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Retro Reviews: The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

Retro Reviews: The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

The Last Unicorn
Author:  Peter S. Beagle
Original Publisher and Date:  Viking Press, 1968
Still in Print:  Yes, by ROC
Current Formats and Length:  Paperback, eBook 304 pages (original length 218 pages)
Availability:  You can find it online or in bookstores easily.
ISBN:  978-0451450524

Brief History

Retro Reviews: The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
Peter S. Beagle was born April 20, 1939 in Manhattan, NY. He won a scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh for a poem he submitted and received a degree in creative writing. He would then go on to Stanford University. Beagle published his first novel, A Fine and Private Place, at the age of 19. In the 1970s, Beagle took a break from writing prose to writing screenplays until the 90s, at which point he returned to prose, poetry and nonfiction.

Peter S. Beagle wrote a novelette sequel to The Last Unicorn titled, Two Hearts, which won the 2006 Hugo Award for Best Novelette. It also won the Nebula Award for Best Novelette in 2007 and was nominated as a short fiction finalist for the World Fantasy Award. In 2006, Beagle was awarded an Inkpot Award for Outstanding Achievement in Science Fiction and Fantasy.

It took two years for Beagle to write The Last Unicorn, and he has stated that unicorns have been a part of his life in one form or another since he was a young boy. The first draft of the story was set in modern day with a two-headed demon companion. This first version of the story has since been published by Subterranean Press as The Last Unicorn: The Lost Version.

Back Cover Description

The Last Unicorn is one of the true classics of fantasy, ranking with Tolkien's The Hobbit, Le Guin's Earthsea Trilogy, and Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. Beagle writes a shimmering prose-poetry, the voice of fairy tales and childhood:
The unicorn lived in a lilac wood, and she lived all alone. She was very old, though she did not know it, and she was no longer the careless color of sea foam but rather the color of snow falling on a moonlit night. But her eyes were still clear and unwearied, and she still moved like a shadow on the sea.
The unicorn discovers that she is the last unicorn in the world, and sets off to find the others. She meets Schmendrick the Magician--whose magic seldom works, and never as he intended--when he rescues her from Mommy Fortuna's Midnight Carnival, where only some of the mythical beasts displayed are illusions. They are joined by Molly Grue, who believes in legends despite her experiences with a Robin Hood wannabe and his unmerry men. Ahead wait King Haggard and his Red Bull, who banished unicorns from the land.

This is a book no fantasy reader should miss; Beagle argues brilliantly the need for magic in our lives and the folly of forgetting to dream. --Nona Vero

Brannigan's Review

If you're like me, your first exposure to The Last Unicorn came from the 1982 film by the same title. I was six year's old when I saw this and it has forever been a part of my life. The movie is beautiful, terrifying and peculiar. That being said, I've never tried to read the book. I was afraid the book wouldn't live up to the memories of my childhood, and the way the film etched itself in my imagination. It's how most of us book readers feel about books turned to film, but in this case it was in reverse for me. However, for your benefit, I was willing to attack a cherished memory and read the book.

I really had nothing to fear as I began to read the book. I even heard America playing in the background (little inside wink to those of you who've seen the movie). After only reading 50 pages, I had to stop and do a little research and just as I had suspected Peter S. Beagle wrote the screenplay for the movie. I was both thrilled and a little worried. Would the book be word for word the script of the movie? Would the book be a novelization of the film? I wanted more depth and deleted scenes. Thankfully, as I continued to read I did get more from the book than what's in the film. Something the film was not able to capture as well as the novel is the lyrical skill of Peter S. Beagle--the man can write. I kept stopping to copy down sections of the book that I found profound and beautiful. In fact, it's inspired an additional section to the retro review, which you'll find below.

The story itself is a modern fairytale. It's whimsical and yet at the same time you can tell it was written in the 60s. The story holds deep meaning in each of the character's struggles and yet they at first appear to be very one dimensional. The more you stop and think about what each of them represent, the more you see in the shadows of the book. On the surface, we see Schmendrick the magician as the comic relief guide for the unicorn, but the more we discover about the magician, there is a deep sadness and longing to be the man he is destined to be. In the end, he has to allow one character's story and hope for some happiness to end, so his life may truly begin. The villain King Haggard is a man who has been on an endless quest to find something to believe in, to bring him peace, only to find disappointment at the end of every answer. It's the seeking that has robbed him of happiness and turned him into a bitter vile man. Of course, these are my own interpretations, which for me is an example of any great fairytale.

I don't really have anything bad to say about the book, besides maybe my own personal dislike of the occasional insertion of modern speech, objects or activities that people from that time frame would know nothing about. If you've ever read The Once and Future King, you might know what I'm talking about. I don't want to be more obvious, as I don't want to draw your attention to it as you read the book.

If you're a fan of fantasy and fairytales, or looking for a book to read to your children, The Last Unicorn is for you. If there’s still a child inside you that finds beauty in the world at the most odd times, this is a book for you. If you're none of these things, you should still read this book and see if you might not grow a kinder gentler you inside yourself to be used on special occasions. This is a book to own and add to your personal library. I'm personally going to try to find a nice hardcover I can pass on to my grandchildren. The book is perfect for any age, but for the wee young ones be aware that there are a few scary moments, so take the time to read the book before reading it to a small child. You'll know what I mean. I have no hesitation in recommending this book to everyone alive and some recently passed.

Favorite Quotes from the Book

“Unicorns are for beginnings, for innocence and purity, for newness. Unicorns are for young girls.” Schmendrick in The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

“[Y]ou get into the habit of rescuing people, breaking enchantments, challenging the wicked duke in fair combat--it’s hard to give up being a hero, once you get used to it.” Prince Lir in The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

Wednesday Comics on Thursday - Novels to Comics - September 30, 2010

Yesterday was an extremely light comic book day for me. While that makes my wallet ecstatic, it makes me sad. Nonetheless, I did pick up some comics that I'm really enjoying so it's all good.

Three of the comics that I picked up are based on or are adaptions of novels.

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

It was made into an animated film in 1982. Mia Farrow was the Unicorn. Christopher Lee voiced the bad guy, King Haggard.

A brave unicorn and a magician fight an evil king who is obsessed with attempting to capture the world's unicorns. IMDB

And it's a gorgeous comic from IDW Publishing.

As the threat of the terrifying and mysterious Red Bull looms, so does the dark and foreboding castle of King Haggard, the keeper of the bull. The Unicorn, the magician Schmendrick, and Molly brave ahead until they are forced to defend the unicorn from certain death. But Schmendrick’s solution may make her wish she hadn’t survived at any cost.
Issue 4, Cover A

Issue 4, Cover B

Page 4

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

 I love the title. Brilliant. This is the book that inspired the Blade Runner film.

Here's the trailer from Blade Runner:

The comic that I got yesterday is Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Dust to Dust from BOOM! Studios. It's the authorized prequel.

A science-fiction publishing event! Who hunted androids before Rick Deckard? Taking place immediately after World War Terminus ends, the problems with artificial life - androids - become apparent. The government decides they must become targets, hunted down, but who will do the dirty work? Two men are assigned: Malcolm Reed, a 'special' human with the power to feel others' emotions, and Charlie Victor, who's the perfect man for the job - or is he? Meanwhile Samantha Wu, a Stanford biologist, fights to save the last of the world's animals. John W. Campbell Award-nominee Chris Roberson writes the prequel to John W. Campbell Memorial Award-winner Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, one of the greatest science fiction novels ever published. BOOM! Studios
Issue 5

The Eye of the World, The Wheel of Time 1 by Robert Jordan

A movie is in the works for The Eye of the World. The comic is published by Dynamite.

About Issue 5:
The next chapter in the ROBERT JORDAN'S thrilling WHEEL OF TIME! Thanks to Moiraine, Rand Al'Thor has found out why his quiet life has erupted into chaos and what the myrddraal seeks -- and those answers will change his life forever. Plagued with visions of a great evil, and forced to leave the only home he's ever known, THE EYE OF THE WORLD continues here! DYNAMITE
Issue 5

Apparently I really like comics based on novels!
Retro Reviews: The Last Unicorn by Peter S. BeagleWednesday Comics on Thursday - Novels to Comics - September 30, 2010

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