I have never read any of the Artemis Fowl books that are also by Colfer, but if they are as good as Airman, then I can see why they are so popular. I debated putting this book in the fantasy category, but I realized that it is really closer to speculative historical fiction. It takes place in the late 19th centruy, in a made-up country: the Saltee Islands, which are off the coast of Ireland. The main character is Conor, a boy who was born in a hot air balloon, who knows that flying is his destiny. He is a mechanical genius, even at the age of fourteen. All his dreams go out the window when he trys to stop an act of treachery against his king. As a result of the events of that night, he is sent to prison - the diamond mines of Little Saltee. Knowing that he is not ever meant to be released, Conor must find a way out, with only his dreams of flying left to keep him going.
Airman is exciting and clever, and the characters that Colfer creates are entirely believable. The creation of the Saltee Islands alone is incredibly creative, the story of the islands being so original and rather funny. In addition to the action and excitement, the book has humor, and warmth. Conor not only has to use his mind to get himself out of prison - he has to grow as a man as well. Who he becomes as a person is just as exciting as what he can do with his mechanical genius. It will be interesting to see if this book becomes a series as well, as there is definitely more story to tell about Conor and the Saltees.