To read the story, click the image or follow this link
I'm in a really good mood right now, because I just found a box of thin mints in the back of the freezer. I thought I'd eaten the last of them months ago. Score!
Will Bobcat's Beyond Forever complement their chocolate-minty goodness, or will it leave a sour taste in my mouth? Find out after the break.
Impressions before reading: Well, it's a sequel to Forever, another 6-star story which I reviewed here. Since I enjoyed that story, I have high hopes for this one. On the other hand, Forever seemed pretty much complete to me. I hope this isn't a contrived attempt to tack a "happily ever after" onto the end of a perfectly satisfying, albeit depressing, story.
Zero-ish spoiler summary: When Hoity-Toity invites Photo Finish to the Grand Galloping Gala, she expects to be able to spend the night sniping about other ponies' clothing and accessories. But when the last pony on earth who she expected to see there shows up, all her plans are turned on their head.
Thoughts after reading: Let me start out by saying that, as Bobcat himself states in an author's note at the start of the story, that this cannot be read independent of Forever. If you haven't read that, you'll need to do so before you can dive into this fic. As I observed when I reviewed Phoe's sequel to Chasing Rainbows, that means that I don't feel there's much use in commenting on certain aspects of the story that carry over from its predecessor; anyone who reads Beyond Forever will (or should) have already read Forever, and that story needs to be taken as a given at this point.
As for the continuing adventures of Photo Finish? I'm glad to say that they didn't realize my fears going in, that this would be nothing but an unsatisfying attempt to give a sad story a happy ending. However, that doesn't mean my trepidation towards a sequel to what I felt was a complete narrative was unfounded. Although Forever and Beyond Forever are both perfectly fine stories in their own right, I feel like the first fic is stronger without the second as its companion.
The reason I feel that way is closely tied to why I liked the first one so much. As you'll recall, I pointed to the mutual complicity of Pinky and Photo as being the strength of that story; because both characters were ultimately responsible for their own unhappiness, their actions and circumstances were tragic, rather than merely unfortunate. This story abandons that angle, and takes a more straightforward (but to my mind, less satisfying) approach by only dealing with Photo's crisis--and only with her culpability. Moreover, it takes pains to show that she made the wrong choice at the end of the previous story. Then, she was given/gave herself a choice between two patently unpalatable options. Although the reader might wonder "what if?" the essential choice she faced was apparently legitimate. Here, we see that she was just plain wrong all along. Again, that takes what was a very nuanced character point and turns it into a much less satisfying moral cudgel with which to beat poor Photo (I don't know if that last sentence made much sense, but I like the imagery too much to change it. Hopefully it works for you too).
That's not, I hasten to add, to say that this was an unsatisfying story; in fact, I felt that its resolution was elegantly set up and totally appropriate. It's just that this story lacks the emotional punch of its predecessor, and suffers for the comparison.
The writing style in this story is similar to that in Forever, and is used to the same effect. There is somewhat more description, no doubt because Photo is the POV character instead of Pinky, and she talks less. However, Bobcat still mostly lets the dialogue guide readers, rather than the narration.
Star rating: ★★★☆☆ (what does this mean?)
Although this story may not be up to the level of its predecessor, it's still a satisfying bit of writing in its own right. The central conflict is simpler (to its detriment), but is never treated dismissively or unsatisfactorily.
Recommendation: I think most people who enjoyed Forever will like this story, too. Especially for those readers who can't stand a downer ending, this is an excellent choice. I do feel, as I already said, that both stories together form a weaker narrative than Forever has when examined alone, but there are enough good things going on in this story that I would still say it's worth the read.
Next time: The Purple Menace(s), by uSea