Wednesday, December 28, 2011

6-Star Reviews Part 23: Storm

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

It's funny; when I started doing these reviews, I assumed that I'd learn to do them more quickly as I found my groove.  Instead, I find myself spending more and more time evaluating each passing story.  No doubt my inability to streamline the read/analyze/review process is the result of some deep-seated mental defect.

So it is that I present my I-spent-entirely-too-long-on-this look at Kits' Storm, after the break.

Impressions before reading:  The tag says sad, and the title picture is of Rainbow Dash.  In fanfics, that combination usually means broken wings + emo crying.  But I have faith; this must have gotten six-starred for a reason, and I'm going to assume it isn't just another angst-filled excuse to mutilate my favorite pony.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  When the storm of the century hits Ponyville, every pony must go beyond themselves to battle the elements and save their town.

Thoughts after reading:  Despite the picture, this story isn't primarily about Dash.  In fact, it's not primarily about any pony in particular.  Instead, it examines how the main six might react to a situation more dire than any they're liable to encounter in the TV show.  Kits establishes early on how high the stakes are, and then shows the reader what each pony does both to combat the storm, and to deal with the aftermath.

The story skips from character to character every few paragraphs, and jumps freely from the night of the storm to the day(s?) after.  The jumps are mostly easy to follow, though the order of events after the weather has been brought back under control isn't always clear.  By writing in this style, the author mimics the sometimes-garbled, invariably incomplete way that the mind recalls traumatic events.  I found the overall effect to be quite, er, effective.

The writing, fittingly considering this fic's construction, is bare and direct.  Events and actions are expressed clearly and concisely, letting the reader gauge their weight based on character reactions and the occasional bit of inner monologue.  From a technical standpoint, there are a number of errors of omission (missing commas, missing letters from words, etc.), but although they mar the story somewhat, the end result is far from unreadable.  The only really distracting thing was the inconsistent way character thoughts were handled.  Sometimes, they appeared inside secondary quotation marks.  Other times, they appeared to be inserted directly into the narration.

As an examination of the main cast under pressure, this story does a wonderful job.  Rarity and Fluttershy are especially well-written, but each of the six react in ways that speak to their particular strengths of character.  Voicing throughout the story is not bad, though both Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash seem a little over-written at times; that might just be my response to the occasional absence of contractions in their dialogue, however.

I do wish that Kits had either done more or less with the storm itself.  As it is, he tells us that in a single day, virtually all of Equestria has been totally destroyed by mile-wide twisters.  Even if we take the pegasi to be weather managers rather than weather creators, this is obviously not natural.  Yet we are given no explanation for the storm.  To a certain extent, that's understandable; the story isn't about Equestria's weather, it's about placing familiar characters in a crucible and seeing how they react.  But when you take the time to establish so clearly that this storm is beyond any normal accounting, you must expect that readers will desire some explanation.  I wish that either Kits had provided one, or had reduced the scope of the disaster--a system of tornadoes hitting the immediate area would have provided a similar chance to engage in the character examination which drives this story, without crying out for a more in-depth explanation.

In the name of fair warning, I must point out that this story does involve ponies dying (no, not Dash).  Although it's thematically appropriate and is not dealt with in a tasteless or vulgar manner, I understand that not everyone wants to read about the Grim Reaper making his rounds through Ponyville.

Star rating:   (what does this mean?)

The tight focus on providing only highlights from the experiences of each of the main six sometimes leaves too much unexplained, but overall proves to be a powerful and effective story design.

Recommendation:  For anyone who doesn't mind their fanfics a little on the dark side (there's no blood or gore, but it's definitely several degrees more grim than the show ever gets), this is an excellent character study.

Next time: Ah Ain't Got No Ack-cent! by Conner Cogwork


  1. So. This is the first time anypony has bothered to actually review any of my writing in any meaningful way. Thanks!
    Seriously. This is totally helpful for the most part.

    Oh god. That picture!
    Look which Blog Pony made the post and you'll see why. Cereal has a habit of completely and totally inappropriate images going with what he posts. I didn't real I could send my own image at the time or I would have.

    The funny story is he ALSO posted it after it was rejected and I said I would work on it a bit more. I had just fired an email off to my editor saying he could look at my dA again. Then I went to sleep and woke up with the fic on EqD.

    > By writing in this style, the author mimics the sometimes-garbled, invariably incomplete way that the mind recalls traumatic events.
    You give me way too much credit. My intention was to relieve the reader of the tension and burden of having to worry about the mane 6 by showing them alive. I wanted to write a tragic slice-of-life fic and focus on character reactions, not a suspense thriller.

    >The only really distracting thing was the inconsistent way character thoughts were handled.
    I'll try to go back and fix those. At the time, I only used quotations for literal thoughts. As my first piece of fiction in 16 years, I'm sure I let my PoV slip now and then.

    >more or less with the storm itself.
    Would it help if you knew I wrote this on Apr 29th? Two days earlier My entire state was hammered by a supercell. The idea was conceived as I sat in the tub with my wife and kid. Never have I wished that a cartoon character was real.
    For more: I wasn't writing an adventure. There is no 'bad guy'.
    For less: I could, and probably should, have toned it down to just Ponyville. You're right in that it is more accessible that way.

    I agree totally that it's not 6 star. Were I to rate it today, it would fall into the 4 star bin. But I'm a total sucker for characterization over plot

    Thanks again for taking time to review this!

  2. Also, have fun with Conner's fics. He's one of the better writers in the fandom.

  3. I'm glad you found my review useful, Kits. As a resident of tornado alley myself, I'm well acquainted with the uncertainty and fear of crouching under the stairs and waiting for the alarms to shut off (though at least around here tornadoes are a regular occurrence, and one which cities and towns are always prepared for). Knowing that this fanfic had its genesis in the 2011 Super Outbreak does put the whole story in perspective. Thanks for taking the time to comment on my review, and provide some additional insights.