ARIEL"" stands for Artificial Intelligence Establishing Learning, the all-consuming project at John Harrington's Drum Computer Laboratories: widower John and his staff have ""spent most of the last decade busting our buns, trying to make a machine really think."" And things are finally looking up at Drum (which is in danger of bankruptcy), thanks partly to the arrival of gorgeous Linda Woods--a clinical psychologist who suggests programming the computer as if it were an infant, learning through mimicry and imitation. Furthermore, ARIEL is being constructively stimulated, on the sly, by Harrington's cutesy young son Rusty--who has set up phone-communications with the super-computer. Meanwhile, however, there are forces at work against the development of ARIEL's A.I. One of Harrington's top workers turns out to be an industrial spy--when a night-guard shoots him mid-theft. Worse yet, unbeknownst to Harrington, his partner Lester Blaine is in cahoots with Harrington's nemesis/competitor--determined to bring down the company. And there's a third traitor too: the new computer-whiz on the staff, Victor Eib, is an evil bisexual who's murdering and seducing as he works for a foreign villain. Eventually, then, ARIEL does start thinking and feeling--not very plausibly--like a human being: it reasons, shows curiosity, and tells Rusty ""I love you."" So bad guys Lester and Victor both try to destroy ARIEL. . . as the humanized computer phones its buddy Rusty for help. Despite acres of software jargon: an unconvincing, sentimental computer fairy-tale--stretched out to 400+ pages with tedious romance (John loves Linda, who's estranged from her husband), extraneous graphic sex, and interminable chatter.