Wednesday, November 14, 2012

6-Star Reviews Part 115: Reading Rainbow

To read the story, click the image or follow this link

You know, e-ink screens are amazing.  I've had my e-reader for less than a year, but I honestly can't remember how I used to put up with reading so much off a computer screen before I got it.  So much easier on the eyes.

Below the break, my review of Corejo's Reading Rainbow.

Impressions before reading:  First off, I dig the title--Reading Rainbow (aka "The Geordi show;" I watched a lot of TNG too) was one of my favorite TV shows when I was young.  I see a lot of comic potential in Dash reading aloud to Twilight, so I've got high hopes for this one going in.  As usual, I'm going to skip the in-progress sequel and review only the completed first story.  It looks like a big chunk of the fic is going to be the story (poem, specifically) which Dash reads--I believe I've mentioned before that poorly executed poetry doesn't sit well with me, so I'm hoping that the construction here is good.  I think my cat might need a different chow mix because he's been burping and passing gas a lot lately, though he doesn't seem to be in any discomfort; he's going to the vet next week, so I'm planning to ask about it then.

That last bit has nothing to do with the story, obviously, but I figured that as long as I was stringing together tangentially related sentences and passing them off as a paragraph, I'd slip that in there too.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  After an accident leaves Twilight temporarily blinded, Dash tries to help her pass the time by reading to her, starting with a Shel Silverstien-esque poem.

Thoughts after reading:  To begin, the poem: while it wasn't egregiously awful, I wasn't impressed.  The story-within-a-story consists entirely of rhyming couplets, and to the authors credit, almost all of the couplets rhyme.  Unfortunately, rhythm is far less consistent throughout.  There was no consistent pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in the poem as a whole, or even within individual couplets, as in this example:

Seeing the house, as one can easily tell, 
Things became interesting when the rain fell.
But despite these setbacks, the stallion tread
Up Halfway Street, toward his unfinished homestead.

To be fair, nearly every line in the poem has four stressed syllables, and inconsistency on that count would be much more problematic than the lack of pattern to the unstressed ones.  Still, that lack of pattern does make the poem somewhat ungainly to try to read aloud (as Dash is theoretically doing).

Let's move on to the story itself.  While there's nothing particularly earth-shattering here ("Dash reads to Twi" really sums it up quite nicely), the author does a good job of representing the two protagonists.  From Dash's initial over-reaction to Twilight's injury to smaller things, like having Dash occasionally stumble over words and have to ask for help as she reads, Corejo does a nice job of clearly articulating both ponies in a relatively short (only a few thousand words) space.  The pleasant yet dynamic relationship between the protagonists which is absolutely essential to slice-of-life ponyfics (at least, those starring members of the main six) is absolutely present here.

Also worth mentioning is that this is an extremely predictable story.  Right through to the very last line, there's virtually nothing here which will shock or surprise any reader in the slightest.  Being predictable isn't necessarily a bad thing, especially in a short SoL work, but it does tend to promote a sense of detachment.  It's hard to involve oneself in a story when one can guess the beats from the first few pages alone, and I suspect that many readers will find themselves breezing through Reading Rainbow without giving it much thought, whether they enjoy it or not.  Again, that's not necessarily a criticism, but the failure of this story to ever defy expectations does limit one's investment in the work.

Perhaps my biggest problem with the story is poor word use.  It's true that the editing is superb (an author's note lists several editors/pre-readers; their efforts show), but from linguistic errors like using "naught" in place of "not," to definition confusion like mixing poetry with prose, there are a fair number of misappropriated words in this story.  The fact that Twilight was often the one making these mistakes  made them stick out even more; you'd think she, at least, would be able to differentiate between rhyming couplets and free verse, and when she uses the phrases interchangeably, it only serves to highlight the error.

Star rating:  ☆ (what does this mean?)

There's a straightforward but nevertheless sweet story wrapped around a tolerably-executed bit of poetry here, and anyone hoping for a short piece which delivers a few warm fuzzies will find exactly that.

Recommendation:  Those looking for stellar verse should look elsewhere, though by and large Reading Rainbow is of the "unobjectionably mediocre" variety in that regard.  Those looking for an inoffensive but well-executed bit of friendshipping between Dash and Twi would be well advised to consider this.  Those who are easily annoyed by misused words and phrases can go ahead an purse their lips while shaking their heads.

Next time:  Tilt, by Passport Clean


  1. "Fluttershy in the sky, I can go twice as high..."
    Funnily enough, I didn't really watch the show that I often (probably could count the total times on two hands), yet that theme never leaves your head (no matter the how it's distorted).

    Anyway, I'll be brief:

    The stuff early on I kind of enjoyed, it's nice in a cute and amusing way (am I an awful person for laughing when Twilight realized that she wouldn't be able to read).

    However, it really didn't work for me, for these reasons:
    1) I was not pleased with Dash interrupting the poem, because it knocked me out of the Silverstein-esque piece. Overall, it felt like two separate stories had been scrunched together and I never really found myself attracted to either (if it was longer and/or the intrusions less common, it might have been less problematic as it is in The Princess Bride).

    2) The poem shifted in tone from goofy to heart-warming, sentimental (something I don't remember Shel ever being, in terms of his poetry). Being just one or the other would have been fine, but I found the contrast jarring here.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Afterthought: the key to writing good poetry is right in the name. Simply emulate Poe

    2. Sorry for marring the comments section, but I took a moment to cool down and realized I may have implied something (potentially hurtful) I didn't mean to say. Art tends to get me riled and sometimes innocent people get caught in the crossfire. My afterthought still stands, though

  3. I would detest this story less if it hadn't gotten so popular. I don't understand why people liked it, and that irritates me. The poetry is awful. The half-hearted attempt at aping Silverstein's style (more in the content than the structure, I should add) is insulting to someone who grew up reading his work. I could not bring myself to care about the characters in the poem, and the framing story is, as you said, just Rainbow Dash reading to Twilight. That's not a story, it's a scene.

    Furthermore, I listened to a dramatic reading of this story rather than reading it myself. Those stumbled-over words? Horrible decision. It was impossible to tell whether they were part of the story or the reader screwing up. Not all stories are best read aloud, but it was just one more thing that made me beg for the end as this story plodded on with its interminable not-being-a-story-ness.


    1. And, as if by magic, I no longer feel so bad about my comment. Thanks, Present!

  4. You continue to surprise me with your reviews. This is one of the few 6-star stories I've read myself and I kinda liked it. Oh well. Like you said, the story is short and cute, something the fandom drools over, but is ultimately kinda forgettable.

    This would have been a good contender for the fic write-off for that fundraiser for the cancer patient. I could see this edited to fit the requirements for that.

    Good stuff!

    1. It was written far before that write-off happened, so I couldn't do that even if I didn't feel like I would have been cheating by submitting it.

      As far as the review goes, I'm surprised he didn't bash me more; I was expecting a one-star.

  5. It was the definition confusion that really got my goat with this one!

  6. I going to swim against the current here and say that I really enjoyed this story. While the poetry may not have been up to Silverstein's standards, it's the closest thing I've seen to it in this fandom, and the story of the poem was deeply imaginative.

  7. The emotions behind the main story were why I liked it. Not the technical writing or the book's story.