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Thomas Voeckler won the polka-dot jersey! If you aren't a cycling fan, take my word for it that that's a good thing. Also, be sure not to ask regular commenter and guest blogger Mystic about Cadel Evans; probably kind of a sore subject.
On a related note, Blogger has a tool which tracks referrals from Google. It seems that this site has gotten several hits in the last week from people searching for "Thomas Voeckler Fanfiction." Just a heads-up: if anyone writes a high-quality Voeckler/MLP crossover fanfic and sends it to me, I'm gonna post it. Clearly, there's a demand for this, and I for one embrace the coming glut of pro cycling/pony hybrids.
Anyway, my review of ROBCakeran53's My Little Dashie, below the break.
Impressions before reading: Much like Past Sins, this story is considered by many to be one of the greatest stories in the fandom, and by many others to be absolute drivel. Sometimes I wonder if I even need to bother reviewing such stories; they're so well-known, surely my opinion isn't going to be anyone's tipping point, right? But more than a few readers have told me that my reviews of incredibly popular stories like Past Sins or Fallout: Equestria convinced them to either read or not read those stories, so I guess the answer to my question is "wrong." In any case, I haven't read this one before, and I still remember my original exposure to it. I went to Equestria Daily a few hours after it was posted, saw that it already had several hundred star ratings, and said to myself, "Better see what all the fuss is about." Then I read a page or two, decided I wasn't really interested, and closed the browser tab. And that was the end of that... until this review.
Many fans of this story say that it is one of the most emotionally powerful things they've ever read. Those with less charitable views often accuse it of being a transparent wish-fulfillment trip with a needless and amateurish punch to the gut for an ending. I guess it's time to see what I think.
Zero-ish spoiler summary: An unnamed brony living in
Thoughts after reading: There are a lot of very uncharitable things I could say about this story. I could point out that the "explanation" for where lil' Dash came from is the literary equivalent of a half-hearted shrug, and thus that the entire premise for the story comes across as a gigantic asspull. I could talk about the sheer improbability of Dash performing a sonic rainboom in the middle of a city (no matter how sparsely populated) without anyone noticing, or making a fuss over everyone's windows being blown out (surely the FBI would be all over a mysterious explosion in an urban center)? I could mention how utterly contrived the ending is, conspiring through vague proclamations rather than actual reasons to bring about a bittersweet denouement.
I could say all of this (and much more), and it's all absolutely true. But it's also missing the point. My Little Dashie doesn't concern itself with plausibility, and to point out how totally absurd its major beats are would be the equivalent of grousing about pro wrestling being fake. Of course it is; the question is, can you enjoy it, even knowing that?
Unfortunately, there are some major problems even if one accepts the premise. For myself, the biggest was that, for a story which is supposed to be about emotional growth, there's very little actual growth here. In essence, it's not clear why, or in what way, the narrator is a better person for having known Dash. He gets a better job, but there's no indication that that has anything to do with raising a pegasus. He doesn't go out and make some friends, start dating, or do anything else to expand his social circle beyond the pony he's caring for. Basically the only thing we can say for him is that raising Dash got him to feel less depressed. While that's definitely not a bad thing, it hardly represents significant character development.
Dash, meanwhile, seems to have a pretty horrifying life. Trapped in a world where she cannot interact with anyone except the narrator for fear of being carted away by Big Brother (or something), she's forced to live out the entirety of the story in strict isolation. As more and more time passes with each break in the narrative, the horror of being unable to interact with anyone, ever, save the lone person with whom you live, becomes impossible to ignore. And yet, this complete lack of social interaction seems to have no adverse effects on her whatsoever, and the narrator never seems particularly bothered by the idea that she is totally dependent on him for literally everything. Again, for a story which eschews all pretense of plausibility in favor of playing a cosmic game of "what if?," this is a glaring weakness. If the story isn't going to actually look at how a man raising a sapient pegasus might impact the both of them, then what's the point?
Well, there is of course a strong aspect of wish fulfillment to this story. The narrator is purposely made as bland as possible, and given virtually no one outside of Dash herself to interact with, which makes it easy to place oneself in his shoes, if one desires. What pony fan hasn't idly dreamed of what it would be like to meet one of the show's stars at one point or another, after all? There's no question that this story makes for easy daydream fodder. But that's not the same as saying it's a good story.
The writing quality of the story is hard to judge, since it's unclear how much of the bland telling and unconvincing dialogue was an attempt to render the narrator's voice in print. What I can say is this: even if the overwrought metaphors, unfocused, rambling exposition, and dull construction were deliberate on the author's part, they were ultimately a poor choice. The final product is so bogged down by its subpar construction that even in its better moments, it never feels particularly exciting, nor does it engender reader investment (again, barring those who read themselves into the narrative).
There were a few better moments, I admit. The idea that Dash would be a NASCAR fan is amusing, but makes perfect sense. Some of the early bumbling on the narrator's part (what do pegasi eat? Can they talk in the real world, or is that a cartoon-only thing?) are amusing, and show that at least some thought was put into how a human might deal with such an unexpected development. Indeed, I really liked the fact that the narrator didn't freak out when he initially discovered her; to me, that felt much more natural than overreaction would have.
But even at its best, this just isn't a particularly good story. Poor writing, poor characterization, and some significant failures to consider the sickening consequences of some of the events portrayed (as with the spell which Celestia casts at the end) don't add up to anything especially positive.
Star rating: ★☆☆☆☆ (what does this mean?)
The nicest thing I can say about this story is that it does at least part of what it sets out to do. In terms of creating an emotional investment in the characters, I think it falls flat. But given a reader who is willing to provide the story with a personal investment (albeit one unearned by the author), this would do a great job of evoking an emotional reaction. I think that the praise which many of its admirers have showered it with reflects that.
But that's still a whole world away from saying that My Little Dashie is a piece of quality literature. Simply put, there's no good reason to list this as one of the best stories in the fandom.
Recommendation: Like Past Sins, a lot of people eventually consume this because it's so heavily debated. But for anyone looking to read it on its own merits, I would ask you this question: do you want to imagine how much better you'd feel about yourself if you could raise one of the ponies from the show from fillyhood? If the answer is yes, and if you're willing to suspend all disbelief for the sake of the story, go ahead and give this one a try. For everyone else, I can't recommend this.
Next time: Silent Ponyville, by Jake Heritagu