To read the story, click the image or follow this link
In a shameless bout of self-promotion, I'd like to mention that my CYOA, The Purloined Pony, was featured in one of EqD's semi-regular Blast from the Past posts. Anyway, it made me feel good to know that someone remembered it, and liked it well enough to get it into that collection (along with the excellent if incomplete Fair Feather Friends, the maddeningly inconsistent and incomplete Memories of Days Long Past, and a story I haven't read).
On a semi-related note, it's a shame to see the state that EqD's comment section is in. Once they moved over to IntenseDebate, I stopped commenting on that site altogether (I wasn't prepared to make a new online account just so I could comment on a pony blog), and haven't really looked down there since. If the comments on that post are any indication though... it's not youtube, but it's not all that far off, either.
Below the break, my review John Perry's Rest Stop.
Impressions before reading: This author has written multiple stories that are on my radar (his Legion of Gloom and The Final Quest of Star Swirl the Bearded have both been recommended to me previously), but I've never actually managed to make time to read one of his stories. However I've heard some more, let's say, "mixed" comments about Rest Stop.
Of course, I don't know one way or the other--yet. The tag and description don't give me a lot to go on, but nothing is triggering any warning sirens right off the bat. I guess we'll see.
Zero-ish spoiler summary: During a rest stop on a long train ride, Twilight shares a chance encounter with a past acquaintance.
Thoughts after reading: To begin: the author very explicitly doesn't mention who the "past acquaintance" is in the description, intending that to be a surprise. Although I don't think it really detracts from the story to know who Twilight meets, I can respect that desire, so we'll just go with "the other pony" for purposes of this review.
If I had to pick a word to describe this story, it would be "mundane." It is a story in which nothing happens, wrapped around a bit of banal, everyday introspection. Although I realize that calling something banal (or mundane, for that matter) hardly sounds like a complement, I don't necessarily mean it negatively; I'm just trying to say that what's at the heart of this story isn't so much world-shattering revelations as it is questions anyone might ask themselves when grappling with a brief bout of boredom. This can be fertile ground if carefully handled, but unfortunately there's little to elevate this piece above its simple but unexceptional premise.
Perhaps the biggest problem was the writing (though not the editing or technical construction, which were near-flawless). A laconic, slow-paced narrative style, falling heavily on the "tell" side of the show-vs.-tell scale, makes the first half of this story a chore to get through. In a sense, this is quite fitting: Twilight is bored and frustrated, so the lugubrious structure of the early going fits the narrative. Still, if this was deliberate, it was dramatically overdone--the first couple thousand words are scenery, recounting of the events which set Twilight on the train, and some idle musings and recollections, none of which are presented in a terribly engaging manner.
When the other pony shows up, the story becomes a bit more lively, but (without going into too much detail) doesn't have much depth to it. The way Twilight compares and contrasts herself to the other pony is interesting enough, but there's no actual hook. By that I mean that Twilight doesn't actually do anything with the comparison, internally or externally: she doesn't find some way to help the other pony, she doesn't come to any sort of personal realization as a result of the meeting... there's the potential for some interesting introspection here, but Twilight's thoughts and actions never touch on any potential deeper issues or connections between the two of them.
To be fair, I kind of liked that about the story. Not every fanfic (or every piece of literature, for that matter) needs to be about some life-altering moment in somebody's life; I rather enjoyed the non-importance which was placed on the conversation. It really wasn't the sort of thing that merited a lot of soul-searching, and it was refreshing to see a story that didn't try to force more depth into a premise than it could support. Still, in the end I felt like I was lacking any essential conflict which would give this piece some impetus.
Even the initial meeting between the two ponies, which had great potential for conflict, is strangely subdued. This is a very low-key piece, through and through. And while I don't have a problem with that in and of itself, the fact that nothing really happens in this story is hard to ignore. That summary up top? I'm really not leaving any major plot points (again, other than a name) out of the story in that one sentence. From both an emotional and a physical standpoint, this story just doesn't have much meat to it.
Star rating: ★★☆☆☆ (what does this mean?)
Some stories stick with you after you read them; this isn't one of them. It is an unobjectionable but also unexciting bit of ephemera; competently executed, but frankly dull, and quickly forgotten. That said, a story can do far, FAR worse than fail to be memorable. The banality of the premise was definitely captured in this story, and I mean that as both a complement and as a criticism.
Recommendation: Those looking for a bit of ephemeral, relatively shallow introspection on Twilight's part will probably have no cause to complain about this. For other readers, I doubt that this fic will inspire much passion, either for or against it. Such is the nature of mundanity.
Next time: Sparkle's Law, by AestheticB