, admittedly, is not much different). And while Butler's right -the kid needs to ease up- at the same time I can't help but loving Arty's snark.

In a careless moment he had nearly exposed his subterranean friends to exactly the kind of man who would exploit them.
A-ha! That conscience of Artemis' is beginning to get a work out -but it's only the beginning.
As mentioned later in chapter two, Artemis' actions have unintended but far-reaching consequences, putting all of Haven in lock down -but is it merely a moment of carelessness? Or something else? Artemis is a genius, yet we are supposed to believe that it never occurred to him that the Cube's fairy tech would naturally identify more fairy tech? I think this is less carelessness and more of a blind spot. Isn't it possible, even probable, that Artemis, blinded by his drive for money and power -Aurum Est Potestas- doesn't account for the devastating consequences where others are concerned, because he doesn't care? Or more accurately, he's in the habit of not caring. Because, despite everything he's been through up to know, he is still a criminal, looking out for his own gain and self-preservation, and even though he recognized the danger the Cube represents to the People after the fact, when it's staring him in the face and he has to confront it, the thought apparently never occurred to him amidst the Cube's construction and I suspect it's not from a lack of foresight, but from being blinded by his own selfish desires.
Which, actually, ties in nicely with the traumatization of the waitress. Remember her? Artemis is oblivious to the consternation he causes her because, and I quote, Artemis smiled in anticipation of his meal.
Conclusion: Artemis is greedy and selfish, which causes him mass blind spots concerning the consequences that don't affect him or those close to him.

"Listen, kid," [Spiro] whispered. "I like you. In a couple of years, you could have been just like me. But did you ever put a gun to somebody's head and pull the trigger?"
This, right here, begins a very interesting juxtaposition I want you to keep an eye on throughout the rest of the book, because this is the moment that Artemis begins to see the line in the sand. He might not realize it yet, but this is when the choice for him begins.
Will he keep on this path and become a criminal, like Jon Spiro?
Or will he forge a different path and become more like his father?


"Very noble," said Blunt. "That's your code of honor, I suppose. Me, I don't have a code."
Okay, more juxtapositions! This one is a stark contrast between our honorable, beloved Butler, and the vile coward Blunt who does not deserve the fictional oxygen his nonexistant lungs breathe!

...and it also reflects again on Artemis' own dilemma. Back in The Arctic Incident, Artemis assured Holly that his father would never dream of harming a living creature, because he was a noble man. At the time, Holly had jibed him about it: What happened to you then?
So the current standing:
Butler = Code of honor
Blunt = none
Artemis I = code of honor
Artemis II = none

And in this book, we take a look at Artemis going up against a truly bad guy, a confrontation the likes of which really hasn't been seen yet in the series, and find those statistics possibly shifting.
Spiro = no code of honor
Artemis = ???
I guess we'll see...

This 'future of our civilization' thing was happening more and more, lately.
Get used to it, Holly; it's not getting infrequent anytime soon.


"There was only one option. Without hesitation, Butler took it."


"Artemis, call me Domovoi."


Let me mop up some of these tears while I share a line that has stuck with me from this book through the years, for no other reason than it's a masterfully crafted bit of English. Seriously, lines like this from Colfer have affected my writing and the study of writing more than anything.
"...they fell over themselves to have their frail frames frozen."
Alliteration, baby. You gotta love it.

"Shall I walk?" asked Artemis. "Or will you beam me up?"
Artemis is 100% done with your crap, Dr. Lane, but a) he's had a hard day and b) with that decor, you deserved it.
This is our second look at Artemis dealing with normal people: waitress, 'nurse', and doctor (?).
You have to feel sorry for them.

There are many things to love about this innovated world created by Eoin Colfer, from the hi-tech fairies, to child criminal masterminds, to the many surprisingly useful methods of employing dwarf gas (and also dwarf gas). But especially the bit about Stonehenge being a pizza parlor with a cult of devoted followers who wear pizza-shaped headgear and have a 114-verse theme song. Where can I sign up for this?

Only rats and two species of monkey could see through a fairy shield.
...which two monkey species? Please tell me I'm not the only one who wants to know this.

Waiting to see what the fairy magic would do for him...
I'm skipping down quite a ways, to Artemis exiled from the cryo van whilst Holly performs the intensive healing on Butler -because it's another beautiful juxtaposition! And one that continues throughout the book, so be prepared for the gushing.
Artemis is reminded of waiting for his formerly legally-dead father to wake, while waiting to see if his father-figure of the last two years can be brought back from the dead, and both with the threat of uncertain magical consequences hanging over them.

And suddenly I was afraid. My father, the man whose shoes I'd been trying to fill for two years, was awake. Would he still live up to my expectations? Would I live up to his?
This line gets me every time. It's so beautifully captures the complicated emotions at play.

Artemis pulled a gold medallion from a leather thong around his neck.
Can we just appreciate that Artemis treasured and respected this gift from Holly enough that he actually took it and made it into a necklace, just to do as Holly suggested, to remind himself he had a spark of decency? The Mud Boy isn't hopeless after all.

"I am nothing like Spiro," objected the boy, " He's a cold-blooded killer!"
"Give it a few years," said Holly. "You'll get there."
This is, once again, feeding that comparison between Arty and Spiro. Not to mention, that's gotta sting for Artemis, especially when the 'cold-blooded killer' bit he's referring to was Butler's almost permanent death.

Thanks for joining me and humoring my excessive use of the word 'juxtaposition'.
Next week, we're reading Chapters 4-6 of The Eternity Code, but before then, share your thoughts on this week's chapters!

Friday, November 30, 2018

The Skeptic's Guide to Enjoying the Artemis Fowl Movie Anyway

Disney's teaser poster for Artemis Fowl, release date August 19, 2019.
Hello, there! I would be the skeptic. That's me. Hi.

Like many people, I've been waiting almost two decades for this film, and most of that time was spent believing that it would never actually happen. But it is. Finally. And I've been skeptical since they published that bombshell of a casting announcement.

But something magical happened when I watched the teaser trailer and saw that movie poster. I wanted to love it. And even if in the end I don't love it, I at least want to enjoy the ride -the wait, the flurry of excitement over new tidbits, the anticipation of more trailers, the undeniable euphoria of finally getting an Artemis Fowl movie.

Right now isn't the time to be a sourpuss. Right now, it's time to believe. So here's a 8-step guide on how we can deal with our skepticism and enjoy the upcoming Artemis Fowl film in all its glory anyway.

Step 1: Be Disappointed -Then Move On

Branagh says Artemis won't be the villain, instead it's more of a hero origin story. Be disappointed. It's okay. I'm sure there isn't a Fowl fan out there who isn't disappointed in this, or some other aspect of the film, so let the disappointment settle in. Embrace it. And then move on. Either accept the movie for what it's going to be, rather than what you wish it would have been, or admit that you don't want it and walk away.


Step 2: Recognize That It Won't Be The Book

Very, very few books have ever translated their near-entirety to film adaptations, and Artemis Fowl will not be one of them; not because the filmmakers decided they could do better, but because a lot of the book's ideas won't transition well to film. These are two vastly different mediums with different audience expectations. So instead of moping about what the film won't be, get excited about how the film might translate the core elements that made the book awesome into a new adventure.


Step 3: Anticipate A Different Ending

Now, this is just my supposition; there's no evidence as yet that the ending will actually vary much from the book, BUT if Artemis is not going to be the outright villain of the piece, it makes sense another will have to emerge. And IF this is meant to be an origin story, there is the possibility that the film's story might not end with Artemis' kidnapping success, but instead with a situation that requires Artemis to somehow get involved with another conflict, emerging a more heroic figure.


Step 4: Keep An Open Mind

Okay, lots of people are saying this. It's easier said than done, I know, but remember that this movie is going to be a different creature entirely, and comparing it word-for-word to our beloved book is akin to apples and oranges. Plus, just remember that Eoin himself is so excited about many of the changes he's said (according to Branagh): "God I wish I'd thought of that...I'll put it into the book. I'll certainly put it in the reissue."

Step 5:  Treat It As A Stand-Alone Story, Rather Than A Potential Franchise

While it's not beyond the realm of possibility that, if successful, this could turn into Disney's next franchise, they're not going to plan on it from the get-go and leave this film open-ended. This is going to be a self-contained, complete story, which probably means it will borrow a lot of elements from later books, maybe specifically concerning Artemis' character arc, in order to deliver that 'emotional satisfaction and delivery' Branagh assures us. It will improve the quality if we judge the film on its own merit, rather than against the lost potential for as-yet non-existent sequels.


Step 6: Confront Your Skepticism

You have two choices.
Decide if you want to be a skeptic, nitpicking details for a thing we have waited nearly two decades for, because after all the waiting, we deserve perfection, right!?
Or decide if you want to enjoy every thrilling moment and development of this Impossibility. Because the Artemis Fowl film was an impossibility. It was an 'almost', a 'could have been', an 'if only'. And now it's an 'almost here', a 'will be' -but our if we keep holding onto our skepticism, it will continue to remain an 'if only.'
Most movies don't rise like a phoenix out of the ashes of 17 years in Prodcution Hell, but ours did.
Our Artemis Fowl film has already defied the odds once. Are we going to tame our skepticism to see if it will do it again?


Step 7: Watch this trailer breakdown from Artemis Fowl Confidential, because it will remind you WE'RE FINALLY GETTING A MOVIE, D'ARVIT!!!



Good or bad, love it or hate it, we can't escape the fact that we're getting a movie, an actual, real-life, live-action, BIG BUDGET movie, with all the bells and whistles, and a crew that -especially from this interview (and also this one) with Kenneth Branagh- obviously loves and respects the books and Eoin Colfer for writing them. Just like us. ^_^


8. Get Excited

Whether in the end we love the movie, tolerate it, shrug it off, or despise it, we're still getting an Artemis Fowl movie -and this new incarnation is bound to introduce the series to new generations, young and old. The Artemis Fowl fandom is about to get much, much bigger. And that is a very good thing.
Right now, I can mention Artemis Fowl on a whim and only a handful of people ever know what I'm talking about. But just imagine this time next year: Artemis Fowl could be a household name.

Want to reread the series before the film?

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Of Respect and Rescues | Arctic Incident Ch 11-14 | #AFReadAlong

Join in the Artemis Fowl Read Along!

Chapters 11-14 Commentary:

"Artemis applied pressure to the pack. His fingers were quickly submerged in a pool of blood. Suddenly the desire to pass a smart remark completely deserted." Wake up call for Arty! I love this moment for several reasons. 1) It is one of the few times Artemis is ever at a loss for words; 2) Artemis is once again way, way out of his comfort zone; 3) This is another moment when he is thrust into someone else's shoes. While not exactly their 'comfort zone', it's obvious that Holly, Root, and even Butler have had frequent experience in these kinds of situations. Which means Artemis is getting a taste for what their skills are -despite the lack of a genius IQ- and he might even be gaining some, dare we say, respect for his companions?

"Holly grinned. And for a second her expression reminded the manservant of Artemis Fowl." Despite their differences and, at this point, dislike for one another, it's fun to see how many similarities Holly and Artemis actually share.

We need to take a moment to truly appreciate our favorite kleptomaniac dwarf. Because what does he do to 'lie low' and enjoy his newfound freedom? He takes up a pastime. Just a little hobby. Of stealing Oscar statues. I adore the Grouch.

Root knew he was being goaded, but he blew his top anyway. Which, let's face it, Fowl fans, is one of the reasons we love Julius Root.

If ever you are asked who is the smarter fairy, Opal Koboi or Foaly the Centaur -just remember that when Opal had every advantage, every technological marvel at her fingertips you can imagine, and Haven City and the LEP at her mercy -Foaly beat her with nothing more than a human's laptop computer.

Artemis smiled, fascinated. Commander Root was smarter than he looked. Just another moment of Artemis showing -maybe not respect quite yet- but a little admiration for another person. Of course, then his arrogant face has to add: Then again, it would be impossible not to be.

Artemis isn't the only one learning some unexpected respect. Over in the siege of Police Plaza, Captain Trouble Kelp is admiring the new and improved Briar Cudgeon, spine transplant and all. Or, you could say, hook, line, and sinker.

I will also point out that this is the first and only time that our favorite characters get to plot and work as a team: Artemis, Butler, Mulch, Holly, and Root.

Artemis did not like this sudden turn of events. Running, jumping, injury, okay. But sewage? Now we know where Arty's true priorities lie.

"Don't think I'm getting chummy, or anything. It's just when I give my word, I stick to it." I love this little exchange between Holly and Artemis, because it really illustrates the differences between them. Holly gives Arty a little encouragement, something she'd say to anyone, but Artemis isn't used to working as a team or having people encourage him -and certainly not words of encouragement from someone he's kidnapped in the not-so-distant past.
Artemis decided not to respond. He'd already been punched once today.

Butler's eyes narrowed. "Unless what?"
Artemis smiled his dangerous smile. "Unless I have an idea."

There was more to this heroism thing than rushing in blindly. I love that Artemis isn't quite so clever with heroic plans as he is with devious schemes, because it's like a muscle he hasn't used and a skill he has yet to master.

"...And nobody can get in here to stop me."
Of course, you should never say something like that, especially when you're an arch villain. It's just asking for trouble.
There are some moments in fiction, some lines, some quips, that just hit you and stick with you. This is one of them. The first time I read it, I laughed out loud for way too long, but the way Eoin uses his narrator to poke fun at tropes and cliches is one of my favorite things about his writing, and he is in good form in The Arctic Incident.

And while this door was tested for plasma dispersion and moderate physical resistance, it was certainly not Butler-proof. It crumpled like tinfoil. I DECLARE A MOTION TO MAKE 'BUTLER-PROOF' AN OFFICIAL TERM.

Artemis' phone rang.
This. THIS is the perfect way to finish off the conflict. It's a simple, unexpected, anticlimactic event that somehow manages to be a comical, ultimate climax. Bravo, Eoin; bravo.

Had he done the right thing? What if the hydrosion shell had penetrated? How could he ever face his mother again? I love Artemis riddled with self-doubt. On the one hand, it could be said I have an unhealthy love of character torture; on the other, this is proof right here that -despite evidence to the contrary- Artemis is very, very human: warm-blooded, heart of flesh, just as capable of heartbreak and love as the rest of us.

"To remind you that deep beneath the layers of of deviousness, you have a spark of decency. Perhaps you could blow on the spark occasionally."
The epilogues are gold at the end of this rainbow. From Artemis' rambling apology/admiration for Holly, to Holly's gift of shooting a gold coin in its exact center, to the final paragraphs which I have to quote in full because I love them so blasted much:


Artemis thought of his father, lying in a Helsinki hospital bed, of Captain Holly Short, risking her life to help him, and, of course, Butler, without whom he would have never made it out of Koboi Laboratories. He looked up, and found Dr. Po smiling at him."Well, young man, have you found anyone worthy of your respect?"Artemis smiled back. "Yes," he said. "I believe I have."

And that finishes off The Arctic Incident! Thanks so much for joining me, but don't go anywhere. December we start The Eternity Code and, while I know the series is 8 book longs, I can't help but think of these first three as the holy trinity, the standard by which all other Fowl books must be measured. On December 6th, we'll be discussing Chapters 1-3, so keep on eye on my blog and on my Facebook page.


#FowlDay Challenges of the week:


  • Share your favorite element of The Arctic Incident. There's a lot to love in this book, but what would you consider the absolute best thing about it? Personally, I consider that to be Artemis' development, specifically his learning to respect others even if their IQ is substantially lower than his.
  • WATCH THE TRAILER!!! I mean, like me, you've probably already watching it a million times, but watch it again, and share your thoughts!

Friday, November 23, 2018

Of Puns and Hubris | Arctic Incident Ch 8-10 | #AFReadAlong


I hope everyone had a marvelous Thanksgiving! (and if you weren't celebrating, then I hope you had a marvelous Thursday.)

Now that the B'wa Kell uprising has been quelled a bit, let's talk The Arctic Incident, chapters 8-10. I may have mentioned that these chapters are some of my favorite bits of this book, but really, there some of my favorite moments in the entire series. I'm as a excited (and nervous!) about the movie as the next Fowl fun, but one reigning reason I want it to be good and successful is to get The Arctic Incident on screen.

Th B'wa Kell uprising? Foaly trapped in the Operations Booth by his own tech and his own hubris? Artemis and Holly catching the train and forced to rely on each other in the Arctic wasteland? This is the film I'd love to see, so I'm crossing my fingers hard that Disney doesn't screw up the chance at a film franchise. Please be kind to Artemis!

Chapters 8-10 Commentary:

Eoin Colfer, with chapter 8 right here, began my love affair with brilliantly punny chapter titles. For years, if I wrote a story, it's title or chapters absolutely had to be some kind of pun, and it's all because of Mr. Eoin Colfer. To Russia with Gloves? No Safe Haven? These simply couldn't be better. Come to think of it, since these chapter titles struck my funny bone at such an impressionable age, it's likely that Eoin Colfer is indirectly responsible for a good chunk of my sense of humor -namely corny jokes. Oh, corny jokes, how I love thee! So while my family may roll their eyes at my jokes, and my friends may groan, nothing makes me happier than the absolutely corniest of corny jokes and that is a big part of who I am.
They say the books you read growing up help you form your identity, so I guess that means I have Eoin Colfer to thank for my awesome sense of humor. So thanks, Eoin. ^_^

"So what happened to you?" -I love this moment. Holly, on the way to rescue the head of a criminal empire and the father of the boy who kidnapped her, as a legitimate reason to be concerned Artemis Fowl I will be an even worse enemy than his son. Artemis, however, assured Holly that the People have nothing to fear from his father, who is a noble man, and would never dream of harming another creature. Holly's bluntness has got to hit Artemis hard; while he's already hinted about his 'misgivings over that particular venture', I wonder if Dr. Po's voice isn't bouncing around his brain in this moment: "You are never going to find peace if you continue to run from your problems." And Artemis here says what I'm not sure he's had the guts to outright say before. "I...I made a mistake."
Have I mentioned how much I freaking love this book?!

Speaking of Dr. Po...as Artemis and Holly dash for the Mayak Chemical Train with Butler and Root's lives in their hands, I imagine Artemis is getting a cold and heavy dose of respect for what Butler and Holly do on a regular basis when he's thrown into their shoes.

"These were not gripping fingers. ... Which, fortunately, was all part of the plan." I do love, that for Artemis, even weaknesses are valuable assets to be exploited. It's a good trait -when not used for evil, obviously- and one of the reasons I think Artemis is so clever.

This whole train sequence is one of my favorites for several reasons. Artemis is thrown so far out of his comfort zone it's laughable; amusing for those of us who want to see Artemis dropped down a few pegs and empowering to those of us who want to see Artemis develop in a positive way, and a double bonus for those of us who want both. ^_^ 
It's also the first time Artemis and Holly are forced to not only work together, but to rely on and trust one another, and it's interesting to note (I think) that there's no time for either to second guess or really doubt the other, since the immediate safety of their most important friends always no time for bickering and argument. True to Argon's prologue commentary "...it was probably the best thing that could have happened to [Artemis]."

Let's switch keys here, because I'm a little miffed at the US publishers right now. I have mostly listened to the Artemis Fowl books, as narrated by Nathaniel Parker, and have only just discovered there are some glaring and some rather inconsequential (read as: pointless) differences between my copies and the UK versions. Differences of terminology, sure, but also some rearranging of paragraphs -which I get as an editing thing, but seems pointless to change from one version to another- but my US version completely removed the background on centaurs being an endangered race and on the Centaurian language. All of it, the joke about centaurs tramping their enemies underfoot, about how centaurs are naturally paranoid due to their endangered existence. I'm just a bit miffed about it, because while it might be inconsequential to the immediate story -well, except that whole paranoia thing- it's a valuable piece of worldbuilding.
Okay. Rant over.

Which brings us to: the irony of Foaly's imprisonment. Honestly, half this plot is built on irony, and I absolutely love it. Not only do Artemis the kidnapper and Holly the kidnappee have to work together to foil a kidnapping, but Foaly is imprisoned due to his two great weaknesses: his paranoia and his hubris. To make it worse, his fall comes through his own technology. 
But it's not all bad; there's one silver lining, at least: "Even with the odds so hugely against him, he hadn't lost his ability to be the most annoying creature under the world when he wanted to be."
Of course, I don't know how that will help Foaly's current situation....

I will leave you here, with Foaly trapped, Police Plaza under attack, and Artemis, Holly, Root, and Butler on their way to rescue the elements, after quick pit stop to grab a certain reprobate dwarf...

Next week we'll cover the last of The Arctic Incident, chapters 11-epilogue. I'll see you here!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Of Mud Men and Bargains | Arctic Incident Ch 4-7 | #AFReadAlong


Welcome back! Today we're discussing chapters 4-7 of Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident.

Strap in. ^_^

Summary:

Artemis Fowl awakes in a rather traditional-looking interrogation room in the Lower Elements, but questioning doesn't go quite as he expects, when Foaly the centaur appears with a stranger plunger device that knocks him back into unconsciousness. While Foaly uses his amazing! and astounding! tech to decipher whether Artemis has ever seen goblins or soft-nose lasers, Captain Holly Short and Commander Root are not terribly impressed with his accomplishments, prodding him on how that pixie Koboi -the head of Koboi Laboratories and target of B'wa Kell vengeance- is 'one pretty sharp female.' Foaly -as all brilliant egotistical inventors- does not take kindly to comparison with his competition and insists, not for the first time, that letting any one company have all the LEP's business isn't a good idea; "...if those labs go under, all we'd have are the DNA cannons in Police Plaza and a few cases of electric stun guns." Besides, Opal Koboi is not stable. 

Artemis is cleared of involvement with the B'wa Kell but, despite Holly's insistence that the boy could become an even bigger problem than the goblins and their building war against the LEP, Root knows that the humans' skills would be invaluable in tracking down the mysterious battery-seller. Artemis, of course, won't do nothing for nothing, and he strikes a deal with the fairies to help them if they will assist him in attempting to rescue his father.

Meanwhile, we're taken into the heart of Koboi Laboratories and their special weapons permits and DNA cannons, all meant to protect them from the B'wa Kell and to protect by extension the LEP's own weapons and security, all chipped with Koboi technology. Of course, this is when we learn that Opal Koboi really isn't stable. She is, in fact, one of the masterminds behind the B'wa Kell uprising, all in an effort to obtain the power of the monarchs, which hasn't been held by any fairy in centuries. Her partner-in-crime is none other than the demoted and humiliated Briar Cudgeon, former erstwhile friend of Julius Root, a backstabber with a vendetta, and he's a little touchy on the subject of his deformed face. Together, Koboi and Cudgeon plot how best to foil the LEP's search for the B'wa Kell mastermind, and how best to use their human slave, Luc Carrere...

Holly Short is the lucky fairy assigned to escort the humans to Paris, to track down a specific human identified from one of their goblin prisoners (thanks to Foaly's amazing! and astounding! tech). The unlikely trio have something close to civil conversation as Artemis gathers information on Russia before Holly pilots them through the chutes, scaring them just enough to make her smile. In Paris, their on their own; magma flares are acting up and disrupting fairy communications. Butler doesn't need much help, though; it doesn't take him long to find Luc Carrere and even less time to confront him. Unfortunately, the greedy French P.I. has already been given instructions; Cudgeon has mesmerized Carrere to expect someone asking after the batteries and when they arrive to 'take their picture' -with the barrel of a softnose laser. Butler uses the only tool on hand -the Safteynet, a prototype of Foaly's to suppress laser fire but not quite big enough to protect Butler's frame, let alone another human. Luckily, Butler is brains as well as brawn; he uses the Safteynet to suppress the laser itself, saving both their lives. And in the aftermath, Butler uses a old trick to determine just how much Carrere knows about the People and the answer: nothing.

Underground again, Root is relieved the People are safe from the human threat. Artemis isn't convinced; everything went just a little too smoothly. But he's done his part, and Foaly has managed to trace the untraceable email from Russia. They have a name: Mikhael Vassikin. Vassikin works for a syndicate of the Mafiya who make most of their money kidnapping European businessman -none of whom ever survive.

While Artemis plots in earnest, Cudgeon and Koboi decide to send a welcoming party of their own to Russia. A B'wa Kell hit squad, with Julius Root's name at the top of their docket.

And despite all the tension of upcoming rescues, tangling with Mafiya, and the B'wa Kell uprising, Captain Holly Short still manages to find joy in the simple things in life: like managing to frighten a seven-foot tall Mud Man with a tiny spray can of anti-radiation foam and its unique bouquet of 'hermit dwarf'.

Commentary:

"Okay, Mud Boy," said the figure. "Just relax and this might not hurt too much." -Can we appreciate Foaly's terrible bedside manner, please? There are many things I love about this centaur, and all his lip is definitely the biggest, especially when it winds him in trouble.

Let the record show the momentous occasion that takes place in this chapter: the first official meeting of Artemis Fowl and Foaly the Centaur, two genii a little too smart for their own good.

Personally, I love that Briar Cudgeon returns in this sequel as the villain. It's such a classic move, disgruntled-turned-villainous. Sometimes though, I wonder if things would have gone differently for Opal down the road, if Cudgeon hadn't instigated her turn to actual villainy?

Holly grinned tightly. "There's so much irony here I could write a poem. The kidnapper asking for help with a kidnapping." And asking his former kidnappee, no less! Have you no shame, Artemis?

Speaking of shame... I apparently can't leave Artemis and his development alone. He tells Holly about the kidnapping "Sometimes plans don't translate smoothly from paper to real life." while cleaning non-existent dirt from under his perfectly manicured nails, with previous mentions about 'harboring some doubts' about that specific venture and 'can't we wipe the slate clean?' Artemis obviously wants, if not forgiveness, than at least to put his past behind them all, but this is terribly unfair since he won't recognize his own faults about kidnapping Holly in the first place. Which is even more interesting when you link it back to Dr. Po's diagnosis, that Artemis doesn't respect anyone else enough to treat them as equals and he won't find peace if he keeps running away from his problems.
I love characters. ^_^

"No," she growled, "we wouldn't want him getting a fright." Every little defiance on Holly's part is such sweet revenge -and well deserved too. Better watch your back, Arty; Holly's not one to mess with.

And as we opened with Foaly, it seems only right we close with him, as well.
...decided to get right to the point.
"Very well, Mud Man. Keep your hair on."

Well, almost directly to the point.

The humor in these books is always so on point, guys. I love them so much.

#FowlDay Challenges

You're mission, should you choose to accept it, is to join in the discussion or all around good time fan party that is the Artemis Fowl Read Along by completing one or more of these tasks:
  • Share some of your own commentary of Chapters 4-7 with me!
  • Share your favorite quote from this week's reading.
  • Compile an Artemis Fowl music playlist (this will be a continual challenge throughout the Read Along, but keep me updated on song choices!)

Join in next week as we tackle chapter 8-10 -and some of my favorite scenes of The Arctic Incident.

Friday, November 9, 2018

New Erin Morgenstern Novel Announced!


The Night Circus is one of my favorite books and unlike anything I've read before or since. It is a staggering debut novel and an intimidating thing to follow up. It's really no surprise that in the seven years since it's publication, Morgenstern has yet to publish a second work.

Just when I've come to terms with thinking perhaps Morgenstern doesn't have a second novel of the same scope in her, I read the description for The Starless Sea. I'm already in love with it.

So far, it seems to possess all the same elements of romance and fantasy that make The Night Circus such an amazing, everlasting book -without trying to capitalize on its predecessor. That's right, no sequel, prequel, or companion novel here. Morgenstern is setting the stage for an entirely unique and new story, this time with the magic locked in a nocturnal circus, but into inexplicable books, hidden subterranean libraries, and a New York masquerade party.

Let's hope that The Starless Sea will make a wonderful brother or sister to The Night Circus. I know one thing for sure: with it's title and Morgenstern's record, its cover is bound to be gorgeous.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Of Action Heroes and Psychology | Arctic Incident Ch 1-3 | #AFReadAlong

Hello and welcome back to the second installment of the eight month series that is the Artemis Fowl Read Along! The gang is all happy you're here. Well, mostly. Okay, Foaly is glad of a bigger audience and Mulch is just glad to have a few more pockets open to pinching and, while Artemis is happy to amaze and astound you with his intellect, he really doesn't see the point of having so many people around. Holly and Julius keep insisting this is too dangerous a journey for so many civilians and Butler is muttering about the logistical nightmare we all pose to Master Fowl's safety.

But hey. I'm glad you're here and I'm sure Mr. Colfer, wherever he is, is also glad, because that means you're another person in this world who gets to read his masterpiece of a series.

This week, we started Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident and we read the first three chapters. I'm experimenting with a new format for the read along this month but, to be honest, this entire Artemis Fowl Read Along is a big experiment! Be sure to let me know which aspects and post-types you like or you'd like to see.

So now that we've laid the introductions down, let's get started! First the summary (feel free to skip if you did the reading), then my commentary, then your #FowlDay Challenge!

Summary:

We open, courtesy of Prof. J. Argon, with a short dive into Artemis' impressive resume of intellectual pursuits and contributions and criminal enterprises by the age of thirteen. We know from past experience that Argon is a bit of a crackpot, but since he tells us all about Artemis' astounding intellect and the cloud hanging over his head that is his father's disappearance in the Arctic at the hands of the Russian Mafiya, we'll let it slide.

Speaking of the Mafiya, our prologue parades us two years into the past -a year before Artemis managed to kidnap our favorite LEPrecon jock Holly Short- to the night the Fowl Star was struck with a rocket in the stern by the (supposedly) famous sharpshooter, Mikhael Vassikin of the fake Rolex, and slowly sank into the frigid waters of a the Gulf of Kola. Too slowly, his companion Kamar is sure to point out, with some snide remarks about his marksmanship and his own grandmother could outclass him. Because the Fowl Star sank so slowly, passengers would have had time to escape it, and now the Mafiya enforcers are stuck in the snow with a crew of hired hands searching for survivors. Gosh, Vassikin. Way to ruin everyone's evening.

But the search is not in vain. Despite the disgusting discovery that hot cola tastes very much like pitch, Vassikin and Kamar have hit the jackpot when a pale European man in an exquisitely tailored suit is pulled from the freezing waters. While he's not in the best shape -unconscious and doomed to lose his legs and quite a few fingers- he is alive. And the identity of this man makes him very, very valuable...alive...

Present day, we find Artemis Fowl II in session with his school counselor and we pity him from the bottom of our heart. The counselor, that is. Artemis Fowl is not kind to counselors; to be fair, the thirteen year old genius knows more about psychology than most of them put together, having read most of literature on the subject and even written some of it, under the pseudonym of Dr. F. Roy Dean Schlippe. (Which I'm totally counting as an Arty joke for the Joke Counter, by the way.)

Dr. Po is a little desperate. Artemis Fowl II has been known to eat several counselors for breakfast -and he's been attending St. Bartleby's School for Young Gentlemen less than a year. Po is on the verge of giving up himself, much to Artemis' amusement. Artemis hopes to help the good doctor along his way with a little discussion about Po's family heirloom of a Victorian chair -apparently once the Queen's favorite. And Artemis, ever so helpful, regrets to inform Dr. Po that it is, in fact, a fake. The furniture tacks, you see, are quite obviously machine tooled. Ah, Artemis. What a kind heart you have. Ah, Artemis, what devious little mind games you love to play.

But Dr. Po proves more astute than the other counselors and surprises Artemis with his deduction. Po doesn't treat him to a tired psychological disorder like the ones before; oh no, he simply accuses Artemis of not respecting anyone of his acquaintance to treat them as equals. Artemis doesn't like this much, especially when the conversation strays to talk of his declared-dead father. While he's quick to set the doctor straight because his father is in fact alive, no matter how long he's been missing, no matter what the courts say, and that Artemis himself will find him, it is Po who asks 'What then?' After all, even when Artemis Fowl I was around, he was too busy running a criminal enterprise to be much of a father. Is that what Artemis would do, too, become a criminal? Or perhaps he already is one?

And Artemis is quite done with this conversation. There a too many pangs in his chest. He deflects the doctor's inquest with another little mind game. 'Have it your way,' says Po, 'but you'll never find peace if you keep running from your problems.' Artemis is saved by the literal bell just then, as his encrypted phone receives a call from the only person with the number: Butler. The manservant/bodyguard says he has something. An email from Russia. Regarding the Fowl Star.

Meanwhile, in an LEP cham pod, Holly Short is stuck on stakeout duty, since that whole fiasco last year with the Artemis Fowl and kidnapping thing dumped her in a vat of hot water with the powers that be. But her partner is soon glad to have her at his side, as the flirty sprite Chix Verbil finds himself at the wrong side of a battery-powered softnose laser. In just her first appearance of this book Holly saves Chix's life, wins herself a deadly firefight against B'wa Kell triad goblins, uncovers a secret trading ring between goblins and humans for alkaline batteries, an illegal goblin-crafted shuttle, survives on brains alone by shooting a vat of coolant on top of herself to counteract a simultaneous heat wave from passing magma flare and, of course, fulfilling the age-old tradition of firefight banter.

It's a bad day for the Lower Elements for several reasons. Deadly weapons will soon be flooding the tunnels in the hands of violent but stupid goblins, and unfortunately goblins are far too stupid to have planned any of these nefarious schemes on their own, but worst of all, Holly knows it can only point to one person. Artemis Fowl.

It's time for the LEP to have another conversation with their current archenemy.

Holly wastes no time jumping to the surface to haul the Mud Boy down, by his ears if she has to. Preferably, actually. She still owes him for that whole kidnapping, bodily harm, stealing gold from the People incident. But she has to be smart about it.

Butler, meanwhile, is happy to see his charge again. But being the professional bodyguard he is, of course he doesn't let it show. He quickly briefs Master Fowl on recent events: There's been an untraceable email from Russia, with just a short video, of a man tied to a chair, with a sign that says in Russian: Hello, son. The video quality is too low to get any information from it, even to know for certain if the man is in fact Artemis Fowl I. But Artemis knows it is; it has to be.

The pair waste no time, setting up travel plans to get to Russia as quickly as possible, after a short stop back at Fowl Manor for Butler's 'things' -and some caviar. Because for ten thousand a term, Bartelby's serves absolute muck. But Butler doesn't quite make it that far. Despite his sixth sense warning him to the danger, Captain Holly Short manages to get the drop on him and, while it takes no small amount of effort, she eventually mesmer-izes Butler, effective taking control of his body and sending him back to the car. As Artemis finishes dashing off an email to the school principal as a distraught Angeline Fowl, he doesn't fail to observe Butler's odd behavior and welcomes Captain Short to join him in the visible spectrum.

The first meeting between kidnapper and kidnapped since that fateful venture is tense, to say the least. Artemis is desperate to get to Russia as soon as possible, Holly isn't in the mood to accommodate the criminal mastermind. And the mastermind doesn't put up much of a fight, because already his brain is turning the possibilities in his head, because fairies have certain abilities that might be advantageous should he cooperate.

We leave our unlikely trio of companions headed toward the Underground: one LEPrecon Captain satisfied with her success, one Mud Man helpless under the mesmer, one Mud Boy fast asleep in the back seat.

So begins my absolute favorite book in the Artemis Fowl series.

Commentary:

My apologies for the length of that summary; I'll make sure next week's is trimmed down.

"...even though his involvement with the goblin uprising during this year was going to be traumatic, terrifying, and dangerous, it was probably the best thing that could have happened to [Artemis]. At least he spent some times outdoors, and got to meet some new people. It's a pity most of them were trying to kill him." This is the line that hooked me. This is all it took for me to fall head over heels with this book, its story, characters, and Eoin Colfer's style. And because the story just kept getting better and better, I have been a fangirl ever since. (For a bonus, you've got to check it out as read by narrator Nathaniel Parker. It's audiobook gold even the People can appreciate.)

Now I'm going to be honest with you guys. I haven't read any but the first Artemis Fowl books since the series ended in 2012, which means I'm now 6 years older and -hopefully- wiser than when I last encountered these characters, and I'm certainly looking at these characters in a new light. Particularly Artemis. Who is such an arrogant little upstart! Don't get me wrong; I love his arrogant upstart-iness, I just don't remember noticing it before. When I first discovered the series I listened to the audios practically on repeat until I (and most of my family) had whole sections memorized, which was awesome, but now I realize how much I must have tuned out on those listens, how much in the story I took for granted. Because reading them now, critically, is proving a very interesting experience indeed. Which, by the way, is only increasing my love of the series.

During the session with Dr. Po, especially when talk of Artemis Fowl Senior comes into play, Artemis' behavior continues to scream 'broken boy' at me. He's playing mind games with the doctor because he doesn't see the point of therapy since he has all the answers himself, but that's DEFLECTION. Artemis declares with the stubborn faith of a child that his father is still alive, and that's DENIAL. When asked whether he plans to follow his father's criminal footsteps, Artemis reverts to mind games: AVOIDANCE. Artemis is, quite literally, too smart for his own good and the moment. I freely admit, I cheered when Dr. Po throws him for a loop by perceiving that Artemis' true problem isn't some psychological disorder, but simply that he doesn't "respect anyone enough to treat them as equals." Because this time around, I'm more invested in watching the struggle and development in Artemis' character than in watching a teenager (aka, peer) outwit and outmaneuver an adult professional. Isn't it amazing how books change and morph with your perspective?

Special note:
HOLLY SHORT IS MY FAVORITE ACTION HERO.
She's smart, she's quick, she's always ready with a comeback, she's a good cop, and she uses her feminine traits like compassion, sympathy, and attentiveness to make her even better at her job. In a time where movies and books love to feed me heroines who are far more comfortable with their masculine traits than their feminine ones, Holly has a pedestal right up there with the likes of Leia Organa and Iku Kasahara. Here's a list of my Top 10(ish) Heroines if you want to know more about that.

"And when the gardener had found the bodyguard's hideout just off the seventeenth green..." Can someone draw me this picture? Because I adore this image! Poor Butler, so lonely without his young charge, tugs on my heart strings and tickles my funny bone, as Colfer's tales are so wont to do.
Can we just pause a moment to appreciate the irony here, of the former kidnapper now contending with freeing his own kidnapped Father? And Artemis and Butler schooling each other on how kidnappings and ransom drops general work, when they've literally done it together? Turn about fair play, Fowl! It'll come back around, karma, sweet justice -whatever you want to call it, you might want to remember that it's always at play. And yes, it's about to get even better. (Or worse, depending on where you're sitting. *cue Artemis vampire smile.)

Last, but not least, I shall close with Butler's own observation of his young charge, as Artemis himself is mulling over Dr. Po's observations and the task ahead of tangling with the Mafiya: "Sometimes he thought that in spite of all his contacts, informants, and employees, Artemis Fowl was the loneliest boy he'd ever met."

#FowlDay Challenges

You're mission, should you choose to accept it, is to join in the discussion or all around good time fan party that is the Artemis Fowl Read Along by completing one or more of these tasks.
  • Find me some fanart of Butler hiding out by the seventeenth green I wasn't kidding about that. Whether you draw it yourself or send me a link to an existing one is up to you, but I seriously need that in my life right now.
  • Share some of your own commentary of Chapters 1-3 with me!
  • Share your favorite quote from this week's reading.
  • If this is not your first time reading the series, I'd love to know: How have you noticed your perspective on the story changing over time? What about the series do you find more interesting or complex now then when you were younger? Or vice versa?
  • Compile an Artemis Fowl music playlist (this will be a continual challenge throughout the Read Along, but keep me updated on song choices!)
Next week we're reading chapters 4-7 and we'll meet back here Thursday for more discussion and #FowlDay challenges!

If you missed my finale post for Artemis Fowl, be sure to check it out. Three words:
Song
Parody
Lollipops

Friday, November 2, 2018

(I Don't Like) Lollipops -An Artemis Fowl Song Parody | #AFReadAlong

One does not simply ignore the idea for an Artemis Fowl song parody. Especially if that song is 'Lollipop'.





Join in next Thursday as we discuss the first three chapters of The Arctic Incident by Eoin Colfer, right here for #FowlDay.

Today's post is part of my Artemis Fowl Read Along; if you haven't joined yet, you should!

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Top 5 Child Prodigies in Literature | #AFReadAlong

Today's post is part of my Artemis Fowl Read Along; if you haven't joined yet, you should!

Artemis  Fowl
from Eoin Colfer's Artemis Fowl series
How does one describe Artemis Fowl?

How indeed. Before Artemis is even out of his teens he's done the impossible a dozen times over: proving the existence of fairies just to hold one for a gold ransom, going toe to toe with the Russian mafia and the Chicago mob, rediscovering a lost civilization, cracking an ancient and unknown language all on his own, grappling with the most brilliant minds on and under the planet -including his own- and scheming some of the most audacious, ludicrously rewarding, and incredible heists and plots the world had ever seen.

Artemis is impossible not to love, even if I occasionally want to strangle him. He's cool and calculating, amusingly arrogant, and oh so, so clever. What I love most about Artemis is watching his fantastic development through the series; his growth is slow, almost grudging, but immensely rewarding and heart warming. Watching him lock horns with his outside influences -especially Holly Short- as he struggles between his conscience and his moral ambiguity is what story gold is made of.


Conor Broekhart
from Airman by Eoin Colfer
Conor was born with an obsession for flight -perhaps because he was born in the air while his parents were dodging bullets in a hot air balloon at the World's Fair, 1878. Conor was also born with his mother's scientific brains, which he turns to the purpose of designing a flying machine. What I love most about Conor is the fact that he's a dreamer, his head stuck in the clouds, and his great intellect is determined to keep it there. And when his world turns upside down and everyone turns against him, his dreams and his genius become his refuge, keeping him sane and alive.


Ender Wiggin
Ah, Ender. Poor, brilliant Ender. The greatest strategical genius the world had ever seen, and he was bred for just that purpose. Which is what makes Ender so interesting. Even while he's outplanning, outthinking, and outsmarting every other older and bigger team at Battle School, he finds joy and fun in it but struggles too with the fact that this is his entire purpose -that this is the sole reason he was born. 

Ender is the smartest person in any given room, but what I love most about him are his moral complexities in the midst of an intergalactic war and his very simple, very human desire to be liked and loved for who he is -rather than feared and revered as the leader he's meant to be. For as smart as Ender is, he is still young, an innocence we see slowly stripped away as he is tailored and tweaked by his puppeteers into the military leader Earth needs to survive -and someone heartbreaking and beautiful they weren't quite expecting.


Damian Wayne
from DC Comics, character created by Grant Morrison
Much like Ender, Damian was bred and raised for a single purpose: to become the greatest of military leaders and save the world. At least, 'saved' by the standards of Ra's al Ghul and his League of Assassins -which isn't a good thing.

Damian is brilliant, cheeky, and arrogant; he's also brutal and a touch homicidal thanks to his twisted upbringing. One of the things I love most about this 10-year-old is how hard he fights for the world to take him seriously -specifically his Robin predecessors- and how it really boils down to wanting to prove his worth to one person and one person alone -his father, who reached into the pit of death, darkness, and destruction that Damian was raised in and tried to shed a little light and moral justice in his son's life. And the other thing I love about Damian is this moral struggle, this epic battle where nature vs nurture have drawn battle lines in his very soul.


What is it with me and morally conflicted child prodigies?

Calvin
Of course, no Child Prodigy list would be complete without everyone's favorite cartoon trouble-maker. His genius takes many, many different forms -snowmen, insanely sophisticated make-believe often of a scientific nature, and deep philosophical discussions- but isn't always evident -BATS AREN'T BUGS! and that most of his attempts at ducking school or homework could have been better planned out. So while Calvin isn't perhaps a well-rounded genius, he isn't your ordinary six-year-old either. What I love most about Calvin is the balance in him between the vivid imagination and joy of childhood with the (at times) very mature contemplations on humanity and the state of the world. But seriously, more massive snowman escapades and Spaceman Spiff, please.

Child prodigies are rare gems in literature -hard to get right, but perfect when mastered. I'm always on the lookout for more interesting ones, so come on; spill:
Who are some of your favorite child prodigies?