To read the story, click the image or follow this link
Just a friendly bit of advice (a bit of advice I seem to forget every few months): make sure you have something to eat before volunteering at a food bank-type organization. Carting around meals on an empty stomach for several hours is no fun at all.
Jetfire's A Day for Spike and Twilight, below the break.
Impressions before reading: This story is set in the same continuity as It's a Dangerous Business, Going Out Your Door (which I reviewed here), but it isn't supposed to be a sequel or require that one have read that story. I remember reading it when it went up on EqD, but I don't have a lot of specific impressions about it. There wasn't a lot from this story that stuck with me, and while that's not necessarily a bad sign, it probably doesn't speak to undeniable excellence, either.
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Twilight wants to spend a day with her friends, but all the other ponies seem to be busy. That being the case, she and Spike decide to spend some time together.
Thoughts after reading: In terms of language, grammar, and narrative vision, this story is the equal of Dangerous Business, insofar as all of the above are near-flawless. However, Spike and Twilight also mimics to a large degree the pacing and structure of that story, and this turns out to be a significant flaw.
The problem is one of detail vs. space. In a novel-length story, languid pacing and frequent asides are not intrinsically problematic; indeed, they can be used to great effect to expand the story's world and build a more complete setting for that tale. But in a short story, there needs to be a certain degree of conservation of detail. Otherwise, it's far too easy for a piece to lose focus. In a 150,000 word epic, a five hundred word aside about the differences between the Modern Equestrian and Draconic languages is an interesting digression. In a 10,000 word short, it's five percent of the entire story. As such, it feels less like a welcome inclusion, and more like a plot point which failed to tie into the rest of the piece.
Which isn't to say that it isn't worthwhile in its own right; Spike and Twilight is full of interesting worldbuilding, much of which was destroyed by season two (and by Dragon Quest in particular). The problem is that these asides drown out the story they're nominally supposed to be supporting, giving the entire piece a garbled, unfocused feel.
But despite that lack of focus, there are a lot of good things going on here. Although it takes a while to develop, the dynamic between Spike and Twilight is an interesting one, and Twilight's obliviousness and worry match her show characterization almost perfectly. And although the last quarter of the story or so is a little over-the-top emotionally, I found it to be "show-silly;" that is to say, the emotion and character reaction was overdone in the same way that actual episodes often are. In a piece of fanfiction, adherence to the aesthetic of the source material can hardly be called a criticism.
Star rating: ★★★☆☆ (what does this mean?)
This story is an excellent negative example of the difference between writing a short story and a novel, and what happens when one fails to adapt to the requirements of one versus the other. But despite the muddled and directionless telling, there's a very sweet story here. And while the worldbuilding is a weakness in a narrative and structural sense, it's no less interesting in its own right for that.
Recommendation: Although it's not required reading, I imagine that most people who enjoyed It's a Dangerous Business, Going Out Your Door will also want to read this. For those who either didn't read that story, or who found it wasn't to their liking, this story may still be worth looking at. If you enjoy worldbuilding and exploration of the so-called "secondary reality," and are willing to put up with a bit of a jumble of a story to get it, this is certainly one to read.
Next time: Macintosh, by TotalOverflow