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Everyone else still with me? Okay, here's the deal: elections are less than three months away, and depending on what state you live in and your voting history (if any), you may need to get registered pretty soon if you want to vote in November. I have said before, and I will reiterate now, that I have no desire to discuss politics on a pony fanfic blog (I assume few if any of you do, either). However, taking the time to register, and then to cast an informed ballot, is an apolitical decision. It's a civic duty, and at the risk of sounding hopelessly idealistic, it's the cornerstone of our democracy. If you need help figuring out how to get registered, this nonpartisan, government-run site can help. Please, do your part, and make your voice heard.
Okay, with that public service message out of the way, let's move on to my review of theworstwriter's The Birds and the Bees, after the break.
Impressions before reading: Between the author's own comments regarding this story and his pen name, I detect a faint whiff of self-loathing (hopefully coupled with a healthy dose of humorous self-effacement, or else I'll feel bad for grinning at his pseudonym). Classic traits of comedians everywhere, and wouldn't you know it--here's a comedy! No random tag though, so I assume we're going more for show-style comedy than flat-out absurdity.
At only three thousand-odd words, this is the shortest story I've reviewed in a long time. I know I'm hardly the first to observe this, but the average length of pony fanfiction has dramatically increased as time has passed; nothing against epic-length tales, but it's nice to see that there's still a place for smaller works, too.
Zero-ish spoiler summary: After overhearing a bit of idle gossip from Rarity, the CMC decide to figure out where babies come from. Unsurprisingly, the ponies they ask prevaricate, which only leads to greater confusion.
Thoughts after reading: One trap that many short stories fall into is that they try to tell too much: essentially, they attempt to fit a novel-sized story into a few thousand words. While brevity is a virtue, especially in fiction writing, trying to wedge too many side-plots and asides into a short piece is a recipe for disaster. Overstuffed short stories are a constant in any fandom, but it seems to me that they're more common in the MLP fandom than normal. Perhaps the abundance of fanfic epics encourages authors to take on more, in terms of worldbuilding, backstory, and subplots, than their stories can hold?
Whatever the case, this is a trap theworstwriter avoids. The story he sets out to tell is a simple one: Applebloom, Sweetie Belle, and Scootaloo make some adults very uncomfortable by asking "the question." By not weighing down such a simple story with needless digressions, the author ensures that it remains cohesive despite choppy construction, and makes sure that the jokes don't get buried.
Unfortunately, the choppy construction is sometimes an issue. The entire story plays out like a series of setpieces, as the CMC travel from pony to pony. While these are generally funny and in-character for all involved, the repetitive structure does feel predictable, and the need to include all six of the main cast results in a series of scenes that don't always feel organically connected so much as shoehorned together. This sense is combated by several brick jokes and callbacks which attempt to connect these setpieces, with only partial success.
As for the humor itself? While generally amusing, the story was somewhat uneven. Most of the comedy, as can probably be guessed, stems from each of the ponies trying to answer--or rather, to get out of answering--the crusaders' question. Some of these did edge towards the ridiculous (I'm thinking specifically of Rainbow Dash), but I found these to be in the service of the story, by and large. However, it does take a while to get going (relatively speaking, anyway), and it isn't really until Twilight makes her appearance, nearly a quarter of the way through the story, that things really pick up. Even then, most of it isn't belly laughs (though Dash's method of dealing with the CMC did merit a snort), but the milder humor that comes from watching well-recognized characters put in uncomfortable situations. Were the subject matter less risque--there is nothing even slightly explicit or "adult" about this story, lest you worry--it could easily be considered a slice-of-life tale.
On the technical front, there are a few isolated errors, but nothing obviously systemic, and nothing that impinges upon readability. The writing is very dialogue-intensive, which I thought a good match for the story itself--over-narration can slow down a story as much as anything, and once it begins to hit its stride, The Birds and the Bees benefits from keeping its tone light and easy. A simple, lighthearted premise should generally translate into a quick, breezy read, and that's exactly what this is.
Star rating: ★★★☆☆ (what does this mean?)
This story doesn't bring a nonstop barrage of jokes like some comedies do, but it's no less enjoyable for that. It's a very simple, uncomplicated bit of character-based humor, and acquits itself quite nicely in those terms. It is a bit uneven, but the individual scenes which make it up are, for the most part, quite enjoyable.
Recommendation: Anyone looking for a little fun, light reading might want to look at this. It's an uncomplicated, straightforward bit of comedy, which makes it ideal for reading during a short break or between errands.
Next time: The Silent Shore, by The Descendant