Believe me, I was reluctant to read such an overwhelmingly popular book as this, especially when I know it's the first of a series. For some reason I really dislike books in a series. I guess it seems to me like the author didn't have a good way of ending the first book, or a good enough plot for the first book, so he figured he'd just write a bunch of books and then it would be ok. (Perfect example: The Babysitters Club. Need I say more?) Anyway, Artemis Fowl is actually not that bad. I read it in my backyard lying on a blanket during a particularly nice afternoon, and came away with more than I was expecting. So maybe having low expectations is a good thing.
Colfer writes an interesting combination of children's fantasy and adult spy movies, and he does an impressive job of it. I can't say that I'll read any of the other Artemis Fowl novels, but I would recommend the first if you're looking for a pleasant way to spend a few hours.