Wednesday, January 03, 2007

BOOKS: Fowl's found a girlfriend

A very pleasing Christmas book haul lies stacked neatly underneath the framed hockey cards in my living room. The reading stack has grown by 18 books to a height of nearly four feet. It makes a reader feel contented to see so many anticipated tomes just sitting there to be opened and read.

Still, I found myself busy with other things and only managed to get one book done in time for the turn of the year. Artemis Fowl and the Lost Colony is the fifth book in the series starring the delinquent genius by British author Eoin Colfer.

I've said it before and it bears repeating. This Young Adult series rises to the levels of the second-best of the Harry Potter books and has never dipped in quality. The book is slightly longer than its predecessors and does introduce Minerva as a future love interest for Artemis, but it's pretty well written and deserves the length.

More or less, it's actually the kick-off to adding Minerva AND No. 1 as new characters to the enchanted world inhabited by Holly Short, ex-captain of the LEPrecon Patrol and her detective partner, Mulch Diggums, the perennial on-the-run burglar. No. 1 is an imp awaiting transformation into a demon. He doesn't get along with his mates at all. And when a chance to get back to Earth comes, he jumps at it. Literally. That's where he intersects with Artemis and a stranded Holly, caught upside, when Commander Sool cuts off contact with the Mud People. Minerva inserts herself into the process and the hormones and hilarities kick in, while a true sense of adventure moves the pace along quite nicely. Familiar folk die for the second book in a row, and the books ends with people older, much older, and maybe not any wiser.

Recommended for teen and adult alike, as long as said adult still has a kid inside of their heart.

MOVIES: Eragon not so much of a disaster

The call came after a particularly crappy day of work. "Let's go see Eragon," said Patrick, left at home with A.J. and a friend, Stephen, while Dawna and Angela were in Toronto at a play. As invitations go, this wasn't high on my want list. I'd read the reviews and I knew the movie to be a disappointment to the legion of Christopher Paolini fans and movie critics alike.

"Sure," I said. It was a moment of weakness based on a need to get out of the house and away from the phone tether to my various clients. Not looking at a computer for a few hours had a certain charm. Just how bad could the movie really be, when compared to the alternative?

Turns out, not so bad. Is the movie derivative of Lord of the Rings and any number of dragon stories, not the least of which was Dinotopia from a few years back? Slavishly so. Is it a remake of the book? Decidedly not so, said Patrick and A.J., both of whom had consumed Eragon and it's sequel in the last year, Patrick by listening to the audio version, A.J. by reading it. I have the two books on the stack to be read this year, but I had little trouble anticipating each step along the way, even to the point of figuring out where the movie had cut book material.

So, the movie was predictable, yet wasn't a page-for-page remake of the book. In other words, the movie had no chance of pleasing anyone. BUT, and this is an important but, it IS NOT THAT BAD! Youngsters of a certain age, who haven't had the chance to immerse themselves on Eragon's ancestors will enjoy the movie. And those who haven't seen superior dragon fare (and Dinotopia really WAS pretty good, if short-lived) in movies such as Dragonheart, don't have any measuring stick for the dragon-effects. They'll lap it up.

As a result, should Eragon be hoisted on its own petard for being late? I prefer to think it was a well-done rerun. As such, didn't regret the time spent in the theatre at all. Won't recommend the movie if you are persnickety about these things. You've been warned. It's up to you to see it.