Friday, August 30, 2013

Fandom Classics Part 4: (A) Drop of Moonshine

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

Hmm, nothing interesting's coming to mind to write up here.  Uh... I went to an Indian buffet yesterday?  That was nice.  Oh, I came in first in an 80-person online bridge tournament!  Granted, it was a free-to-play tourney that most players don't take very seriously, and I won mostly by luck... still, first time that's happened.

Man, I dunno; I've got to get a more interesting life.

Below the break, my review of Pen Stroke's (A) Drop of Moonshine.

Impressions before reading:  Well, the title is variously listed (in places where no-one but the author had a chance to screw it up) as Drop of Moonshine and A Drop of Moonshine; that's kind of worrying going in.  I mean, if you're the author, and you're trying to present your work to the best of your abilities, getting the title right seems like an obvious first step.  I might be reading too much into a single sometimes-missing article, but this is the section for first impressions, after all.

Past that, though, I'm feeling pretty positive about this story.  Pen Stroke has written several stories that I've previously reviewed, and although I had my issues with all of them, I certainly wouldn't call any of them awful.  Several people whose opinions I'm inclined to respect have said that this is their favorite Pen Stroke story, so I'm hoping it lives up to that hype.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  After a long day, Luna is shocked to discover that all knowledge of drinking alcohol has been lost to Equestria during her imprisonment.  With a bit of magic, she conjures up some (literal) moonshine to rectify that situation.  And after a thousand years on the wagon, it's no surprise that they overimbibe a bit.

Thoughts after reading:  Considering what I said in the impressions section about the title, and that I've mentioned wording/editing issues as a problem in each of the other stories I reviewed by the author, I should probably start off by saying that here those issues are minor at best.  Other than some very minor slip-ups (such as the inconsistent capitalization of the word M(m)oonshine), there's really nothing of note here in the way of technical errors.  Probably not surprising, considering the half-dozen editors credited at the start of the fic.

As for the story itself?  Well, let's start with the introduction.  There's a very sweet bit right off the bat about why alcohol has vanished from Equestria, but it's presented in a very perfunctory manner.  Likewise, the introduction and excessive consumption of the titular moonshine is... well, not abrupt precisely, but it's hurried through in order to get to the "fun" part: following the drunk princesses around.  While I'm not asking for Robert Jordan-esque dissertations on the history and production of celestial alcohol in Equestria, the opening of this story was clearly written with both eyes toward setting up the rest of the fic, and the result is rather dry.

Once "the rest of the fic" kicks in, though, things improve.  As soon as Twilight comes into the picture, she steals the spotlight with her panicky confusion (consumable alcohol not having existed for a millennium, she has no idea what it is or what its effects are) and curiosity.  Her characterization was a real treat, and the conceptualization of how she'd react to a drunk Celestia was excellent.

In a lot of ways, this is a very down-to-earth fic; it's a story about corralling a drunkard who happens to be someone for whom you have great respect, and to whom you assign a certain gravitas.  While I wouldn't go so far as to call that particular experience universal, it is a common one, and it's also disconcerting.  Pen Stroke does a good job of capturing the disorienting confusion of being the "responsible one" in a relationship where that role is typically reversed, and wisely doesn't escalate the drunken antics (very far) beyond the those which are readily conceivable. I thought that made this story relatable in a way that his others (that I've read) often weren't; here, even though the premise here is one of his sillier ones, it's ironically easier to connect with the characters than in some of his more serious, dramatic stories.

Star rating:  ☆ (what does this mean?)

Although it gets off to an acceptable-but-not-exciting start, (A) Drop of Moonshine quickly settles into a comfortable mix of comical and relatable, often both at once (in point of fact: I, like Celestia, once tried to win an argument by retorting that someone was "...purple."  I was referring to their shirt and not their natural coloration, admittedly).

Recommendation:  Well, it's a story about drunk ponies at its core, so anyone who has an issue with alcohol in their Equestria should give this a pass (to be fair though, this story does make the effort to justify dropping booze into a world where bars serve salt).  Anyone looking for some well-balanced humor and a nice portrayal of the stress of dealing with an inebriated authority figure should give this a look, though.

[EDIT:  Also, readers bothered by suggestions of enabling of alcoholism might find that that robs the story of a lot of its humor; see schpeelah's comment below for more details.]

Next time:  Arddun Lleuad, by Pride


  1. Looks like this'll be my first Pen Stroke fic since Honey Trouble. Unless you count that other one, of course...

    Very excited about Arddun Lleuad. I'm either getting a great read to look forward to or my list'll be one fic shorter. Either way, I win!

  2. I was just thinking recently that too few people do anything with salt bars, despite their existence since (the end of) season 1. Alcohol seems the go-to for any drunken antics.

    1. I remember one fic where Pinkie mixed up salt and sugar for her punch. With the expected results.

  3. I remember reading this ages ago and not being particularly enthralled. For a comedy, it failed to make me do so much as crack a grin, and as prose it fell prey to the problem I usually have with Pen's work, that being a good idea executed poorly. I actually felt myself nodding off at points.

    Looking forward to Arrdun. I think it's the sort of story where Your Mileage May Vary due to the human element (used in the most literal sense possible), but hopefully you'll vindicate my appreciation for it.

  4. So, are you not going to review sequel stories with the Fandom Classics line then? Because it did have a sequel. It was called A Mug of Hard Cider. Not as memorable as the original, but I found it funny at the time.

    1. I figure I'll case-by-case it, but more or less my plan is that stories that combine into a single narrative arc get reviewed together, while stories that are capable of each standing alone don't--they either get reviewed separately, or only one gets reviewed at all.

      I may change my mind about that later, but it's my thought at the moment.

    2. Fair enough. Though I'd still recommend reading Cider, even if not for review purposes. It's one of those "if you liked the original then you'll like this too" sort of deals, and you seemed to enjoy Moonshine well enough.

  5. I read it. It was good. Not great.
    Not a huge fan of intoxication fics.

  6. One thing that majorly takes away from the comedic value is the fact that Celestia is a recovering alcoholic centuries sober, and then Luna (also alcoholic) comes along and drags her back into addiction. And that is not funny.

    1. Depends on your view of alcoholism.
      Celestia was using alcohol for all the "right" reasons when things were good between her and Luna. Then she used it to cope once Luna was banished.
      She cleaned up because there was nothing positive about her drinking post NMM.
      Now she has an opportunity to actually do something she once enjoyed once again in a positive context.

    2. @schpeelah

      That's a really, really good point. There's some history of alcoholism in my (extended) family, and I can definitely see why that'd be a deal-breaker for some readers. As DPV points out, it's a classic "your mileage may vary" issue, but there are some unfortunate implications in the setup that I completely overlooked.

    3. Recommend touching on how these impressions are modified by the sequel :D