I heard of this book through the Hidden Gems Forum of paperbackswap. Someone had posted about this book as a Gem from their childhood and said it was a story about a boy and his unicorn in a post apocalyptic landscape. I was intrigued. This excellent review at Lost Books cinched my wanting to read it. Unfortunately this book was hard to find because it was last published in 1984, and I had to set up an alert for it to find it at a decent price used. That’s why I’m glad it’s being republished this year, August 25th.
This review is based on what I recall from reading it last year.
The Premise: Pete is a high school student in Florida when suddenly technology stops. Planes fall out of the sky, cars and electricity stop working. Riots begin, and Pete is cut off from his parents who work too far away from his home or school to easily walk. Civilization tumbles into its lowest form – pure chaos and everyone for themselves. Mythical creatures begin to appear, such as Ariel, a unicorn who befriends Pete. To survive Pete and Ariel journey from town to town, and living off the land for food and shelter.
My Thoughts: The narrator of the book is Pete, but the title of the book is Ariel. This is significant, because the relationship between the two of them is the driving force behind the book. In the first part of the book we see how they met and then how the two of them learn how to live off the land by going to libraries and reading. At first things are fine, but Pete is human and fallible. He wants to show off about Ariel. While there are other relationships between man and mystical beast, it isn’t at the same level where they are equals. So things change when other people learn of their relationship, which a now self-serving society wants to exploit.
Pete has to grow up in order to protect himself and Ariel. But he’s also growing up in other ways, which affect Ariel. I found him an imperfect character, not always saying or doing the smart or right thing. Sometimes he was meaner than he needed to be. This went along with the sometimes harsh nature of the book. There’s violence, bad people, terrible things happen. But good things happen too. Ariel is a good thing. There are also people willing to help them out, and Pete makes a few friends and learns some self defense and other skills from them.
One thing I wanted to note is that the writing is really well done. One of those authors where you just forget you’re reading, you’re so caught up in the story that you don’t even notice the words, you’re too busy watching what’s going on in your mind’s eye. I had visions of endless walking and desolation but with the company of friends. Even Ilona Andrews (who has her own version of our world without technology in the Kate Daniels series) is a fan.
Overall: The book really leaves an impact, even a year later I feel a bit haunted. It’s not really young adult although Pete starts off as a teen when the book begins; there are some violent and sad things that happen here which are described rather matter-of-factly. There’s a mixture of both hope and loss after reading Ariel. I plan to read Elegy which is the sequel to Ariel, thirty years later. Elegy comes out November 3rd.