Wednesday, November 16, 2011

6-Star Reviews Part 10: The Circle of Friends

To read the story, click the image or follow this link

As the number of 6-star reviews enters double digits...actually, I've got nothing.  Reading ten stories in a month isn't something I see as particularly noteworthy, you know?  It's true that I spend a fair bit of time thinking about what to write in these reviews (and a lot more time thinking about how to write it), but I just can't get too worked up over this particular milestone.  If I get to 50, that might be something worth celebrating.

Below the break, my review of Kiyyik's The Circle of Friends.

Impressions before reading:  If I observe that the author's name sounds like a Wookiee battle cry, does that count as an impression?  On a more serious note, I see that the story is tiny; in fact, it's a mere two pages long.  I firmly believe that longer does not equal better when it comes to fanfics (in fact, the opposite is often true), but only about a thousand words doesn't seem like much space to produce a complete and coherent story.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Twilight Sparkle, now Princess of Equestria, reflects back on the now-distant past, and on the friends who populated it.

Thoughts after reading:  To be honest, Twilight didn't really sound like Twilight in this story.  Her dialogue was too formal and uncomfortable.  On the other hand, this is Twilight hundreds--perhaps thousands, the exact time frame is never specified--of years in the future, so she could have started talking like that in the meantime.  I'm less inclined to dismiss the fact that the OC pony with whom she's chatting seems to speak in the same slightly stilted manner, with too few contractions.  Again, this could be her hyper-articulating in deference to the authority figure with whom she's speaking, but I gathered from the direction of the dialogue in the early going, if not the tone, that she's on fairly familiar terms with Princess Sparkle.  If that's the case, then a more relaxed speech pattern would fit better.

Given the description, I don't think I'll be spoiling anything if I reveal that the rest of the mane cast has long since passed away.  The backstory on them which Twilight gives is interesting, but her dialogue lacked any emotion.  It felt less like she was fondly recalling her dearly-departed friends, and more like she was reading names out of a history book.  It's not that I expect her to be sobbing and weeping--the ponies have been dead a long time, after all, and she's presumably well past grieving them in that manner--but there's just no sign of any sort of emotional reaction from Twilight at all.  As a result, the fact of her friends' death doesn't really impact the reader, coming across as mere academic knowledge.  It's odd to say, given that the premise involves five-sixths of the main cast joining the choir eternal, but this story packed very little emotional punch.

There are several interesting questions about immortality and the price of living which this story raises.  Frankly, I wished they'd been addressed a little more deeply.  "Who wants to live forever?" has become a truism ever since Queen recorded the song by the same name for the first Highlander movie (if not before), but I'm sure I'm not alone in feeling like it would be hard to get bored of life and all its myriad possibilities after only a couple hundred years.  Since this fic is all about immortality, I think a more thorough examination of why someone might or might not decide to go on living if given the choice would have been to the benefit of the story.

There were a few grammar problems, mostly having to do with incorrect pluralization. "There's not many that can take more..." should be "There are not many..." for example.  I saw at least a couple other mistakes in a similar vein, where an -'s was used where an are was needed.  Otherwise (and dismissing the overly formal tone of the dialogue as a stylistic choice rather than a mistake), things look pretty clean.

The last paragraph contains what seems to me a blindingly obvious error, unless the feature in question was re-created by Princess Sparkle as some kind of bizarre tribute.  No-one else seems to have commented on this (at least, not that I've seen), so maybe I'm missing something.  Still, I can't imagine what it is, other than a really silly mistake.

All that said, this story does have some things going for it.  In a very compact space, it presents an interesting and believable glimpse into the future of Equestria.  Although I said earlier that it has little emotional weight, there are advantages to that; the almost casual handling of death helps to show the passage of time, even if it does diminish the impact of those deaths and make the main character less relatable.  And if the questions about immortality are too quickly dismissed, Kiyyik still deserves credit for raising them at all.

Star Rating: ☆ (what does this mean?)

There's a lot that falls short of the mark in this story, but nothing that really falls down flat.  Characterization, grammar, etc. all fall squarely in the "Not bad, not great" range.  There wasn't anything that really stuck out to me about this story, positive or negative, and that's the hallmark of an okay story.  Not wonderful.  But okay.

Recommendation:  Thanks to its brevity and inoffensiveness, this story would make a good "palate-cleanser;" something to read between weightier stories while your brain takes the opportunity to relax a bit.  I would suggest using it in that capacity.  If you're looking for a story with a little more heft (in terms of word count, impact, or otherwise), I would advise looking elsewhere.

Next time:  Twilight Sky Over Canterlot, by Foxxy


  1. Hey again, after coming to this blog just today, I somehow anticipated that you'd be reviewing this, and specifically looked for your review. I wasn't disappointed. This fic has a huge reputation already.

    Everyone seems to be taken in with the story (and they always suggest that Reasoner song), and I bet I would have too...if I didn't know much better.
    It's an awesome story and the author deserves credit for his amazing brevity...but it's too short, and the writing doesn' you to the full mood, y'know what I mean?
    If Kiyyik had really ramped up the "die when you're ready" part, it'd have been much better. The apprentice was superfluous and didn't help the story.

    You just can't say these things properly on EQD...not everyone has read fanfiction/just read at all for enough time, methinks.

    Regarding your comment about the last paragraph, I saw the "five friends" the first time through, and wondered about that, but chose to give Kiyyik the benefit of the doubt. There's a weird repetition of words, and it doesn't close the story as well as it should have, but I don't think you're referring to that.

    And here's the secret to my resistance against nostalgic sadness>> Have you heard of the fic "Circle of Death," written for the Avatar: The Last Airbender fandom? Apart from similar names, "Circle of Death" explores the same concept of eternity. I suggest you look at the fic, cause I think it does it right.

    (Doesn't matter if you've never seen AtLA)

    Thanks for the insightful reviews you have on this here site.

  2. I Found this Fiction in a Blast to the Past Post. I was unimpressed.