Children's Corner: New flights of fancy for 'Fowl' author Eoin Colfer
First, the bad news. Irish author Eoin Colfer says he has written the last book in his best-selling fictional series for kids about the teenage criminal mastermind named Artemis Fowl.
The good news? Mr. Colfer, 47, already is planning a new series for kids. It is called "W.A.R.P." -- for "witness anonymous relocation program" -- which he describes as "kinda sci-fi," with a big nod to H.G. Wells, the author of such science-fiction classics as "The War of the Worlds" and "The Time Machine."
"I'm trying to write the kind of book that I loved as a kid," he said in a recent interview before his program at Politics & Prose, an independent Washington, D.C., bookstore. (Note: Mr. Colfer's first name, Eoin, is pronounced "Owen.")
But to get back to what Mr. Colfer's millions of fans around the world care about right now: Why is his just-released "Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian" (Disney/Hyperion, $18.99), the eighth in the series, the finale?
Mr. Colfer says that he was ready to end the books because he had basically done everything he could in the previous seven volumes to maintain Artemis' "bad" reputation. (In fact, some people refer to Artemis as the "bad-boy Harry Potter" because of his unique combination of magic and mischief.)
In "The Last Guardian," only Artemis can figure out how to save the world from the wicked psychopath fairy Opal Koboi, and only Artemis can make the plan work. And once Artemis becomes good -- even heroic -- "that's the end. He's done," Mr. Colfer said.
But that statement isn't a spoiler, as there are plenty of twists and turns in "The Last Guardian" to keep readers guessing right up to the last page. Overall, this book provides vivid proof of Mr. Colfer's ability to create a page-turner; it's never clear exactly what will happen -- especially given Artemis' demonstrated ability to find a way to save the day, at least for himself, in the face of mayhem, violence and even death.
Still, Artemis faces his most difficult case yet. And, yet again, his nemesis is Opal, a hugely intelligent, power-hungry pixie whose goal is to take over the world.
This time, Opal has laid careful, diabolical plans in her quest for world domination. She has "reanimated" the Berserkers, who are dead fairy warriors buried on the grounds of Artemis' family estate. At Opal's command, the Berserkers arise and temporarily inhabit the bodies of whomever is closest, which, in this case, includes Artemis' precocious 4-year-old twin brothers, Myles and Beckett, and Juliet, the sister of Butler, Artemis' loyal friend and bodyguard.
To foil Opal and save his brothers and Juliet, Artemis teams up with Butler; Holly Short, an elf who is a member of the elite reconnaissance division of the Lower Elements Police (or LEPrecon, for short); and Foaly, the LEP's tech wizard. Together they desperately work to devise a plan to somehow prevent Opal from destroying humankind.
As in the other "Artemis Fowl" volumes, the latest offers readers a heady brew of action-filled text, prickly but interesting characters and wonderful moments of laugh-out-loud humor.
"The Last Guardian" contains the trademark elements that have attracted millions of readers to the series: a setting filled with pixies, fairies and other fantastical creatures; a heavy dose of science-fiction-like technology; and a fascinating antihero, Artemis himself.
When Mr. Colfer published the series' first book, "Artemis Fowl," in 2001, he was a teacher who had written a few books for children. The books, which included two short novels -- "Benny and Omar" and "Benny and Babe" -- as well as "Going Potty," had done fine, but not well enough for Mr. Colfer to quit his teaching job.
With the publication of "Artemis Fowl," however, he struck gold. The book was picked up by Hyperion, a Disney company, became a blockbuster hit, and Mr. Colfer finally was able to achieve his dream of being a full-time writer.
In addition to writing seven more books in the series, he also has written other books, including the hilarious "Half Moon Investigations," "Airman" and "The Supernaturalist." Several of his books, including the first two "Artemis Fowl" volumes, also have been published in graphic-novel form.
In recent years, Mr. Colfer also has turned to writing for adults with a novel called "Plugged" and "And Another Thing," the latest volume in "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" series started by the late Douglas Adams.
In the recent interview, Mr. Colfer, who lives in Wexford, Ireland, reflected on how the success of the "Artemis Fowl" series has changed his life, allowing him to focus on his writing. But he scoffs at the idea of being a "rock star" writer.
"People like Suzanne Collins [author of 'The Hunger Games']and Rick Riordan [the 'Percy Jackson' books] are rock stars," Mr. Colfer said. "I'm in the second tier -- I don't get recognized at all."
Besides, Mr. Colfer said his two sons -- Finn, 14, and Sean, 9 -- "won't allow any big-headedness from me. In fact, they're just waiting for it!"
Now that he's completed the "Artemis Fowl" series, Mr. Colfer plans on alternating writing books for adults and kids, and enjoying his life as a full-time writer.
"I know I'm very fortunate to do what I love for a living," he said. "I hope I never forget how lucky I am."
First Published July 31, 2012 12:00 am