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Hockey's back! By the time you read this, it'll already be too late to catch Tuesday's Chicago/Washington opener. Don't worry, you've still got 81 chances to watch a game or two before the playoffs. If you're looking for something to do in the meantime, click down below the break for my review of Chuckfinley's Pipsqueak's Day Off.
Impressions before reading: Well, it can't go any worse than the last time I reviewed a Pipsqueak story, right? Unfortunately, I can't say I'm too excited about this one going in, either. The description promises a lot of sex, drugs, and aged-up children, none of which are particularly to my tastes as a reader--doubly so when the characters in question are semi-anthropomorphic ponies. As much as I'd like to be surprised... well, that's just it: it would surprise me if this were a good fic, never mind one I enjoyed.
Zero-ish spoiler summary: A high school-ish Pipsqueak and his two best buddies have Friday off, and Diamond Tiara's throwing a much-ballyhooed party that night. Over the course of that day and night, fillies (and colts) are snogged, drinks are drunk (excessively), other drugs are ingested in other ways (as appropriate), abuse (both comic and physical) is delivered, and there's a riot and some arson tossed in there for good measure.
Thoughts after reading: This fic and I didn't get off to a good start. I wasn't optimistic going in, and the very first scene in the story is Pipsqueak waking up to find his friends in his bedroom, taking pictures of his fully-exposed morning wood. Really. I would not normally chose to read a story with the description that this one has. If for some reason I did decide to give it a try, I would absolutely, unquestionably drop the story within a couple hundred words, grimacing and wondering who even wants to read "that kind of fanfic."
Of course, I don't deliver final judgement on 6-Star/Fandom Classics based on the first couple hundred words, or even the first couple thousand (couple thousand-word-long fanfics notwithstanding); I read the whole dang thing before writing up a review, each and every time. So I read an entire short novel's worth of this fic before all was said and done.
And I'll be damned if I wasn't grinning like a maniac most of the way through.
Lots of comedy fics get a quick gag (or sometimes, a painfully drawn-out one) out of having ponies curse, have an erection, or otherwise act in a manner completely at odds with the family-friendly show from which they hail. Pipsqueak's Day Off revels in this type of comedy, mocking the sanitized versions of childhood which are oh-so-common in all styles of depiction (for obvious reasons) by making his characters as lascivious and teen-"nihlistic" as possible.
Of course, that kind of humor gets old fast. Thankfully, Chuckfinley has a real knack for character dialogue; Pip's occasional Trottingham colloquialisms give the first-person narration an undeniable charm, personalities and motivations are easy to see through the the rambling conversations in which the ponies often engage, and the insult comedy in which boys of all ages revel is more or less constant. The voicings in this fic are simply excellent.
That said, the story itself is very scattershot. That's to be expected, with a fic whose premise is "Pipsqueak and his friends have an epic day," but the fact that the story-defining conflict isn't even introduced until near the end of the fic does make the whole work feel very uneven. Not helping this sense of unevenness are the extended digressions into which Pip will sometimes delve, or the non-comic and slower-paced paths down which the story sometimes turns. There are a number of points in the story which seem to be such, but manage to justify their presence on balance--I was initially disappointed to see the author drop a supremely lazy "My Little Ape" joke into the story, before I was won over by the meta-commentary on fandom shipping that ensued--but other segments wear on. Much of the more "sensual" (I can't bring myself to discard the quotation marks--we're talking about ponies, for goodness sake) material in the story wears on too long as well, though the more comically-presented snogging was generally more than funny enough to justify its inclusion. Although, based on the presence of multiple "cloppy" sequels, and their large number of readers and thumbs-ups, I'm guessing that my disinterest in the pony romancing will not be shared by every reader.
I found it a pleasant surprise that the story wraps up on a very positive note for all the main characters. Given the hedonistic nature of the characters (and story), I expected a comical warped moral or lesson-less denouement, and wouldn't have felt either to be out of place. But the fact that this story shows that, when all is said and done, helping others and "not being a choad" are worthy goals helps to settle the fic, I think. This is a story about stupid, horny teenagers doing stupid, often illegal things, and it doesn't take a particularly negative view of that. But the story does recognize that there's more to life than sex and debauchery even as it revels in those, and I think that's a great tone to strike. Getting wasted is fun, but it's a waypoint on one's path through life, not a destination.
Star rating: ★★★☆☆ (what does this mean?)
If you had described this fic to me in a remotely accurate manner beforehand, I would have told you it sounded terrible (or, if I was being conscientious about my wording, I'd have said it sounded like something that I wouldn't like). The story does cram its "climactic" plotline into far too dense a space, and it does slow at times... but for the most part, it's head-shakingly, unapologetically, snorting-in-disbelief-even-as-you-smile-ingly ridiculous.
Recommendation: Although there's technically no graphic sex in this story, I still can't recommend it to anyone with an aversion to clop. Anyone looking for something remotely show-tone should stay well away, and those uninterested in a muddling ramble (which is exactly what this story is, at heart) should find another fic to fill that need. But if you're looking for something that's frequently funny, always audacious, and unerringly entertaining in its dialogue and narration, give this story a go.
Next time: Brony Hero of Equestria, by Blueshift