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Although I'm not much of a baseball fan, I had the opportunity to go to an MLB game over the weekend. It was a lot of fun; there's just something incredibly exciting about the way tens of thousands of people can hold their breath, waiting in complete silence as the crucial pitch is delivered, and then explode into a cacophony of cheers as the batter smacks the game-winning hit.
Below the break, my review of uSea's The Hiccups.
Impressions before reading: This is the fifth story by uSea which I've read for this blog; the others I've all enjoyed immensely, so I'm suspect I'll like this one as well.
Sadly, it's also the last pony story by the author. He apparently left the fandom several months ago, which is a shame (for me, anyway). Of course, interests wax and wane, but it'd be nice if all of my favorite authors would wait until I'm ready to move on before dropping out themselves. Is that really so much to ask?
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Sweetie Belle has the hiccups. Naturally, this prompts the Cutie Mark Crusaders to set out to earn their hiccup-curing cutie marks, and to seek the help of anypony who might be able to assist.
Thoughts after reading: The author described this story as "an attempt at episode-like." At this, he was only partially successful. Specifically, this felt like about half to two-thirds of an episode. The story begins with the CMC pestering Dash for help in curing their hiccuping companion, skipping over any sort of setup in favor of diving straight into the action. I didn't have any problem with this, mind; I only point it out so that those looking specifically for a story with an episode-like structure won't be disappointed.
The story is extremely formulaic, moving through each of the main six in turn and ending with a twist which most readers will be able to predict within the first few hundred words. But as I've said before, a formulaic story isn't necessarily a bad story. In this case, I thought that the desire to work in a "scene" with Twilight and each of her friends was to the detriment of the story, as a couple of the ponies felt shoehorned in (with Applejack in particular, I could almost feel the author dutifully checking her off the list), but each scene is still enjoyable in its own right, which is the most important thing.
Writing was a bit of a disappointment, if only compared to the author's previous stories. uSea shows his trademark talent for simplistic but engaging wordplay, and for utilizing a distinct but understated (i.e. not audience-addressing) narrator's voice to convey a wide range of humor and color, but this style of writing has its drawbacks. Specifically, there is a tendency towards overly-simple sentence construction and repetitive writing structure, which can make the writing feel dull and uninspired. I hasten to add that this is a comparatively minor problem, but it's definitely noticeable at times. The editing is, by and large, adequate. There is some under-punctuating, but nothing which is likely to prove a major distraction to a typical reader.
But what really sold me on this story were the characterizations. Despite juggling ten ponies in only about 3000 words, each is easily recognizable and entertaining. Even those whose personalities are somewhat caricaturized, like Applejack, never leave the bounds of "show-believable," which is clearly what this story was aiming for. That's no small feat, given the brief length of the piece, and it's definitely the strength of the fanfic.
Star rating: ★★★☆☆ (what does this mean?)
Although it's sometimes repetitive, and struggles to include all its characters, The Hiccups is ultimately a very funny, character-driven story with lots of show-style shenanigans.
Recommendation: This is a good story for those looking for episode-like comedy and characterizations, if not necessarily an episode-like structure. Those unwilling to put up with a very predictable, formulaic plot might want to look elsewhere, but this is a story that's more about enjoying the journey than figuring out the destination in any case.
Next time: Interview with a Princess, by Hoopy McGee