With The Last Guardian, the saga of Artemis Fowl comes to a close. I went into this book with more than just a little trepidation, especially considering how much I disliked The Atlantis Complex. I mean, like that book, The Last Guardian is as readable and compelling, but beyond that, the story is just too inconsequential to take seriously. Considering the main plot of the story is Artemis and Co. trying to stop the end of all humanity (literally), you'd think that the story would be a little heavier, but no, it's just a lot of fluff strewn together.
Consider this: One of the scenes in the novel involves a horde of killer crickets. Killer. Crickets. It reminds me a bit of a summary of a horror novel I read in a book catalog many years ago, which read, "Giant lobsters attack the coast of Maine." Sure, this is fiction, but you at least have to make this kind of thing convincing, and it's just hard not to laugh at the idea of thousands of crickets descending on the protagonists. I imagine that sort of thing is some C-grade horror movie, not a popular series like this.
The other thing that bugged me is that the Artemis Fowl in this book isn't the same Artemis Fowl who's been in all the other books. I mean, yes, it is Artemis (no body doubles here, as far as I could tell), but his character isn't nearly as interesting. He's not the one who's really in charge of the events, and what we've grown accustomed to in the series is that Artemis is always two or three steps ahead of everyone else. Now, he's two or three steps behind everyone else, and since the story focuses on him, we lose that sense of immediacy and cleverness, and wind up feeling lost. The book starts off with him doing his thing, but then the story spirals away from him, leaving Holly to be the one to carry the story. It's not until the end of the book that we see the familiar Artemis, but by then it's just too late. Everything preceding that moment just feels insubstantial.
This could have been a great book, and it should have been, considering that it brings the series to a close. But even with the inconsistent characterization, the unbelievable moments, and the cartoonishness of the villains (which, I should add, makes it hard to impossible to take them seriously), some of the writing is just plain odd. Aside from the crickets, there are strange turns-of-phrase and some questionable moments covered in the narrative. It felt very uneven, and it was ultimately disappointing. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, since The Atlantis Complex was the same sort of trip, but I felt let down by it all. It would have been much better had I stopped reading the series after The Time Paradox.