To read the story, click the image or follow this link
Since I'd already used the actual cover art for my review of the first story (which you can read at the link above, or read my review of here; this review may contain spoilers for the original story, so use your discretion), I took a look at the handful of pony images I liked enough to save. This is the most closely related thing I have. I would also like to submit that Octavia playing a theremin is awesome.
On an unrelated note, the capcha stuff seems to be doing a pretty good job filtering out the spam; I can still see it, but the messages don't seem to be making it through and onto the blog proper. I think the spambots may have noticed, though. Where the messages used to all be positive things like "Wow! You're post is informative &helful!"--when they weren't obscene, anyway--now they're things like "my God, i thought you were going to chip in with some decisive insght at the end there, not leave it with ‘we leave it to you to decide’." I guess the honeymoon is over.
Click below the break for my review of Corey W. Williams' The Vinyl Scratch Tapes.
[EDIT: For posterity's sake, let it be known that this post originally went up without the actual review attached--hence the first twenty or so comments. All fixed now, obviously.]
Impressions before reading: Well, I liked the original story well enough; that's always a good sign going in. I'm mostly hoping that Season Two doesn't rely to heavily on the shipping angle from the last chapter of Season One, and aims more towards the comedy which pervades the original.
As I always do when reviewing sequels, I'm taking the first story as a given going in. In other words, don't expect me to spend a lot of time talking about the script format, characterizations which carry over from that story, or the like.
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Following the events at the end of the first story, Octavia and Vinyl take a brief hiatus. When they resume their show, they find they have a new competitor in the still-young field of radio broadcasting: Prince Blueblood and his station, National Pony Radio.
Thoughts after reading: Since I was pretty unhappy with the seeming inconsistency of Blueblood's characterization in the first story, let's start there. Season Two's Blueblood is comically inept and revenge-fueled, but unlike the cartoonishly villainous role he was assigned in the last chapter of the original story, an attempt is made here to flesh him out as a character. This meets with mixed results--while the conversation between him and Luna is genuinely touching, the entire ending (which, for the sake of not spoiling, I will simply say revolves around a very cliche and predictable revenge/redemption decision) is disappointingly melodramatic and uninspired. On the whole, however, this story is a welcome step up for Blueblood's characterization.
Most of the high- and lowlights from the original story are repeated here. As in Season One, there is some goofy low-key humor (one of Octavia's bandmates habitually shouting everything she says is hardly highbrow, but the incongruously punctuated ALL CAPS dialogue gives her lines a Kate Beaton-eque whimsy which I enjoyed), coupled with plenty of in-character quipping and engaging banter. As in Season One, there are some lovely bits of drama scattered throughout, such as the Luna scene I mentioned above. And, as in Season One, these two story elements don't always fuse cleanly. A plot thread that has Vinyl questioning herself, for example, might be interesting territory in and of itself, but it takes on an unfortunate air of melodrama when much of the dramatic "action" is sandwiched between two much more lighthearted, silly scenes. On the plus side, the romantic angle in this story is mostly a backlight against which the story is set; while I don't have anything against the two protagonists being together in principal, I can't imagine a way a serious shipping angle could have been executed here without exacerbating the mood swings of the fic even further. Although it still has its issues, Season Two does improve somewhat on that aspect of the original.
Another problem which carries over from the original story is inconsistent use of the framing device. Since the conceit of the story is that it's a series of radio transcripts, stage direction-like descriptors such as "Harpo: [Says nothing. Nods.]" are a serious disappointment, and are a regular barrier to immersion. To be fair, I should note that the last three chapters are much better than the first two in this regard, but the problem never entirely goes away. Likewise, the backstory-filled introduction and transitions which fill the story remain a weak point, both conceptually and tone-wise, but these are thankfully kept short, allowing the story to spend the majority of its time on its greatest strength: character interactions.
Although the tone may still waffle between absurdist and earnest, character dialogue remains strong throughout the story--a good thing, too, since character dialogue is most of the story. Among the major characters, at least, vocal mannerisms and personality come through clearly in word choice and speaking style. Moreover, these characters are engaging, even when the story itself occasionally traps them into cliche and predictable scenarios. There's plenty of entertainment to be had in simply watching the ponies interact.
Star rating: ★★★☆☆ (what does this mean?)
Although this is the same rating I gave to the original, Season Two does show some improvement on several fronts. For the record, this is a "high three," or at least, a higher three than Season One.
Recommendation: Anyone who read the original and enjoyed it will probably also enjoy this continuation: it offers much of the same humor and stylings, does improve on the use of Blueblood significantly, and is all-around engaging and entertaining. Readers put off by script format will obviously want to give this a pass, though, and anyone unimpressed by the mood swings of the original will find them repeated (albeit somewhat less dramatically) here.
Next time: Heart of Gold, Feathers of Steel, by NickNack