Monday, January 16, 2012

6-Star Reviews Part 30: Getting Lucky

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

I thought about writing a post about the latest episode, Baby Cakes, but there's only one thing I really want to say: those baby ponies are creepy as hell.  Those beady eyes, those bulbous heads... I hope we don't see too much of them in the future, because they seriously weird me right out.

Also, Pinkie's letter to the Princess at the end is much funnier if you imagine that she's talking about teen pregnancy and not babysitting.  Just sayin'.

Anyway, on to my review of Chicken Vortex's Getting Lucky.  You know where!

Impressions before reading:  I read this as it was being posted, and enjoyed it a lot.  I seem to recall being disappointed by the ending, though I don't remember why.  Anyway, I remember it being very funny.

It's based on (in the sense that it uses the same characters as) a story the author wrote for EqD's April Fool's Day contest--that story, The Bestest Pranksgiving Ever, is linked there as well.  I won't comment on it other than to say that I thought it was very funny, and reading it is not required in order to understand the main story.  Now, on to the story we're actually here to review!

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Lucky, Coconut, and Dr. Hooves are three lifelong friends who've won a free trip on a luxury cruise.  Also on that cruise are the most important scientist in Equestria and his daughter.  And when it just so happens that Lucky and the daughter have a history, his friends can't help meddling...

Thoughts after reading:  There are many kinds of humor.  This story has all of them.  From wry observation ("her cutie mark was a crystal glass that was exactly half full (or half empty, depending on how you looked at it)") to meta-humor (there's a running joke that Dr. Hooves mispronounces the name of one pony, Joule, as "Jewel") to classic comebacks ("This whole time I just assumed you had no idea what was going on. That you were just living in your own little world, filled with candy and rainbows, drifting along without a care.”  “That only happens when the hospital gives me morphine.”) to slapstick ridiculousness (I can't bring myself to spoil it, but Lucky and Joules' "fight" in chapter 2 is absolutely hilarious), Getting Lucky is a nonstop barrage of comedy.

What's easy to miss behind all the jokes (and they're wonderful, don't get me wrong) is a surprisingly adult look at how we treat the people/ponies around us, and what the bedrock of those relationships really is.  I mean "adult" in the sense of maturity, not inappropriateness--although the story is labeled shipping, there's nothing in here that's that kind of "adult," thankfully.  While a casual read-through might not reveal it, there's a remarkable amount of depth to what by rights ought to be a very simple, silly story.

The ending of this story has a dramatic shift in tone, and in some ways it doesn't really fit--the lighthearted comedy which pervades the first five chapters never really sets you up for what's coming.  But in another sense, it seems almost inevitable; to conclude on a more saccharine note would have betrayed the integrity of the characters and undermined the moral, such as it is.  On second read, I still find it more of a downer than it was probably intended to be (my heart aches for Joule and the choices she makes, though I can see why others would find those choices less painful to read about than I do), but I can't argue with its appropriateness.

There were occasional problems with random words being capitalized, and the early chapters had a number of punctuation errors (though by about chapter three or four, I stopped noticing these.  The author apparently improved the technical side of his craft as he went along).  Other than that, the documents were well edited.

Because it bears repeating, I'll say it again: this is one of the funniest fanfics I've read.  With the sheer number of jokes, and the wide variety of humor present, it quite literally has something for everyone.  Okay, there's no meme-spouting, so I guess anyone hoping for that will be disappointed.  But still, the comic range shown by Chicken Vortex here is astounding.  The only thing one could complain about is that that humor isn't always consistent; the first chapter takes a while to get going, in addition to what I've previously alluded to about the ending.  Still, there's so many good lines (I thought I might quote one more here, but about a dozen came to mind) that I can hardly condemn the story for that.

Star Rating:   (what does this mean?)

This story is positively hilarious.  Some minor editing issues and an abrupt (but thematically appropriate) mood shift do nothing to change that.

Recommendation:  Those who like a little hidden depth to their stories will enjoy this one.  And I doubt anyone would find cause to complain about the humor.  I recommend this to almost anyone, with the caveat that its ending may leave the casual reader unsatisfied.

Next time:  Luna's Excellent Adventure, by Blueshift


  1. Your response to the episode is precisely how I felt about the first baby pony we saw, back in Mare-Do-Well. But that was a soulless, lifeless husk compared to the Cakes' kids, who I found surprisingly full of vivacious personality, which far outweighed any visual creep factor.

    Reading this review just makes me pine for the fact that no shipping story is going to hit 6 stars again the way things are going on EQD right now. I don't know that there are any worthy of the designation, but that the concerted effort of what is most likely a small number of trolls blocks any potential is simply heartbreaking.

    Lastly, your comment about "hidden depth" just makes me think about a story I've been catching up on recently. The short version of the title is "Ultra Eternal Prodigal Furious" and while it's only at a star-5 tag, it certainly displays that sort of unexpected depth.

    1. And while I'm here, heck yes UEPFVBSFPHEL. I spout incoherent praise for it all the time in it's comments, but I can't help take another opportunity when someone else brings it up. That story takes talent combined with the best type of genius, and I love it.

      And (commentception) I would like to say that your comment over on that story page is very impressive as well. I give it two thumbs up.

    2. That's how I reply to stories. c.c I dare say it's not overly helpful.

  2. Hngk! Right in the ventral tegmentum!

    No I kid. I actually feel quite pleased after reading your review! When someone who has a reputation for being brutally honest compliments you? That’s a nice feeling. The only thing that disappointed me was the fact that it wasn't reviewed on Friday the 13th. I would have loved the irony.

    Anyway, why not answer some questions/comments in no particular order like I did back in the olden days? Also known as a one sided, self imposed interview. Awaaay!

    Part 1: In which unasked questions get answered.

    Chris: "Getting Lucky is a nonstop barrage of comedy."

    Answer: I'm not barraging them with comedy—I’m assaulting them with comedy! This might surprise you, but when I wrote this I was actually suffering from depression. I know, right? Anyway, I never intended for it to be particularly funny. I didn’t even add a comedy tag to it when I submitted it. The pre-readers slapped that on afterwards.
    The jokes I made were actually especially difficult because I was trying to make something I thought was funny even when I was feeling sad, and I suppose in the end it worked. Is there a lesson to be learned here? Perhaps. For me that lesson is that comedy is serious business, and if you make sure to give it your all behind the scenes it will be beneficial in the long run.

    Chris:"...the first chapter takes a while to get going."

    Answer: I agree completely, and here’s another interesting little tidbit of information to explain why. The entire explanation of how Lucky got the tickets, and why exactly he was on a boat, was added after I had written the rest of the chapter. If you were to read it again you’ll probably see that there’s a definite break between the first line and Dr. Whoof and Coconut’s conversation, where I just kind of… shoved it in there. It was a seriously overlooked detail on my part, and I tried to make its addition as unobtrusive as possible, but sadly it still messed up the flow a bit. Live and learn, I guess.

    Chris: "Lucky, Coconut, and Dr. Hooves are three lifelong friends who've won a free trip on a luxury cruise."

    Answer: "Actually it's pronounced Dr. Whoof."

    "That's what I said. Dr. Hooves."

    "No, it's- oh never mind."

    Chris:"...although the story is labeled shipping, there's nothing in here that's that kind of "adult," thankfully."

    Answer: Thank you! Thank you for finally saying that you were thankful that it wasn’t that type of “adult”. Now let me tell you a story. Long ago I had a goal to write a story for each type of tag they had on EqD, and Getting Lucky was what I wrote when I got to [Shipping].
    The thing is though, that I vastly disapprove of most shipping stories. I’ve got a whole gaggle of reasons, but the main one was that for the most part the stories I’d come across weren’t about relationships, so much as they were about the things characters in relationships should be doing in private, and honestly who would want to read about such ickyness? It’s the same reason romance novels sell so poorly.
    With Getting Lucky I was determined to prove to myself that shipping didn’t have to be about that. Even though the story seemed to focus on a relationship, I wanted the real message to be about how characters of different minds handled love and friendship despite the complications and responsibilities that life demanded of them, and in a broader sense, of us all. Gooooood for me.

    1. Romance novels sell poorly? Have you SEEN Twilight?

      Or Danielle Steele for that matter.

      Then again, there is a big difference between something selling well and something having any literary value...

  3. Part 2: In which unquestioned answers get asked.

    Chris: "I seem to remember being disappointed by the ending, but I don't remember why."

    Answer: You may not remember, but I do. I do....
    For some reason that's just a problem I have with pretty much everything I write. I'm happy to say I've been researching why this might be, and I believe I'm moving closer to a solution. Something to do with my daynoomounts I believe.

    Chris:"The ending of this story has a dramatic shift in tone, and in some ways it doesn't really fit."

    Answer: That’s another problem I have. I felt it too, but I just can’t write happy endings! I’ve come to terms with that however, because I think that sometimes sad endings can do things that happy ones can’t, and sometimes it's worth it. Dr. Horrible’s sing along blog for example? I love Dr. Horrible’s sing along blog, and that ending jarred me like nobody’s business the first time I saw it. I guess when it comes down to things like that it’s a matter of graceful story building, which is something I’ve yet to fully comprehend. Probably because I’ve been too busy building a farm of rainbow sheep in Minecraft instead of studying up on the matter.

    Chris:"There were occasional problems with random words being capitalized, and the early chapters had a number of punctuation errors."

    Answer: Not being taught all the rules of grammar and punctuation is something I truly regret. I blame “To Kill a Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee. The reason being I remember learning basic grammar and punctuation in elementary school, which was great, but by the time I reached high school all I remember is being forced to read that stupid book over and over and over every year, then fill out question sheets to make sure I’d done my reading. It was English class! Not Appreciation of Southern Inbreeding and Racism class! Yes. Those were years filled with nothing but transvestite snowmen, rabid dogs, and questionable morals that gravitated in some way around alcoholics crushing children dressed as giant Christmas hams. Honestly, how did theye expect me to learn anything?
    Once again this is something I’ve been trying to improve on ever since, but there are a lot of rules, and finding reliable sources that I understand is hard to do. For the most part I just try to gauge where it seems like a pause in the conversation deserves a comma, and for anything more than that I go off on an internet adventure in search of the truth, which I repeat until I get tired of looking it up and it sticks in my brain.

    Chris:" quite literally has something for everyone. Okay, there's no meme-spouting, so I guess anyone hoping for that will be disappointed."

    Answer: Fun fact! In the original version it did! The very first line of the story as a matter of fact, which reads:
    “I’M SO HAPPY!” yelled Lucky, running around like an idiot
    Originally read:
    “I’M ON A BOAT!” yelled Lucky, running around like an idiot.
    You’ll just have to trust me on this one, but it’s true. Deal with it.

    Chris:"Because it bears repeating, I'll say it again: this is one of the funniest fanfics I've read."

    Answer: Well if it bears repeating, then I guess my gratitude bears repeating. Thank you. It means a lot to me that you say that.

    1. Why did you change "'I'M ON A BOAT!'" to "'I'M SO HAPPY!'"? It seems to me that this would satisfy the people hoping for meme-spouting without detracting from the story.

  4. Now, some random trivia, because trivia is cool:

    Part 3: In which you learn too much

    1) My favorite line of the story: It’s actually when Lucky says, “And… uh… I’m sorry?” when Joule demanded more information about why he was always nice to her. A weird choice, I know, because it doesn’t really seem like a joke at first, but here’s my reasoning. In my mind Lucky had absolutely no idea what more to tell Joule, so he fell back on what might just be the best thing anyone in his position could ever do. He apologized. That, my friends, is how the game should be played. And luckily for Lucky, he’s a natural.

    2) I once got a little too into character: In chapter one there’s a point where Lucky, after being asked how he knew the Terskas, tells a heartrending tale about how he once dated a girl, and things didn’t go too well. Afterwards Coconut awkwardly asks, “What exactly does that have to do with meeting Mr. Terska?”
    Funny in the sense that Lucky completely forgot the point of the whole explanation by getting lost in his recollection. Funnier in the sense that I completely forgot the point along the way as well, and Lucky’s apparent absentmindedness was a completely unintentional side effect of my own easily derailed train of thought; Coconut’s confusion being my response to myself when I realized what I’d done.

    3) Something that’s always confused me: I’ve heard several complaints about aspects of Getting Lucky, most of which I can completely agree with, but there’s one thing that bothered me which I’ve oddly never heard anyone else mention. And that’s the fact that Coconut and Dr. Whoof’s whole conversation about cutie marks and nicknames in the first chapter is completely pointless. Admittedly I wrote it as a very vague response to some question that arose somewhere about something to do with why ponie’s names always match their cutie marks, but from what I’ve been told you should never add anything to a story that doesn’t advance the plot somehow, and that did not. So why did no one—not even the Naziest of Nazis—seem to notice? No idea.

    4) And on that note: Although I’ve never mentioned them before, yes. Lucky, Coconut, and Dr. Whoof all have real names that are different from their nicknames. In my mind all ponies have real names, but those three I’ve actually thought about in depth. I’m keeping it a secret for now though, because who knows when something like that might come in handy?

    There. I believe I answered everything I set out to answer. That was fun. Thanks again Chris, for doing what you’re doing. You are both a gentleman and a scholar.

    1. I do believe you just outposted Chris with this comment. @_@ That's pretty epic.

  5. Well C.V., I guess you've managed to make my to-read list (frankly, it's a bit lonely right now anyway). I'll get onto it just as soon as I finish the chapter I'm drafting, edit my other two chapters, finish trying not to stress out completely, and mentally bleach Pride's 'Beautiful Moon' from my mind.

    This might take a while...

    1. Woohoo! I'm Mr. Popular!

    2. CV:

      I can't begin to express just how bad I've been feeling this week. With everything feeling like it was falling apart I just wanted something nice to take my mind of things and give myself a breather. Then I remembered I had this lined up to read.

      You absolute star. I needed this SO much. It was brilliant, and thoroughly deserving of everything nice Chris said about it.

      I could give you a big (manly) hug right about now.

    3. Woohoo! I'm Mr. Genuine Appreciation!

      That's really great to hear InquisitorM. I'm glad I could help.

  6. I have a question for you Chris, which has nothing to do with this review (By the way, I'm totally reading this,because it sounds exactly like something I'd love) A story on EqD was getting one-star bombed, and Seth was contemplating getting rid of the star system. So I was wondering, what do you think about the star rating system? Personally, I have a lot of issues with it.

    1. Now that's an interesting thought. Do you know what he'd be replacing it with?

    2. No idea. Honestly I doubt he'd do it, because it's a shorthand way of determining what's popular. The only place I've seen do it a way I really like is deviantart's critique system, where you give a different ratings for things like creativity and technique and have to explain each one. Of course, that won't work for a site like EqD.

    3. It more or less has to be completely redone from the ground up to effect any kind of appreciable change.

      And for the record, it's not one story that's been getting star-bombed, it's everything with a [Shipping] tag.

  7. Wow, thanks for all the background, CV! I always think it's interesting to hear what an author thinks of their own work. I'm glad you appreciated my review.

    Brittany: I'm aware of the problems with star-bombers, but I don't have any real suggestions to fix it. I'd hate to see a system introduced that limits/prohibits simple and anonymous ratings (I'm no fan of the lack of Anon comments on EqD as is), and without changing that I don't see any way to prevent star bombing. I guess my current attitude is "there are problems with the system, but there's nothing better to replace it with."

    Being a man who sometimes gets a little too used to status quo, I predict that within the next few months Sethisto will introduce some new/modified way to rate stories, I'll hate it, and after a little while I'll get used to it and wonder why I didn't want it to switch. We'll see.

  8. This was one of the first fics I read and still one of my favorites. I have very few favorites in the romance and oc/background pony arenas, but this one is king of the hill.
    And the ending was a beautiful example of the cycle of destruction and rebirth that infuses all things in life.

    1. *Takes off his hat and bows*

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  10. There once was a pony as granite as gray,
    Who thought as he said in an off-center way,
    "Oddity is oven when I have been gone,
    but as I did, did I leave my missing on?"