Monday, December 5, 2011

6-Star Reviews Part 16: Rainbows and Sunsets

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

How many readers remember the Scootabuse meme?  Well, here's a story written as a "take that" to the idea that Dash gets her jollies from viciously beating Scootaloo.  So, happy pegasi ahead!  Everything's after the break.

Impressions before reading:  I don't believe I've read this story before (That comment from "Chris" on the EqD page is from some other fellow who shares my name.  You can tell because, had it been mine, "definitely" would be spelled correctly).  The premise sounds pleasant, if not particularly original.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  After another unsuccessful day of crusading, Scootaloo lets slip to Applebloom and Sweetie Belle that she hasn't yet learned how to fly.  At the urging of her friends, Scoot goes to Rainbow Dash to ask for some help getting off the ground.

Thoughts after reading:  If I had to chose one word to describe this story, it would be "predictable."  I use that word with an eye to both the positive and negative qualities which it suggests.  To start, the good stuff.

All of the ponies are in-character, and the basic plot could easily have come from an episode (granted, the time skips at the end would have to be left out, but everything else was very episodic in conception).  The crusaders are appropriately childish but essentially well-meaning, Dash is cocky and brash, but has a heart of gold underneath, and Spike is...well, Spike.

The story follows a classic and time-tested arc.  Though I can't say much without giving away the ending, it hearkens back to its own origins in a manner which has, over countless generations, proven to be fundamentally appealing to audiences of every age.  The execution of this story arc is very archetypal, adding little if anything to the fundamental formula, but is no less appealing for its lack of originality.

Now, the not-so-good.

This story has literally zero twists and turns.  From the summary alone, you can probably hazard a pretty good guess what's going to happen in this fic, and at no point during the reading was I ever remotely surprised by the way in which events unfolded.  This isn't a terrible thing in and of itself; lots of popular works are thoroughly predictable from start to finish.  Take almost any of the classic cartoon Disney movies, and it's easy to tell exactly where the story's going as soon as you meet all the major characters.  However, the absence of any unpredictability does promote a sense of reader detachment.  People just don't care as much when they know what's going to happen, and this is an easy fic to skim without really involving oneself in the story.

The writing wasn't terrible, but it wasn't perfect either.  The first paragraph, for example, contains the line, "At the edge of town, the muted but unmistakable clanging of the Ponyville school bell could be heard, signaling a forthwith end to the placid scene."  Clarity, check.  Proper spelling/punctuation, check.  Concise and readable word  "Forthwith," in this context, feels out of place, among other things.  This kind of vaguely imperfect phrasing was a constant throughout the story, though never serious (and as the example suggests, it never interferes with comprehension).

The author chose to write out Applebloom's accent phonetically, to my dismay.  I am aware that there are some people who like to see character's accents rendered in dialogue (or at least, who don't mind it), but I find that anything but the smallest of nods to dialect in spelling are annoying at best, and an infringement on readability at worst.  Applebloom never becomes unreadable, but all the apostrophes and "Ah"s for "I"s were a distraction I could have done without.

And at the risk of repeating myself, I want to say that the ending, while thoroughly predictable, is no less sweet for being cliche.

Star rating:  ☆ (what does this mean?)

Along with "predictable," another word I might use to describe this story is "inoffensive."  There's nothing ground-shaking about the story or the writing, but that doesn't make it bad.  It's the literary equivalent of mashed potatoes and gravy: nothing fancy, but perfectly good for what it is.

...Unless you don't like mashed potatoes and gravy.  If that's the case, you're going to have to come up with your own analogy, because I'm pretty happy with this one the way it is.

Recommendation:  If you like episode-style stories, this is a good one.  If you're looking for the literary equivalent of comfort food, this is your fic.  There's nothing here that will exceed your expectations or challenge you in any way, but this story is perfectly good for what it is.  Go into it with that understanding, and you won't be disappointed.

Next time:  Forever, by Bobcat

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