Steven R. Boyett
Open Road Media Sci-Fi & Fantasy / 448 pages / (April 1, 2014)
Ariel may have gone out of print soon after its debut in 1983, but fans have not let it fade away. For years, used copies have been making the rounds, commanding a premium price at auctions, and making a tidy profit for used book dealers. Now, you can not only get your own fresh, updated version, you can get it on Kindle. Given the theme of the novel, the metamorphosis seems particularly ironic.
For two years, Pete Garey wandered through the strange new world that is Earth after the Change, a moment when technology ceased to work and things like planes, trains, and automobiles became useless junk. He was alone until the day he was found by a unicorn who would become his familiar. Ariel is just one of the many mythical, magical creatures to appear after the Change, but the only one with the stunning ability (or, perhaps, the only one with the desire…) to talk. The bond between Pete and Ariel will be like no other he has experienced.
If you know your mythology, you know what anyone who wishes to be close to a unicorn must be. Twenty-year-old Pete is a virgin. In many ways, he is more unworldly than even a virgin would be expected to be. Whether the loss of all the technical wonders of the “modern world” has contributed to his naïveté, or if it is the result of so many years in the almost empty country, is difficult to say. Could be he would have grown up that way even in the before-Change world. Whatever the reason, it makes him perfectly suited to be Ariel’s friend and foil.
Ariel is pure — she is a unicorn, after all — but she’s no pushover. Like Pete, she has steel to balance her softer side. At times, the struggle between the good and bad inside each of them is as great a threat as the unmitigated evil they join to defeat.
Good versus evil… Isn’t that the conflict at the heart of all good literature? In Ariel, readers have many dark/light things to consider, including deciding for themselves whether the world is a better or worse place after the Change. The answer is as ambiguous as most “real life” decisions. Boyett isn’t going to do your thinking for you.
And, maybe, that is the lasting appeal of Ariel. Little is clear cut in this fantasy. Not the motives of the characters. Not the true nature of the mythical beasts that emerge. Not even the why of everything that happened. Such unanswered questions are among the many reasons your thoughts will turn again and again to this book, re-examining these unknowns.
With qualities like that, is it any wonder readers have refused to let this novel slide into obscurity? Or why it’s making a long-awaited return?