January 25, 2010

In Which I Arrive Late to Meet Artemis and Percy



I have way too much grad school reading to do to have much fun reading time, but I do have a slight window during afternoon bus call where I'm standing out in the hall and between hoards of grubby children rushing to the bus, I have small stretches of time where I have to sand in an empty hall with nothing to do. So I've been grabbing some light reading to keep me out of trouble. I've never read the Artemis Fowl series, but always knew it would have been right up my alley as a kid. Somewhere along the line I got this graphic novel version of the first book and I can tell you this for sure: it makes for great hallway duty reading. Much better than the bulletin boards, anyway.

I felt guilty not having read the original, and was prepared for disappointment a la Coraline, and I'm sure had I read the first novel I'd have more quibbles but this is a great comic. The art and color are superbly done and pace is perfect. Not too choppy and not too rushed. I'm sure there is some depth of character lacking, but an amazing amount is telegraphed by the tilt of a head and the look in the eye. And better yet: I had a ton of kids rushing down the hallway stop for a moment to ask about it. The list of those that would borrow it from me next is growing...

What can one say about The Lightening Thief? I've been listening to it on my commute. It's all that and more. It's basically review-proof. It's a hit and there's little else to say. It's probably been compared to Harry Potter ad nauseum, but it stands apart. Similarities: magic, a triad of two boys and a girl fighting dark powers, a school for special kids, even the three-headed dog. Differences: Percy is not an orphan, setting is American, much better pacing, less use of annoying adverbs, but also a lack of emotional depth. Chiron is a cool mentor, but he's no Dumbledore.

Enough with the comparisons. This book (and I'm sure series) does a fantastic job of making you want to turn the pages faster and faster (or listen more intently, in my case) and also go off to brush up on your Greek mythology. I'm a Hamilton fan but if I had a young person around I'd get them Tales of the Greek Heroes (which has a much cooler cover than when I was a kid and a new intro by Mr. Riordan). I did have to laugh at some of the Greek stuff in the book. Percy or one of his companions would mention a "historical fact" about the Greek gods that I'd forgotten, but then they'd get suckered in by something as obvious as the lotus eaters. No worries, though. The book is far to entertaining to quibble about mythological accuracy.

I just hope Chris Columbus does a better job with the movie than he did with the first two Harry Potters. The pretty cool new movie trailer can be seen here if you've somehow missed it.