Thursday, January 31, 2019

More to follow. | OD Ch 10-Epilogue | Artemis Fowl Read Along

Welcome to the finale of this Opal Deception read along -and we're finishing on a doozy of story thoughts here. Usually, I have four or five pages of notes for a week's chapters. This week I had NINE.

Chapter 10: Horse Sense

"Everyone has a right to be temporarily unstable."
Truer words, Foaly; truer words. I'm not the only who thinks that, aside from sick days, we should have a day off option for 'temporary instability', am I?

"Tell me, Chix, or I'll reach down this com link and drag it out of you."
Well, Foaly, sounds like you learned a few things from our beloved Commander Julius Root. He'd been so proud of you, but he'd cover it with a growl and the fumes of a noxious fungal cigar.

While Chix bemoans a possible fate of scraping of vole curry off the streets I'm thinking vole curry!? It is mentioned several times (especially in this book) so evidently it's quite a common dish for the People.
I feel so sorry for them.

But Foaly's paranoid streak couldn't let it go.
To be fair, how many times have his paranoid streaks wound up saving the People in one way or another?
Almost every time, yeah?
...except *achem* for that Arctic incident... Paranoia was kind of his downfall there.

"You're approaching this the wrong way, Holly."
Isn't it amazing how often 'genius' is actually the simple details, things we usually just gloss over or take for granted? And this was perfectly demonstrated a few chapters ago, when Artemis -memories in tact- presents the gold spray painted computer disc to Holly.
"Very clever."
"Genius, actually. It merely seems clever in hindsight, but the original idea was pure genius."

"Remember the plan" could be one of Artemis' catchphrases.
Do you think Holly ever got him a sweater or a hat or a coffee mug with that emblazoned across it as a gag gift?

Sool stroked his goatee. It was a win-win situation.
I don't regret this.
This gnome is a terrible person and a worse boss. He's only interested in what will make him look good, rather than taking experienced opinions (like Foaly's) into consideration just because he doesn't like them or putting the People first and foremost -as direct a contradiction to Julius Root as you can get.
Readers like to talk about the characters they 'love to hate' and I would always find myself stumped for one.
Not anymore.

"This is not the start of a beautiful relationship."
No, Sool, it isn't -because unlike Rick or Louie, you don't have a decent bone in your body!, I really don't like this gnome...

Through sheer force of habit, Mulch almost raised his hand and confessed...
After all, it's highly discourteous to let another dwarf be blamed for your bubbles! Okay, but seriously, this is taking fart jokes to a new level, which is saying a lot for Colfer, who already took fart jokes to a new level by creating a dwarf who uses flatulence as the most versatile superpower imaginable. Not to mention, if Mulch hadn't stopped him, this would have been the most embarrassing defeat. Ever. Grand schemes ousted by a confession of passing wind? Even Opal would have been embarrassed to claim victory like that.

...Mulch often gave voices to the objects he was about to steal.
This just many hysterical possibilities.

Okay, but throughout this entire section of Mulch sneaking around on Opal's shuttle, Colfer's hints-but-misdirections are fabulous! HE'S A MAGICIAN.
...we're not going very far.
...there's plenty of room for both of you.
When Mulch Diggums crept out...the charges were no longer on the chair.
Mulch crawled around the box. If there was one thing he didn't need, it was more creaks.
He even mentions the booty box and presents it as an obstacle to be avoided! IT'S GENIUS. Clever in hindsight, maybe, but the original idea is pure genius.

Artemis had goaded her into sealing her own fate.
Remember those extra little touches, Opal, like the underwater television at the Temple of Artemis? Do you regret those yet?

Artemis stared at the screen as if he could destroy the missiles through concentration. "I should have anticipated this."
I wonder why you didn't, Arty?
Back during my Eternity Code read along I suggested that Artemis' moments of mental blindness as far as his genius schemes go are in fact blind spots born of his not caring about the far-reaching consequences of his actions. If this is the case, what would have blinded you here, Arty? Were you too happy by your regained memories? Perhaps they made you cocky, knowing you'd foiled Opal Koboi once before and could certainly do it again? Maybe you were too determined to get vengeance for Holly? Perhaps your new-found conscience made you forget how ruthless and petty a villain can be?
Or maybe it was just a mistake, like any regular human being can make. But it's so much more fun to wonder!

I love that Artemis Fowl took down Opal Koboi with a box of truffles.
You could say she got her just desserts. (Not sorry)

"You people are becoming quite the team."
Somehow I don't think Trouble Kelp meant this as a compliment, but I can clearly envision Artemis and Holly, Butler and Mulch all exchanging knowing smiles at that. Because when it works, it works.

Chapter 11: Last Goodbye

Speaking of just desserts -Opal certainly gets a nice helping, doesn't she? She mesmerizes herself into the memory of a vineyard owner, but the moment manual labor is mentioned, Opal's newly implanted human pituitary gland cuts off her fairy powers before she can magic her way out of it. ...She had effectively humanized herself.

Villains managing to ironically screw up their own schemes is a running theme throughout this series that I've never picked up on before.
  • Artemis Fowl: Cudgeon goes to extremes for promotion which ultimately leads to his demotion.
  • The Arctic Incident: Cudgeon thinks himself unbeatable, and the inevitable 'I'm untouchable' monologue is what Foaly uses to turn Opal against him.
  • The Eternity Code: Jon Spiro's hatred of Phonetix is how Artemis orchestrates his downfall, while Artemis' own greed leads both to Butler's death and the loss of his memories -two of the things he values the most in the world.
  • The Opal Deception: Opal humanizes herself to conquer the world, which overrides her magic, but not before she's trapped herself with the very last vestiges of the mesmer. Before this, her greed for decadent chocolate is exactly what Artemis uses to trick her. Or, as Artemis so aptly puts it, "It's human nature, and Opal is a human now, remember?"

Of all the things Sool had done to her, this was the worst.
And, let's be honest, this is why I hate him so. freaking. much. Everything Sool has done up to this point could theoretically be forgiven -Holly is, after all, a murder suspect and on the run, so Sool has a leg to stand on- but this last act of not letting Holly attend Julius' funeral is completely irredeemable. Not just because it's an singular even that he can never make up for -though there certainly is that- but because Sool himself refused to let her attend purely out of spite

Because the Tribunal hasn't reached a verdict in her case, she's still a murder suspect. Yeah. Okay. But this is not the reason she doesn't go to the funeral. The reason given is that Sool refuses to let her, even under armed guard, so obviously there did exist the possibility of her attending under guard, even as a murder suspect. And remember -Sool is no longer Internal Affairs. He's the new Recon Commander; while he's part of the Tribunal that will vote on Holly's verdict, there's no indication that he has any part of the Internal Affairs investigation. Which means that his decision to not let her attend Julius' funeral came down as an order from her new commanding officer -Julius' own replacement- not from the IA or as requirement of the Tribunal investigation.

Even worse? The Tribunal votes directly following Julius' funeral; the judgement comes down so soon afterwards that Holly is still watching the recycling ceremony on TV when Foaly and Sool come to tell her. Seriously, they couldn't have voted an hour earlier so she could freely attend? It seems particularly cruel since the vote was seven-to-one in Holly's favor.

I of course blame Sool for everything, because it seems just the kind of petty plan he'd spawn and wrap nice and tight in impenetrable red tape, and all because he doesn't like her, he doesn't like how Recon operates, and he didn't like the 'maverick' Julius Root.

"Julius would have been proud of you. Haven is here today because of what you did."
It's not all bad, of course. Since Holly couldn't attend the funeral in person, she did have Artemis there to comfort her which, frankly, was the best emotional support she was likely to get from the whole Lower Elements. (Sorry, Foaly.) Artemis is adorably reassuring and comforting; he knows just what to say and, unlike their near-death experience at the 'Temple of Artemis', he's entirely genuine.

I love this moment too because it provides a nice, deep look at just how much his and Holly's relationship has deepened in such a short time. By the end of The Eternity Code they were amicable, bordering on friendly, and thanks to the mindwipe and Opal Koboi -you know that old saying, 'absence and near-death experiences devised by crazy deranged pixies make the heart grow fonder'- they've plunged straight into friends-for-life territory. "Bonded by trauma," as Artemis put it.

"I quit."
Just a page before Holly throws down her badge before Ark Sool, Artemis had told her that Julius would have been proud of her for saving Haven. While I don't disagree, it could also be argued that in saving Haven, Holly was also just doing her job, like any good LEP officer.

It is when Holly quits that I think Julius really would have been proud, because Holly is taking his words to heart. At the beginning of the book, Holly is all set to turn down the promotion because it will cut down on her surface time, what she loves, and Julius convinces her otherwise, because her job is to protect the People. To do what she has to for the People, even accepting a promotion that will shackle her to a desk.

Being a police officer isn't just something Holly loves; it's what she is. It's a part of her as much as breathing. But with Sool breathing down her neck, she knows she won't be any help to the People -and helping the People is what she needs to do.

She quits, not for herself, but for the People. Just like Julius taught her.

I also want to point out something from the epilogue. The newspaper clipping marvels at the return of the lost Fairy Thief painting and wonders: Is someone out there reclaiming lost or stolen masters for the people?
And no; I don't think that wording is a coincidence.

More to follow.

"It's a strange feeling, not to know who you are exactly." I love this conflict in Artemis, pulled between wanting to pursue his criminal enterprises and wanting to be a normal teenager with loving parents, with a whole slew of rediscovered memories he hasn't exactly grown back into yet.

Holly teases about keeping an eye on him and Artemis laughs it off; he's already got his parents and Butler doing that. And then Holly says something utterly profound and compelling: "Well then, maybe it's time you let them."

I've read this book a dozen times and I have always glossed over this line. It's just good dialogue, right? No; I don't think so, not anymore. It's much deeper and more subtle than that and I don't think I've given Colfer enough credit for his character depth and subtle development in Artemis right here.

I have always seen The Eternity Code as Artemis' key turning point from villain/criminal to hero/anti-hero. I was wrong. While it was undoubtedly a big step in the right direction, Artemis does not fully embrace the new direction -he did, after all, make that massive charitable donation irreversible in case he became weak later and decided to steal it back. Before he could try embracing it, the mindwipe robbed him of further improvement in that area. Basically, his development in The Eternity Code was the foundation for the actual key turning point of his character that we see right here in The Opal Deception.

Let's look back on my point about the series' villains ironically causing their own downfalls. It remains true, but these villains all share one more distinctive quality: they rely on themselves and themselves alone. They might have minions or lackeys who execute their plans, but they don't actually trust anyone else to help them. They're all arrogant lone wolves. Even Artemis is like this; he rarely trusts anyone with the whole of his plans, he only asks for help when he's caught red-handed and in over his head, and he won't let anyone help him on a personal level, with his internal conflicts -like this one. When he tells Holly that he already has two parents and one bodyguard trying to keep him on the straight and narrow, it's got a weight to it; I picture him sort of scoffing at it, implying they're efforts are not only unsuccessful, but a wasted effort. Useless.

Holly's reply is so profound and so obvious I expect it hit Artemis upside the head. "Well then, maybe it's time you let them."

They're interrupted at this moment by Foaly and Sool, so Artemis doesn't have the time to respond or even to let this really sink in. But it's got to take root in that big brain of his. This is the moment that -I think- Arty starts to fully realize that his parents, Butler, and his friends can put every ounce of their energy into helping him -and it won't make the slightest bit of difference to him if he doesn't accept it. There is nothing anyone can do to help him make that change; they can support him, but Artemis is the one who has to make the choice. This is something he has to do himself.

When Artemis first regained his memories, his most profound and treasured revelation was the fact that he had friends. We talked about this; I love that this is the memory Artemis focuses on. This is the thing that matters the most, out of everything, because Artemis Fowl isn't the 'friend' type, because he won't let anyone in, because he doesn't need anyone.

Up to now, Artemis has closely paralleled the patterns of every villain he's faced to some extent. Ever since the first book, our favorite genius has been stuck in the same vicious cycle, maybe learning new lessons and strengthening his conscience each time, but always falling victim to the same basic flaws and cycling through the same mistakes, despite the helping hands and watchful eyes of his loved ones. So far, every villain Artemis has faced has been a friendless, ambition-at-all-costs kind of bad guy. And so far, Artemis has been the same way himself.

But what if he wasn't anymore? What if he came to value friendship above greed and ambition? What if he took the chance to become the hero? What if he let Butler and Holly and his parents help him?

And this, right here, is the true turning point of Artemis' character, reflected in his first waking thoughts after this conversation with Holly:

Artemis Fowl had a big decision to make: which way would his life go from here? The decision was his.

Or, in the words of Michael Jackson:
I'm starting with the man in the mirror,
I'm asking him to change his ways.
-Man in the Mirror, 1988 Epic Records
It's been a while since I read books 5-8 but I am so excited to see how well this change begins to manifest itself, not only in Artemis' character, but in the books themselves, especially in The Lost Colony, who's 'villain' Minerva is a direct parallel to his younger self. I've always loved The Lost Colony and Minerva, but I have a feeling this time around the book is suddenly going to explode with much more profundity and depth than I've ever given it credit for.

I'm looking forward to holding Artemis and Colfer to their closing promise as we finish The Opal Deception: More to follow.

D'arvit, guys, I'M SO EXCITED FOR THIS!!!

Your #FowlDay Challenges, if you choose to accept them, are:
1) Gag Gifts -Commenting below or using #FowlDay on social media, describe what gag gifts our favorite characters might give each other. For example: Holly would give Artemis a mug that says REMEMBER THE PLAN with a spooky vampire smile.
2) Share your favorite quote from this week's reading!

Next week we start The Lost Colony -and it's going to be fantastic!

February's reading schedule for The Lost Colony:
Feb 1-7: Chapters 1-4
Feb 9-14: Chapters 5-8
Feb 15-21: Chapters 9-12
Feb 22-28: Chapters 13-16

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