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When I'm not reading and critiquing 6-star stories, one (fanfic-related) thing I like to do is go look at fimfiction's most recent updates. It's a very unpredictable lot; sometimes, I'll find a couple of surprisingly good stories floating in the mix. Other times, like a few afternoons back, I find three Conversion Bureau spinoffs and seven plotless grimdarks (pony torture porn: apparently, it's a pretty big thing?) occupying the ten most recent posts. Eh, they wouldn't call it a crapshoot if you didn't roll snake eyes every once in a while.
Below the break, my review of zaptiftun's The Light in the Darkness.
Impressions before reading: None. Seriously, I've got nothing. The normal and friendshipping tags don't really tell me much other than that it's not flat-out grimdark or anything, and the description's vague enough that this could be anything from an episode-style story to a maudlin character sketch to a psychological thriller in pony form. I've got no idea what I'm getting into!
Huh. This is kind of exciting.
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Pinkie has a terrible nightmare about murdering all of her friends, and Dash comforts her.
Thoughts after reading: After the first few paragraphs, I was worried for this story. It opens with an obviously Cupcakes-inspired dream fragment, uses unnecessarily pretentious descriptors (there are very few circumstances under which it is desirable, let alone needful, to describe the sky as being "cobalt-hued"), and drops a "Luna's Moon" in for good measure (although far from my least favorite pointless embellishment to come across while reading pony fanfics, "Celestia's Sun" and "Luna's Moon" may well be the most pointless). Thankfully, things did improve after that shaky start... somewhat.
Let's start with the language, since that remained a weak point throughout the story. Although the purple prose I feared I might be in store for based on the opening was thankfully avoided, story/word synergy throughout was pretty weak. Sometimes this reached comical levels, as with "Dash's mane and left shoulder were soaked, but considering the circumstances it wasn't worth noting," though more often the issues were relatively minor; the most common problem was poor word selection and/or a seeming lack of familiarity with the exact connotations of the language used (Dash smiling "whimsically" when she thinks about that day's trip to see the Wonderbolts perform, for example). Coupled with some occasional confusion over comma placement resulting in the odd run-on sentence, the overall quality of the writing was sub-par.
The characterizations of the ponies, however, turned out to be quite good. Although the idea of Pinkie dreaming that she's a psychotic murderer seems a flimsy premise to me (if there's one thing the world needs less than Cupcakes knock-offs, it's "take that"s against the same. Moreover, writing an otherwise very lighthearted story which has Pinkie's dreams of mass murder as its primary source of conflict makes for an uneasy fit), I thought that her reaction to that dream was about as in-character as could be expected. Dash's attitude was similarly well-conceived, though her dialogue was marginal. Pinkie sounded basically like Pinkie throughout the story, but Dash's voicing proved extremely variable.
As for the story itself? I think its general arc was as strong as it could be, given the premise. Unfortunately, the pacing was very poor throughout. The initial conflict is resolved about halfway through the piece, and there's no real impetus moving the action forward after that. Some ponified TV and bakery shenanigans were competently executed in their own right, but ended up feeling like an over-long denouement rather than a necessary part of the story proper. It seems strange to say considering how brief it already is, but The Light in the Darkness would have benefited from being significantly shorter.
Star rating: ★☆☆☆☆ (what does this mean?)
Although I know giving a story a single star probably makes it look like I hate it, that's not my intent here. I certainly wouldn't say this is a "bad" story; compared to some of the above-mentioned detritus I find when trawling fimfiction, it's positively sublime. "Mediocre" would be a better summary of my opinion: a marginal premise, adequately executed, with tolerable writing. Certainly, there are plenty of worse stories out there than this one, and few readers are likely to actively hate it. But is it one of the best stories this fandom has produced? In a word, no.
Recommendation: For all its flaws, this piece does a very competent job of showing Pinkie and Dash being friends and getting through a minor crisis. If that sounds like your kind of story, maybe you'll enjoy this. But those looking for high quality pacing, plotting, narration, dialogue, or concept are likely to be disappointed.
Next time: Ditzy Doo and the Blustery Day, by uSea