First of all - I have to apologize for taking so long to post. I was trying for a two-post-a-week regimen, but work, as in that thing I get paid to do, has taken over my life! Well, that and I went to Napa for my 3rd Anniversary over Memorial Day weekend (pics up on Facebook for my Facebook friends).
I have not fallen off the planet and I have not abandoned my blog. Promise.
On to bigger and better discussion topics.
Today I'd like to talk about endings. In particular, bad endings.
I just finished reading a book that I had read somewhere was a classic contemporary fantasy novel. The premise sounded interesting, if a little odd, and it was cheap on the Amazon Kindle. So I bought it. The book is called "Ariel" and was written by Steve Boyett, published in 1983.
The novel is set on Earth after a cataclysmic change; a change that altered the laws of physics and brought magic to the world, including mythical creatures like unicorns and griffins. Technology no longer works, not even bicycles (which I thought was a little weird considering bicycles are powered by human movement, not any kind of fuel combustion, but supposedly no modern technology could function under the new laws of physics. Bows and arrows were fine. Gravity functions as you would expect it to. Just nothing with a gear or engine I guess. Anyway...)
The story follows a sixteen year old boy named Pete who's caught at school at the time of the change. He walks the several miles home to find his house being invaded by a policeman-turned-thug (in less than 24 hours mind you), his friend is raped and killed, he's beat up and left for dead, but survives by the skin of his teeth or some other miracle. So life on Earth is turned upside down. A few years later he is bathing in a lake when a unicorn walks out of the bushes. The unicorn can talk. Her name is Ariel. They become friends and go-a-wandering.
All right, there's the set-up. Why did I choose this book, you ask? I thought it might be educational. It's considered by some to be a classic. So I read it. It took me awhile to make it all the way through, but I did. I regret it.
Unfortunately, the story ended on a sour note, at least for me. A lot of the primary supporting characters end up dead, Ariel runs away from Pete despite the fact that he's just saved her from an evil sorcerer who wants her horn, Pete (who's 21 at this point) runs after her but is seduced by a woman who knows that if he has sex he won't be able to touch Ariel ever again (unicorns can only be touched by someone who is "pure".) So the story ends with Ariel crying and leaving forever, Pete angry with himself and depressed at losing his "familiar", and the woman who took his virginity living with him even though he mostly ignores and mistreats her.
The ending to this novel has haunted me since I finished it almost a week ago. For whatever reason, I just can't let it go. Someone should have been happy at the end. I understand that it's a coming of age tale and Pete had to have sex at some point, so there was going to come a time when he couldn't stay with Ariel anymore, but did have to end with everyone depressed? What's the point of becoming an adult if there's nothing to look forward to? Why does taking on responsibility have to mean that you lose what you love? It left a bad taste in my mouth.
So what's the lesson here? People in your story can die. Sometimes they should die. Bad things can happen, and your hero doesn't have to be (probably shouldn't be) perfect with everything turning out all right. But the story can't end on a down note. There has to be hope. There has to be love or loyalty or some other redeeming quality. There has to be something to look forward to. Without any of those elements, who's going to want to read the sequel?
Current word count on the novel: 35,024