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Although the official line is still "we're working on it," it looks and sounds like all the Blogger-era comments on Equestria Daily are dead and gone for good. That kind of upsets me; while I realize that nothing on the internet is permanent, there were lots of comments on my older stories there that I wish hadn't vanished into the e-ether, and (although I'm sure it's been a year or more since anyone looked at any of them) it's sad to think that my own comments and reviews from back then are gone as well.
With that as context: does anyone know an easy way for me to back up my blog, including all the comments? I don't expect anything to happen to this place anytime soon, but I'd feel better if I had some insurance against the vagaries of fate and/or obsolescence.
Now, with all the business out of the way, let's turn to a review of something which is the precise antithesis of "serious." Click below the break for Blueshift's Brony Hero of Equestria.
Impressions before reading: Ah, a CYOA (Choose Your Own Adventure) story! I haven't reviewed one of these before--the only other major pony CYOA I know of is my own. To this fic: I read this right after it was written, and absolutely loved it. I loved it so much, I was even willing to forgive the fact that at one point, "you" imply that BRIAN BLESSED isn't supremely sexy--blasphemy in any other work. Now that I'm coming back to review it, though, I'll be looking to see if the construction holds up as well as comedy; writing a vaguely coherent and/or cohesive CYOA is no simple task.
Zero-ish spoiler summary: You--yes, YOU!--are the Brony Hero of Equestria! Defeat Tiarek, save the ponies, seduce your waifu, seduce someone else's waifu, and die over and over again as you pitifully fail at all of the above!
Seriously, if you don't die at least a few times, you aren't reading this thing the right way.
Thoughts after reading: It's hard to really summarize the plot of a CYOA, since it's variable by definition. For example, it's entirely possible in this story to never even become the titular Brony Hero and do all that stuff I mentioned in the summary--there are two different ways to die a horrible death before even getting to the nominal plot.
Luckily for me, Brony Hero isn't even remotely concerned with said plot. This story is all about mocking bronies, mocking the popular caricature of bronies, mocking the show itself... basically, making a lark out of anything and everything. The choices "you" are given in this story are clearly designed not to give the illusion of control over one's second-person avatar, but to enhance the comic potential along whatever lines strike your fancy; the very first set of choices you face, upon waking up, is 1) Browse the internet for pony, 2) Go to the shops and buy ten gallons of Mountain Dew, or 3) Seduce [your] Fluttershy Pillow.
And that comic potential is deliciously realized here. Blueshift takes the greasiest, most obnoxious, most clueless man-child imaginable and builds every scene around his blustery idiocy. At no point will you ever feel the slightest bit of empathy for our poor hero, but that's by design--the myriad "bad endings" scattered through this fic are some of the highlights, many featuring "you" being karmically or ironically punished, and they're all great fun. A CYOA should have at least decent "replay value," and this one positively demands multiple read-throughs (or, if you're like me, a dozen open tabs as you navigate through various story paths).
But although I was happy with the replay value, this fic let me down in one other important area: merge points. A merge point is a page which you can reach from multiple other pages; generally, it's either a "hub page" (one which you go to as a default), or it represents two storylines coming together. You want a merge point to feel natural when arrived at from every possible angle, and this can be very difficult to pull off. Unfortunately, many of Blueshift's merge points are pretty rough; several chapters end with a character making a statement or asking a question which requires a response, and one of the choices will be "go back to [hub page]," which takes you there without any mention of how the character reacted when you turned around and walked away in the middle of a conversation.
Past that, though, the use of the CYOA style is excellent. Specifically, it's used as a means to explore (well, mostly just to make fun of) the stereotype of a "typical brony," and the short pages and rapid changes in mood and setting give the author a chance to engage in all manner of ridiculous shenanigans without having to worry about any of them running long--most will be forgotten or put aside after that single page, if "you" even survive that long. In essence, Blueshift has created a playground full of little pools of insanity, and has invited the reader to start jumping through them--a pleasant enough task, given the quality of said insanity.
And make no mistake, there's all manner of insanity here. In addition to the BRIAN BLESSED bit and Tiarek, there are also references to Dr. Who, My Little Dashie, that "Trixie eating pinecones" thing from a while back, Cupcakes (“Oh Pinkie, you’re so silly, I thought you were going to murder me!” Pinkie doesn’t seem to find this funny though, and stays curled on the ground, sobbing. ¶ “Why would you think something so ridiculous?” Mrs Cake turns on you angrily as she hugs Pinkie. ¶ You shrug. “Oh, I just write a lot of stories where Pinkie Pie is a crazy murderer.”)... I'm just scratching the surface here. And in terms of style, well, Brony Hero is obviously heavy on parody, but it's also got plenty of laughs of every kind scattered throughout.
Star rating: ★★★★☆ (what does this mean?)
Although the connections between pages were often a weak point, the content of those pages was refreshingly ridiculous.
Recommendation: Anyone who's going to be offended by the fact that the brony hero is an obese pile of failure should stay well away from this fic--I'm telling you now, it'll just make you mad. But for folks looking for a story they can laugh with and at at turns, and who want to revel in the "freedom" to make idiotic decisions and suffer the hilariously appropriate consequences, this is a must read.
Next time: A Candle to the Sun, by Moabite