Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Ariel by Steven R. Boyett - Then and Now

There is a lot of buzz going around about the reissue (last month) of Ariel, a post apocalyptic fantasy by Steven R. Boyett that is to be followed by Elegy Beach in November - a sequel 25 years after the original. Given the themes it seems only logical that it is being embraced as urban fantasy. I went rummaging around in my SF&F collection and came up with a copy of the original book. Even though it was there, I have no recollection of reading the book which I will have to remedy. What struck me the most was the cover. What a difference 25 years makes. Is that really Barry Manilow on the cover? Would you pick up a book if it had this style of cover art today?

At four-thirty one Saturday afternoon the laws of physics as we know them underwent a change. Electronic devices, cars, industries stopped. The lights went out. Any technology more complicated than a lever or pulley simply wouldn't work. A new set of rules took its place—laws that could only be called magic. Ninety-nine percent of humanity has simply vanished. Cities lie abandoned. Supernatural creatures wander the silenced achievements of a halted civilization.

Pete Garey has survived the Change and its ensuing chaos. He wanders the southeastern United States, scavenging, lying low. Learning. One day he makes an unexpected friend: a smartassed unicorn with serious attitude. Pete names her Ariel and teaches her how to talk, how to read, and how to survive in a world in which a unicorn horn has become a highly prized commodity.

When they learn that there is a price quite literally on Ariel's head, the two unlikely companions set out from Atlanta to Manhattan to confront the sorcerer who wants her horn. And so begins a haunting, epic, and surprisingly funny journey through the remnants of a halted civilization in a desolated world.


  1. I would probably pick it up at a library sale. The unicorn on the cover would intrigue me enough to look it over. Actually sounds like something I might like so I'm going to added it to my wish list.

  2. I definitely think the new Ariel cover is more dynamic and interesting. More modern. Fits in with dark fantasy that's popular now better.

    But perhaps it is cheating to belittle the very prominent plot point of the unicorn.

    But then again, I wouldn't pick up the original cover by its look alone.

  3. I love this book. I bought it new when it first came out and I still have my copy. It's hard for me to say whether I'd pick it up now, I might though, since I have a soft spot for unicorns.

  4. Looks like a neat book. I'm going to take a closer look next time I'm at my local bookstore. I like S.M. Stirling's Change series, so this looks like I could enjoy it too.

  5. Well I love unicorns so I would totally pick it up.

    The new covers that are coming out don't seem to do it for me to be honest. For a start they all look the same and secondly, they don't really give you a feeling of the book like the old ones do.

    I will be trying to find this book too, I've not read it and it sounds awesome.

  6. Just want to add - the Terry Pratchett books are a perfect example of this. The old covers were fantastic, the new ones....meh

  7. Daelith I am definitely going to do a re-read.

    I agree TJ but most UF covers either feature a guy or a girl and little else despite the significant supernatural content of most. The blurb for this sounds terrific.

    Alison like many people the book featuring a unicorn that I remember best is Peter Beagle's The last Unicorn.

    Elena isn't the Stirling series terrific!

    Raven the new look is certainly more rooted in a "realism" look, the older more whimsical.

  8. I owned this book and read it way back when. (I think I was in junior high at the time!)
    I honestly don't remember liking the story very much. I had a hard time suspending my disbelief enough to get into the story and found it rather dry.
    I thought the unicorn acted like a blithering idiot much of the time, like Ariel should have been blond instead of white. I also remember nearly throwing the book across the room when the protagonist was shocked and surprised and heartbroken that losing his virginity made Ariel leave him. Puh-lease.

    If I'd never seen it before and came across it in a used bookstore, I would at least read the blurb just on the basis of the cover. The new cover, not so much. It's too much like every other urban fanstasy cover out there these days.

    1. @otterdaughter-I actually didn't want to finish the book because I wanted to cry when I knew he was gonna throw away his one true love, the unicorn. I thought it was an interesting story, despite all the glaring technical errors. I mean, cmon, electricity doesn't work...but what does that have to do with gunpowder not working? That plot point could have easily been solved by simply saying that most of the ammo is simply GONE, used up in the final war that took out most of humanity!
      I mean, if Fire works, water still boils, and lighter fluid burns, why wouldn't a steam engine work? (or a bicycle, for that matter, especially since watches and crossbows do??)
      I won't even go there when it comes to compresson-igniton engines (no electricity needed here) and rockets (which would no doubt work in a world where dragon breath is a hydrogen-oxygen mixture, for cryin out loud.)
      The story could have been so much better if the world would have simply been reverted to late 1700's technology...e.g. industrial revolution. Since most people in the modern world don't know how 90% of it works the story would have still worked out.
      Still a great story and I have ordered teh sequel! Hope it is just as imaginative!
      -Bryan (publishing as anonymous simply because i don't have a google or aim lol)

  9. otterdaughter yours are all valid points. I am sure I read it around the same time but have no recollection of it although your description sounds vaguely familiar. I'm betting there are big changes in Elegy Beach, after all Steven has been writing for 25 years since then.

    1. @scifiguy- I hope so, but Stephen is gonna be limited on the changes he can make to his universe. I personally, after reading the story for the first time just today, think that he should have re-written the story to fix some of the glaring technical errors. If not for that I believe this story would have been even more popular and interesting. It wouldn't have been hard to do. Electricity not working is a pretty believeable sci-fi occurence, it happened in 'star trek' all the time. If fire works, and cigarette lighters work, and even more absurdly, dragons breath out burning hydrogen made from chemical reactions, I find it hard to believe a compression-ignition (diesel) engine wouldn't keep running (at least the old ones that had mechanical fuel injection.) once they stopped it's all over but cmon. Steam engines would work because water still boils and blowguns (using air pressure to force a piston) still work. And why don't guns work again? Don't get me wrong, I loved the story, and I will recommend it (and I still can't believe I have never seen it before now, I was 7y/o when it came

  10. I like the first cover better than the later copy. I usually don't pick up books with unicorns but with a unicorn in the fron and skyscrapers in the background, I would have picked this one up to look at.

  11. I guess I felt the same way when I originally bought it :)

  12. First of all, anyone looking at the original ARIEL cover would see a resemblance to the young Jan-Michael Vincent -- I can't imagine where you got Barry Manilow. It seems odd to fault a book published in 1983 for looking as if it was published 26 years ago. Why don't you go ahead and make fun of Jimi Hendrix for having an Afro while you're at it?

    And otterdaugher: hey, thanks for telling everyone how the book ends! Here's a present for you: Rosebud is Kane's sled.

  13. Michael - You said "I can't imagine where you got Barry Manilow." Well from the wind swept hair and the turtle neck sweater of course. Any YES I do own Barry's first album and am not afraid to say so. Ok Jimi Hendrix had a really funny hairdoo. Happy? LOL someone needs to grow a sense of humour. After all, my blog, my humour and in the end I am poking fun at myself because after all I was the one that bought the book originally.


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