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Ariel (1983)
Fiction Review by The Gravedigger

Ariel (1983) It's five years since the world has changed. One day, at 4:30 in the afternoon, the laws of physics changed. Electricity no longer works, nor do bullets. And suddenly the world is filled with magical creatures, like Manticores and Griffons. Twenty year-old Pete has been surviving on his own. It's a surprise to him when he encounters a wounded Unicorn in the forest, a creature he names Ariel. She can talk, sort of like a baby at first, but as the year passes her vocabulary improves. The two are inseparable.

When they come to a city word gets around that there's a unicorn and some people want her horn since its supposed to have healing properties. Word gets to a necromancer in New York City and he sends someone to scope out the situation. By now Pete has befriended a group of people, one of them being a swordsman by the name of Malachi. He starts training Pete and in the next few months he becomes an expert. Then one day a thug riding a Griffin appears, wanting the unicorn horn for the Necromancer. They all protect Ariel but one of the men is killed. And the Griffin rider gets one of his eyes clawed out.

Malachi makes a promise to the unicorn and says he'll stop the magician in New York, though it also has to do with a link to the Griffin rider. Pete and Ariel follow and along the way pick up another member of their group, Shaunessy, a young woman who is enamored with the creature and wants to help. She also begins developing feelings for Pete, though he rejects her. All his emotions are directed towards the Unicorn, who he wishes was a real woman. You see, Shaunessy can't touch Ariel because she's "impure" and since Pete has never had sex he can. So Shaunessy's advances are a threat, in a way.

Ariel is captured in New York and they are taken prisoner at the top of the Empire State Building, where the necromancer resides. Pete escapes with Ariel's urging and vows to return with help. But her time is limited since she'll die in captivity. Pete meets up with a group of soldiers from Washington D.C who are spying on the New Yorkers and goes back with them. They plan on invading them because they had been chased off their land. So Pete and a small group, including the reunited Malachi, head off to the city while an army of a few hundred follows behind them.

The battle atop the Empire State Building is epic and many die. But Pete does find his companion and manages to free her, as he promised.

If you enjoy post-apocalyptic tales you'll enjoy this, as the magical aspects are limited, sort of similar to S.M. Stirling's DIES THE FIRE series. Although the main character is a unicorn it's definitely not a "girly" story. There's plenty of violence and gory bloodshed. I enjoyed this even more than Peter S. Beagle's THE LAST UNICORN. ARIEL is a profoundly sad and powerful story.

It was recently reprinted as a hard cover, as the author's sequel, ELEGY BEACH, just came out on the stands. That is next on my reading list.

author: Steven R. Boyett

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