Page count: 432 pages
“The Atlantis complex” is the 7th book in the series about Artemis Fowl, wiz kid extraordinaire. A former criminal mastermind, Artemis has now turned his energy towards good. More specifically he has come up with a science project to save the world’s melting ice caps. To implement this project, he enlists the help of the fairies and other magical creatures living underneath the earth, first and foremost Holly Short, captain of the Lower Elements Police (LEP) force, and Foaly, the centaur responsible for all of LEP’s technological wizardry. While Artemis is demonstrating his project to the LEP forces in a remote part of Iceland, they are suddenly attacked by giant heat-seeking drones which wipe out everyone except Artemis, Holly, and Foaly. The heat-seeking drones then go on to plow through the earth and sea water towards Atlantis, a city in the lower elements, causing a citywide evacuation.
One of those evacuated is Turnbull Root, a criminal captured by Holly in a previous book, along with all his henchmen. It is soon revealed that Turnbull has orchestrated his own escape from prison through the attacks on Iceland and Atlantis, respectively. At the same time Artemis, who was struggling to keep his Atlantis complex (a mix of paranoia and OCD) in check even before the attack, becomes completely unhinged. Holly therefore has no choice but to stun him with a non-lethal charge. When Artemis wakes up again, he is no longer himself but has instead been replaced by his alter ego, Orion. Orion is a romantic but useless do-gooder with a big crush on Holly. Simultaneously, Artemis’s bodyguard Butler has been tricked by Turnbull into going to Mexico to save his sister, a professional wrestler. This means that neither Artemis nor his right hand man are around to save the world from its perhaps most deranged criminal yet…
I’m really in two minds about this book. On the one hand, I was well and truly hooked when I read the story about Artemis and Butler in their respective dire straits, and while I liked Artemis as a criminal mastermind in the early books, his criminal activities had gone a bit stale by now. Likewise, I think Colfer was right to fast forward Artemis’s teenage years in the previous book as the more adult version of Artemis is a more interesting and nuanced character than the old single-minded evil doer. I was therefore quite happy to go along with Artemis’s new save-the-world-and-do-good attitude. Holly and Foaly also live up to their usual entertaining action and quirky humour that we have come to know and love from the previous books.
On the other hand, I found this book to be seriously flawed in several ways. First of all, the chapters of the book devoted to Turnbull are dull and uninspired. While at first Turnbull appears to have evil and deranged designs for the world, his motivations are in fact pretty innocuous and therefore not particularly interesting or even funny. Secondly, Orion is Colfer’s worst idea to date – a swooning and harmless swashbuckler, Orion instantly bores and annoys the reader and makes you long for Artemis’s trademark wit and razor sharp intelligence. One may only hope the author will see the errors of his ways and cure Artemis in time for the next and, reportedly, last book of the series! Lastly, the ending is a true anticlimax – what could have been a great ending, was instead over so suddenly that I reread the last pages several times convinced that I had missed something. Overall, then, “Artemis Fowl:The Atlantis complex” is a mixed bag: certainly not one of Colfer’s best, it is nonetheless hard to skip book 7 about Artemis Fowl, if only to set the stage for book 8, the final showdown.