Ariel: A Book of the Change

[BOOKS] ⚣ Ariel: A Book of the Change Author Steven R. Boyett – It's been five years since the lights went out, cars stopped in the streets, and magical creatures began roaming Earth

Pete Garey survived the Change, trusting no one but himself until the It's been five years since the Book of MOBI ñ lights went out, cars stopped in Ariel: A Kindle - the streets, and magical creatures began roaming Earth Pete Garey survived the Change, A Book of PDF È trusting no one but himself until the day he met Ariel: a unicorn who brought new meaning and adventure to his life.Ariel: A Book of the Change

Steven R Boyett is the author Book of MOBI ñ of Ariel, Elegy Beach, Mortality Bridge, Ariel: A Kindle - Fata Morgana with Ken Mitchroney and numerous stories, articles, comic books, and screenplaysAs A Book of PDF È a DJ he has played clubs, conventions, parties, Burning Man, and sporting events, and produces two of the world’s most popular music podcasts: Podrunner and GroovelectricSteve has also been a martial arts instructor, professiona.

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  • Paperback
  • 435 pages
  • Ariel: A Book of the Change
  • Steven R. Boyett
  • English
  • 04 January 2017
  • 9780441017942

10 thoughts on “Ariel: A Book of the Change

  1. says:

    I absolutely loved this book as a teenager. Read it to pieces, then could never find another copy. Fortunately it has been reissued, after far too long! It holds up incredibly well -- there are a few minor Handwavium (tm) moments in the plot that I never noticed before, and I can't help laughing now at all these geeky white guys playing samurai, but everything else is perfect. The characterization, the humor, the dreamy apocalyptic beauty of this Changed world... it's all as wonderful as I remember.

    To get why this book is so beloved, you need to understand the context. This book came out in the early 80s, at the height of the Tolkien clone era, when fat fantasies about white farmboys getting the girl and becoming the Chosen Special King (or whatever) had begun to crowd out the Le Guins and L'Engles and Lees who had dominated fantasy throughout the Seventies. As a child I'd started to believe that girly fantasy was bad and therefore if I wanted good fantasy I was going to have to read only stuff written by white men and about white men and showcasing only white male power fantasies and man man man grunt grrr. So even though the edition of Ariel that I picked up had a girly unicorn on the cover, it also had a white guy on it, which was the signal in my head of what good fantasy required.

    (I was 12 when this book came out. Most 12 year olds have terrible taste. I was that times internalized racism and misogyny. I read more and grew out of it.)

    But lo and behold, this book had a white male protagonist... who was a virgin. He didn't want to get the girl, or at least not the human one. And yeah, he was uncomfortable with that, but he didn't allow toxic masculinity to overwhelm his sense of wonder at meeting and befriending a truly magical creature. He was kind of a Chosen One, with a Quest to undertake, but most of it was done with self-conscious tongue-in-cheek irony -- like when he gets a Special phallic object Sword and gives it the honored name of... Fred. And this book featured a very girly unicorn... who was more of a real character than many human women in the fat fantasies of the time. Helped that most of the human women in this story were also well-rounded and interesting, apart from their weird tendency to want to sleep with Pete. (Can't all be perfect.) So amid the testosterone-soaked formulaic epics of the time, this book was a breath of fresh air.

    I'm not fond of the new cover (where's the title character, huh? What, was she too girly or something?), and I'm annoyed that it's only available in mass market paperback, given its thickness -- because I've cracked the spine on this copy already, which means I'm likely to read it to pieces again. But I'm happy to recommend it again, and glad it stood the test of time.

  2. says:

    Postapocalypse with unicorn. Ok, I'll bite, especially since I've been hearing about this book from people like Cory Doctorow ever since it was reprinted earlier this year. Apparently little Cory's imagination got rocked by Ariel when he was an adolescent.

    And I could see that. Written by a nineteen-year-old boy in 1983 or so, Ariel features a classic love triangle: a beautiful, accomplished, perfect untouchable blonde who for some reason hangs around with our weedy twenty-year-old protagonist; and an argumentative little brunette who - for some reason - hangs around with our weedy twenty-year-old protagonist. The blonde is a unicorn, but that sort of just makes her even more of a Dorothy Stratton figure. To put it in early 80's terms.

    The action is well-scripted, and there's a lot of it. The world-building is not too excessive. Exposition is handled pretty well. The book is certainly readable all the way to the end. If there are echoes of The Stand and other post-ap fictions... well, I'm not sure you can write 400 pages of postapocalypse without hitting some of the same scenes. I just read Maurice Gee's Salt, as original a story as you'll find, and there were TONS of familiar elements in that book.

    But the boyish wish fulfillment of the main character's relationship with his two women is utterly impossible to take. He treats the brunette abysmally from the moment he meets her, and yet, at the end of the book, there she is taking off her pants for him. The young man's virginity is a factor in his relationship with the unicorn, and day after his deflowerment, she rejects him and goes cantering off. But this is ok, because she has somehow lost her sparkle. The formerly spotless, noiseless, gorgeous beast is now dirty and lame as she crashes clumsily through the forest.

    In an Afterword, the author says that he gets a lot of criticism for letting his main character end up with the human girl. I'm going to criticize him for letting his human girl end up with that main character. Gentlemen, I recognize that it can be something of a journey for you, finding out that under her white gown and lip gloss, Princess Leia was a cokey little drunk with body image issues. But that doesn't mean that the rest of us are lining up, just waiting for your standards to dip.

  3. says:

    A re-read of a book read years ago and loved then despite the sad ending (no spoiler, but given the premise of a unicorn as a main character and the traditional requirement for their companions to be virgins, it won't be a big suprise). And to begin with, I did love it anew.

    However this time around, some of the setting became questionable: for example, when the power goes off on the day of The Change and most modern technology stops working, not only is this rather selective - guns don't work, or bicycles, but we later discover wristwatches do - but people start to behave very extremely, (view spoiler)[as neighbours attack the house and murder the protagonist's girlfriend after leaving Pete for dead. Perhaps this scene would have worked later in the story when some people's survival instincts caused a descent into barbarism, but it seems rather too rapid a development. (hide spoiler)]

  4. says:

    Don't read too much in the number of stars I gave this novel. The fact of the matter is, having finished this almost a week ago, I'm still not quite sure what to think of it.

    In fact, I'll go one step further. I could easily justify any number of stars for this book: (*mild spoilers abound, particularly in the poorer reviews*)

    5 stars: A brutal, but sympathetic, look at innocence, growing up, friendship, and sex that has the good fortune to sit on top of a rollicking post-apocalyptic action-adventure novel.

    4 stars: A fun, pull-out-all-the-stops swords and sorcery novel! The author is trying too hard in places to be deep (but the afterward indicates he's aware of this), and while he succeeds only rarely, one can forgive this because it features a group of samurai hang gliding from the world tradecenter in order to mount an assault on the necromancer-controlled empire state building.

    3 stars: A reasonably entertaining adventure novel, with some serious momentum problems. Both times I tried to read it I got seriously bogged down in the middle, due to the disappearance or death of a few beloved characters and a lack of momentum towards the finale. I'm ultimately glad I finished it because there is much to like about the finale and ending, but the journey (particularly the second half) could have been more engaging.

    2 stars: Um, unicorns aren't really my thing. I did like a lot of the characters, particularly Malachi Lee. (Although, his story arc, while well foreshadowed did not do the character justice.) Beyond that? Some good action, and the setting of the post-change east-coast is treated well, but there was a severe lack of development for some key characters (Shaunessy and the Necromancer for two...)

    1 stars: What the #$%^ Stephen Boyett? I don't care *how* thoroughly you foreshadowed it, the ending is an unsatisfying mess. (and I *DON'T* mean, it should have had a happy ending, it just should have had a DIFFERENT ending.) AND Malachi Lee is one of the most poorly treated characters in the last 50 years of fiction.

    So, there you have it. My attitudes about this book are complicated and poorly suited to a value-based review. Did I enjoy it? Not it worth reading? Maybe. Am I glad I persevered and finished it? I suppose so yes.

  5. says:

    Originally published in the early 1980's, this is an overlooked gem of a novel that deserves a wider audience. I first read this as a young child, and it stuck with me through the years, despite my misplacing my copy and not being able to find a new one until years later.

    I've re-read this a handful of times in the long years since, and (like a select few other books) it never fails to bring back that same sense of wonder any time I read it.

    Objectively, it holds up (for the most part) pretty well to this day, despite the fact that it is firmly rooted in the 80's. There is however, one glaring plot-point (no spoilers) that some modern readers may object to, but the author addresses that in his introduction in the more modern editions.

    As an aside, the author wrote one other book, (Elegy Beach), a loose follow-up to this novel ; despite my love for this book, I just could NOT get into that sequel, as it is (IMO)structurally, tonally and thematically the antithesis of this book.

  6. says:

    Ye Original 1983 Cover, versus darker 2009 version.
    My, how our future visionings have changed.

    Which cover is more accurate? Read it and see! (Hint: (view spoiler)[ Neither is spot-on (hide spoiler)]

  7. says:

    When the apocalypse comes, it will be not with a bang, but a whisper. And it will change everything...

    Boyett concerns himself with the world after, and in this story, a boy and his unicorn. It is an adolescent coming-of-age story, and would read well to the 14 - 18 crowd, as its author admits.

    What can I say? The ending is as inevitable here as it was in Peter Pan, and in some ways was poorly-handled. While some might suggest that the sex was graphic, having worked with teenaged boys, I can say that the fantasies of the protagonist are realistic, and they do have a place in the story. The story itself is told through a boy's eyes (he might be 20 or so in the book, but Pete's emotional age is somewhat stunted, perhaps by spending 5 years wandering around mostly by himself), and the treatment of women isn't great (we are either temptress - deliberate or unknowing - or pure. There is no in-between. I'll save my Madonna/Whore lecture for another time though).

    The world itself is an interesting concept, though there were some niggling inconsistencies in what works and what doesn't. I'm curious to see what Boyett has done for a follow-up (something he once swore he'd never write).

    Not a bad read for on the beach, train or plane. Especially good if you fit into that adolescent male bracket, I suspect. Girls might enjoy it... but I don't know that they'd find many characters to identify with who weren't male.

  8. says:

    I absolutely adored this novel when I read it back in high school and I'm reading it to my husband now and I still love it. I liked the totally unique take on the post-apocalyptic world Boyett created where magical beings emerged from the shadows and technology ceased to function. The rules had changed...and unicorns could not only talk, Ariel actually cusses! LOL! It's a wonderful story of fantasy, friendship, survival and battling the odds. In fact, I loved this book so much, it's where I got my pen name. (Arial is numerically aligned with my birth date, ergo the different spelling.)

  9. says:

    It took me a while, but I finally finished Ariel, by Steven R. Boyett.

    As the story begins, six years ago the world underwent a Change.  At least, no one's said anything about the world outside the US, but since no one seems to have come along and tried to colonize the country from a stronger base the presumption is that it was a global thing.  At 4:30 one afternoon, everything mechanical stopped working, from battery-operated watches to cars to telephones to guns.  And for various reasons lots of people have died. 

    The story is told in the first person by Pete Garey, 20 (21?) years old and on his own since the Change occurred.  Over a year ago Pete found a very young unicorn with a broken leg - and the book almost lost me right there when in a flashback the pretty little thing looked up at him and said, in a little girl voice, Bwoke. Repeatedly. (I mean, what possible reason would there be for a unicorn, communicating telepathically afaik, to mispronounce something, no matter how young?) What with one thing and another, Pete was - and is as of the time of the book - able to touch the unicorn, being still a virgin, and he helped her to heal.  He named her Ariel, and they have become partners over the last couple of years, traveling and surviving together.  They are, in fact, Familiars, which is pretty much what the common Fantasy usage is (as opposed to Buddies, which happens when a human bonds with an animal to gain control over it).  They wander the southeast without much of a goal beyond survival, until the day they discover that there is an evil sorcerer in New York City who wants her horn.  Not her, necessarily – her horn.

    I don't know.  It's a neat idea (which is why it's been used repeatedly): suddenly the laws of nature change, and nothing mechanical works but magic does, but ... shouldn't that mean the wheel wouldn't work?  I mean, guns don't fire.  Wind-up wristwatches work, but guns won't fire.  Guns have been around for hundreds of years, and aren't all that mechanical; my understanding is that it's more of a physics thing than anything else, especially with old weapons; there's no reason a revolver shouldn't work even if technology has been obliterated.  The explanation given is that Boyett hated guns, and didn't want them in his book, and so discarded logic in favor of the explanation It's magic.  Just because.  Shut up. 

    Also, Boyett was 19 when he originally wrote the book, which actually explains a great deal.  

    Something I find fascinating is that the edition I have certainly doesn't show Ariel on the cover - it comes across as a gritty urban post-apocalyptic fantasy: crumbling edifices, fire, random hub caps, and a sword.  It was, I think, a good idea not to put the glowy white unicorn on the cover.  That way lies Children's Book, which this certainly isn't.  It is, however something of a coming-of-age story, along with the post-apocalypse semi-urban fantasy tale, and a Quest too.  It's actually strangely off-putting to have a unicorn in this setting - I'm too conditioned to expect certain things when a unicorn is involved, and none of those things are present.  Ariel curses like a sailor - or rather like Pete, from whom she learned to talk ... but she loves peppermint candies. 

    I ... just don't know.  Pete's all right; he's self-absorbed, except when he's absorbed in Ariel - but if spoilers are not alarming see below for more on his self-absorption.  Ariel is all right; she can be kind of bitch, which is actually funny in a unicorn.  And she knows things she has no business knowing, but has no idea about other things; she doesn't know what a lighthouse is when she sees it, but she can always tell you what time it is, in the same sort of answer a person with a watch would: It's five till ten.  She doesn't know what Chesapeake Bay is, but she's able to identify a saddle on something else's back and can give accurate and detailed information on dragon physiology and how to kill one.  A factor in my lack of fondness for Ariel is, I think, that Pete spends so much time telling me how wonderful she is, but I don't really see it in her actions and words.  He tells me I should like her, but I'm given no reason to decide to like her.  And the punning is as much fun as a hair shirt.  In his afterword (so charmingly called Taking a dump in Lothlórien - which, by the way, he accents incorrectly), Boyett talks about how the book evenly divides people into two camps: those who loved the book and whose lives it changed, and those who flung the book against a wall and wrote him hate mail.  There is, he claims, no one who falls in the middle area.  I hate to break it to him, but yes, there is.  *raises hand*  I did not love the book.  I don't think it would have changed my life even if I'd read it in my formative years.  But I didn't fling it, and the urge to write a nasty email died quickly.  I hated the ending, but by then I didn't care all that much; I'm not sorry I read it, but I simply won't ever reread this one.

    ****SPOILERS FOLLOW (not plot, but details of setting)****

    I might have missed something, but I'm trying to work out what happened to the populace.  Because Pete and Ariel can walk for days, on or off roads, and never meet anyone, and when they do it's nearly always just a handful of people.  There were over 238 million people in the US in 1985.  There were over eleven million people in Florida, where Pete and Ariel start out the book, where Pete grew up.  Yes, lots of people have to have died in the cataclysm.  Obviously, if you were in a plane when the Change happened you were ... in trouble (my first instinct being to say screwed).  Hospitals obviously would be in peril; with generators useless as well as everything else, life support would be almost immediately ended.  There were apparently a huge number of suicides, which is understandable, and looting and murder and general lawlessness is rampant, which is (unfortunately) human.  Oh, and if you were driving along a highway and were caught going 55 in the middle of nowhere, that would be a problem.  Would there have been crashes on highways if every vehicle there was just ... stopped, and if so would they have been bad enough for fatalities?  Would forward motion keep people moving for a few minutes?  Why wouldn't brakes work - isn't that a simple matter of depression of the brake pedal applying the brake shoe to the wheel and slowing it, power brakes being only to make the process easier?  (What about elevator brakes?)  And what about everyone else?  (It's magic. Just because. Shut up.) I suppose people stuck far away from home - as I said, stuck with a useless car in the middle of nowhere, or at work in the middle of nowhere - could lead to starvation, death from exposure (though probably not in Florida), or various other sorts of accidents.  Cities have emptied, except for the dangerous and nasty.  The first thing Pete runs into the day of the Change is intruders in his house - was one of those supposed to be his brother?  If so, why?  Did the Change affect some people's minds?  The neighbor who was a policeman seems to have gone mad - oh, and the cannibal Pete has to kill right at the beginning of the book.  The loss of plumbing (did they?  Lose plumbing?) and sanitation doesn't seem to have cost lives; the moment the Change hit the air and water cleared of all pollution, with an improbable immediacy - although Boyett never says if it's a self-cleaning system, as in whether it would matter if a clutch of survivors used a river as their latrine.  Rampant disease is never mentioned.  So ...?

    Oh, right - there was apparently an immediate influx of magical beasts, many of which will happily eat human.  So that might account for a decent number of people, especially in the first few unprepared days - but ... Where the heck did they come from?  Did they all spring into being at the same time, the moment of the Change?  Or did they always exist, and were released or emerged from hiding all at once ...?  This is one of the problems with a very young writer and an equally young narrator; neither knows everything, so there are many annoying unanswered questions.

    More: why hasn't Pete ever tried to find his family?  He said that his mother worked a few hours away by car; why not leave some kind of message at the house - just in case (view spoiler)[his brother wasn't the one who killed the girl, and hasn't been killed himself (hide spoiler)]

  10. says:

    Just another story of a kid and his foul-mouthed unicorn, at least these days... but when it originally came out back in 1983, Ariel was a small treasure, a groundbreaking step in the reimagining of fantasy tropes that has since become such a major industry, and I loved it. The 2009 edition has only been slightly retconned (retroactively updated for continuity); Boyett explains why that is, in a brief Author's Note and an extensive Afterword (which is, to my mind, a major selling point of this edition).

    I approve of Boyett's restraint, even if he does spend some time second-guessing it later. A novel is an artifact in time that is best seen in the context of its time, not unthinkingly updated to conform to modern sensitivities which are themselves merely a snapshot of evanescent norms. (This is the kind of thing Connie Willis parodied in Remake (see also) , where minimum-wage grunts digitally airbrush the cigarettes out of old movies, and it's sharply distinct from what Boyett himself is doing here when he takes ancient myths and puts his own stamp on them.) And it's no excuse to wait until after the author's dead to begin making changes, by the way; there is at least one editor whose new editions of deceased sf authors' works are automatically on my do-not-read list, precisely because of his propensity for such meddling.

    But that's beside the point, really. Ariel is the work at hand, and it stands on its own as a thing of (rather profane) beauty, a post-apocalyptic fiction in which the apocalypse is not nuclear, not biological or nanotech, but magical... the Change being that singular point when Magic returned to the world, shouldering aside (most) technology without apparent effort. Guns don't work; cars don't work; electricity doesn't work... and magical creatures have returned to the world.

    Pete Garey survives the Change and its anarchic aftermath well enough, but it's not until he meets Ariel that he really acquires a purpose. That purpose is quixotic, perhaps--it's no accident that the book he's reading to Ariel while on the road is Cervantes' Don Quixote--but it's of a piece with the rest of the post-Change world. For, just as James Tiptree Jr., said, Passing in any crowd are secret people whose hidden response to beauty is the desire to tear it into bleeding meat. And there are people in Pete and Ariel's world who see unicorns as just a horse with a valuable horn.

    Boyett's not the most prolific of novelists, and Ariel is not really that long a book; I recommend savoring it well, before going on to the more recent followup (I hesitate to call it a sequel), Elegy Beach. But if you've ever wanted to know why that glowing creature was standing on a tumbledown freeway overpass in your dream, here's the place to start looking.

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