18 August 2011
Post 416: Artemis Fowl
I love sympathetic bad guys. I really do. I think they're more interesting than all out heroes. Heroes tend to be a little too flawless* to be really interesting. That's the whole reason they keep rebooting superheroes like Superman; there are only so many reasons to be good and so many more to rebel against society.
Unfortunately Fowl turned out not to be so much of a bad guy as a wayward child with a little too much intelligence and not enough supervision. Part of what detracted from his appeal (for me at least) was his focus on a somewhat childish endeavor: stealing gold from fairies. It would have been more interesting if he had tried to steal the Crown Jewels or gold from Fort Knox or some other crime based in the real world. It would have indicated more adult motives, yes, but I could also have taken him more seriously as a villain, which I think is how Colfer was trying to set him up. It's a bit hard to tell as there are no good or bad guys in this book; everyone has a bit of Grey Morality.
The fairies are bad because they are willing to do anything to continue living a certain way, rather than coexisting with humans; Fowl is bad because he is willing to steal and break the law (but again, this is because he doesn't have an authority figure in his life and is "too smart" to be caught by police); the Butlers are bad because they coddle Fowl rather than actually protecting or serving him by telling him not to steal in the first place. Of course, Fowl is also good because he's only trying to get money to continue taking care of his mentally distraught mother, and again, he's a child with a tentative grasp on issues of moral behavior and no one to draw the line. The fairies are good because they are trying to protect a valuable way of life, which is conducive to the health of the planet and which they feel would be threatened if humans knew of their existence. The Butlers are good because they serve the Fowls selflessly and genuinely care for the Fowl family...however clumsily they do this in execution (by not questioning a minor's motives, etc).
As I stated in my review, Fowl has a bit of Peter Pan cruelty in him.** I think I would have liked Colfer to take this a little further and really exploit that trait. I would have liked the narrator to be slightly less omniscient and allow me to determine things like Fowl's motives. Just because the narrator has all the information doesn't mean s/he needs to share it with me. And I'm pretty sure that even a middle grade student can figure out that Fowl isn't really a bad guy, even without the narrator coming out and saying it.
My review can be found on Goodreads.
LibsNote: Review copy provided by Netgalley.
*Or at least think they are. I'm looking at you, Richard Cypher.
**Disclaimer: I am basing this on analysis of the original story, because I have yet to read it. I know! I know. I'll get to it, dammit.