Wednesday, January 4, 2012

6-Star Reviews Part 26: Twilight October

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

This was originally scheduled to be a review of Sunshine Smiles' as-yet-incomplete Spacegirl, but a look at his/her (at a guess, let's go with his) profile on fimfiction reveals that he still has plans to finish that story.  Updating after almost a year?  I'll believe it when I see it, but for now I'll give him the benefit of the doubt.  If he ever finishes (or gives up altogether), I'll post a review then.

In the meantime, we're moving on to uSea's Twilight October, together with its sequel/continuation, October 2nd.  You know where to find it!

Impressions before reading:  I believe this is the first review I've done for a story with the comedy tag.  Comedy is tricky to judge: on the whole, humor tends to be more subjective than drama.  What gets a laugh out of one reader may just seem stupid to another, and vice-versa.

On the plus side, I'm guessing from the title that there's an excellent chance we'll see a ponified Sean Connery, or at least a joke about his Scotch/Russian accent.  Along with BRIAN BLESSED and Sean Avery (don't ask), Mr. Connery heads the famous-people-whom-Chris-would-kill-to-see-made-into-ponies trifecta.

Also, I know I already did this schtick in my review of Timelords and Terror, but how are vice-versa, trifecta, and schtick not part of spellcheck's base vocabulary?  I swear, it seems like I have to use "add to dictionary" multiple times for every post I write.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  The girls play a pillowified game of submarine vs. Equestrian Navy.  Eeyup.

Thoughts after reading:  I admit that, after wading through all the technical errors in the last two fics I reviewed, encountering a spellcheck mistake in the second sentence of this story set off some alarms (lent for leaned, if you're wondering).  Thankfully, the editing on this piece was pretty good, on the whole.  A couple of missing punctuation marks and one or two missed words between the two documents, but nothing too distracting.

The dialogue in both chapters (they're labeled as separate stories, and the first one is perfectly capable of standing alone.  But the second is essentially a continuation of the first, so to my mind they're basically two chapters of an overarching whole) is deliciously hilarious.  Although the Hunt for Red October reference in the title and the obvious thematic ties might suggest otherwise, there are no crossover aspects to the characters: this is just a story about Twilight and her friends playing a silly game that happens to very broadly relate to a famous book and movie.  As such, the ponies are free to wallow in character-based humor without trying to fit into predetermined molds established by the characters Tom Clancy created.

On the downside, that means no Sean Connery jokes.  *sigh*

The narration in the first chapter is of a significantly lower quality than the dialogue, however. While it's not terrible by any stretch, uSea's writing tends to be a bit stilted throughout. To quote a few sentences from an early passage: "Twilight nodded. That had sounded like Fluttershy and it was far enough away not to be a threat. Another voice came wafting down to them, the meaning of the words were lost in the pillows but the speaker was unmistakable. Twilight grinned, they didn't have to worry about Applejack either." I would be hard pressed to point out any definitive flaws in this section. Things I'd change, sure. Out-and-out errors... not so much. But the flow of the sentences is choppy, and reading through a passage like that does nothing to draw the reader in. As I said, this is a stark contrast to the excellent dialogue. Also, I should note that the second chapter is quite a bit better in this regard.  

There is no plot. That summary I wrote? That's literally the entirety of both chapters, right there in one sentence. There's no buildup, no real drama, and no resolution--both chapters simply end once uSea feels that the joke is in danger of getting stale. And that's okay. This piece is unapologetically a lighthearted bit of comic fluff, and as such is under no obligation to do anything other than deliver plenty of humor. And on that count, it succeeds in spades. Reading about Spike and the girls pretending to be naval vessels in a sea of pillows is goofy, silly, and occasionally adorable-y. Judged by the standards which it sets for itself, Twilight October must be commended for doing exactly what it set out to do. Moreover, it does so using character-based humor and silly but realistic situations (by "realistic situations," I mean ones that the characters on the show might conceivably find themselves in), rather than relying on meme-spouting or sheer absurdity. Not that those can't be funny in their own right, but I think that what uSea's done is both more difficult to pull off, and more satisfying to read and laugh along with.

Star rating:   (what does this mean?)

The uninspired narration in the first chapter can make the story feel draggy at times despite its brevity, but the characterization and dialogue were both spot-on.  And, as the comedy tag suggests, there's plenty to laugh about here.

Recommendation:  Although the story was not without its flaws, I'd recommend it to most readers.  It's funny, it's in-character, and it's short (the two chapters are about nine well-spaced pages combined).  I doubt it will make many peoples' list of best-ever fanfics, but as a bit of light comedy, this story is a success in my book.

Next time:  The Purloined Pony, by Chris


  1. Great review, but what's with the suddenly huge text in the second to last paragraph under Thoughts After Reading? It gives me a headache.

    Also, why does your story have to be the hardest to review? I read the whole thing, found each ending, and I have no clue how to review it.

  2. Sorry, the text sometimes does that when I copy-paste quotes in and forget to reformat. I've got it fixed now (I think).

    Also, I'm sorry you're finding my story difficult to review. Just one more reason I decided to sluff the responsibility of doing it myself :)

  3. Heh! I loved reading this one, it was so much fun.

  4. I've done a little rewording based on your comments to hopefully make them (the first one in particular) a bit better. Twilight October was the second story I wrote so there's certainly no argument from me about the writing needing work.

    Once again your review has resulted in an improved story for any future readers.
    Thank you very much!