Monday, February 17, 2014

Fandom Classics Part 37: Fallout Equestria: Pink Eyes

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

I will be (well, am, as you read this) out of town for the weekend, so as I won't actually have seen this week's episode by the time this post goes up.  So... no comment, I guess.

I have plenty to say about Mimezinga's Fallout Equestria: Pink Eyes, though.  Get it all below the break.

Impressions before reading:  I've heard a lot of things about this story.  On the positive side, it's supposed to bring some genuine whimsy to the Fo:E milieu, while still having some emotional impact along the way.  On the downside, it's also supposed to be an abomination against the editing gods.  We shall see.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Puppysmiles just wants to find her mom.  Unfortunately, two hundred years have passed since she's seen her last... and Puppysmiles thinks it was just a few hours.  But, with the help of a computerized enviro-suit and a whole lot of naive optimism, she'll make the attempt no matter what obstacles the Equestrian Wasteland throws at her.

Thoughts after reading:  Let's get one thing straight right off the bat: this isn't a My Little Pony fanfic.  This is a Fallout: Equestria fanfic, insofar as it's based on the setting, characters, events, and themes of Fo:E.  As such, my review of this story is based on that understanding; I definitely don't recommend this as a stand-alone, but as a fanfic extension of Kkat's story.

The editing, is far, far better than I expected going in... which isn't to say "amazing," but technical errors were a relatively minor issue throughout.  No doubt this is the work of editor uSea, who apparently started working on the fic after it was more than halfway finished; what I read, of course, was the cleaned-up version.

Much more problematic was voicing, in all its forms.  First, there's the issue of the narrator, who occasionally breaks immersion to address the audience directly ("Did I already say that Puppy was easily distracted?"), has a tendency to use fandom or non-literary vocabulary ("She derped for a moment before launching herself in search of whatever made that funny noise... The universe d'awed"), and generally fails to maintain any sort of consistent tone.  This might be more acceptable in a straight comedy, but Pink Eyes isn't really that; it's a serious story about a ridiculous character, and the (not-infrequent) dramatic moments in the story suffer because of the narration.

Another millstone around the neck of the empathy this fic tries to muster is Puppysmiles herself.  Her characterization vacillates between "possessed of childlike naivete and innocence" and "blithering idiot utterly incapable of functioning at the most basic level."  The latter might be appropriate in a more random-comedy story, but here it makes it hard to relate to her as a protagonist.

However, there is a lot to like here, starting with everyone who isn't Puppysmiles.  mimezinga (I hate leaving that uncapitalized, but I figure it's only right to render authors' names the way they write them themselves) does some wonderful things with the various AIs which dot the fic, making each seem appropriately inhuman while still investing them with personality; even the one which explicitly doesn't have a personality is charmingly vibrant.  The various Wasteland denizens she encounters each serve their purposes well, and the road on which the story is primarily set becomes a vibrant character in its own right as the story progresses.

For the most part, the author uses Fo:E's setting well, gently mocking its relentless darkness while recognizing that what made that story work was that it was, at its heart, still a story about friendship, love, and doing the right thing.  Pink Eyes doesn't shy away from brutal violence, but here it's more of an accent than an all-pervading miasma; the story is mostly centered around Puppysmiles herself, and she's quite simply too stupid (or, as she gratingly puts it, "stoopid") to recognize what's going on around her.  While it's not without its issues, this kind of simplistic, uncomplicated lens into the world does give a refreshingly upbeat take on the Wasteland, and shines light on a few clever observations about the setting along the way.

As for the story arc, it's delightful precisely because Puppysmiles is on a thoroughly archetypal journey (alone in a dead world, she must find her mother, while changing the land for the better), and yet she is completely unaware of her own participation in a classic hero's journey; she's fulfilling a classic arc with a total lack of self-awareness.  Although he doesn't avoid meta-humor everywhere, the author wisely plays this aspect of her journey completely straight, which makes some of the harsh realities which are eventually faced touching in a way which even the occasionally tone-deaf narration can't mar.  The epilogue is a letdown, devolving into a recitation of things which happened to people and places from the story proper (and, while I'm on the subject of the ending, a Pratchett shoutout at the dramatic climax was a frankly bizarre decision), but wasn't enough to leave a foul taste in my mouth.  For all its missteps, Pink Eyes manages to be a fresh take on a classic story, and fits itself into the Fo:E universe despite a whimsy seemingly at odds with the original.

Star rating:   (what does this mean?)

I wavered between two and three stars here, but ultimately I think that what sets this story apart is that it has an engaging idea at its core, and manages to make itself interesting and readable throughout.  It's got more than a few flaws, to be sure, but those never overwhelm the story or inhibit enjoyment.

Recommendation:  To be clear: I would absolutely not read this without having read Fallout: Equestria first.  I mean, you could probably pick up the goings-on without too much trouble even if you went in cold, but I think a lot of the enjoyment to be had here is predicated on familiarity with Kkat's work.  For those readers, though, I'd recommend this to anyone who enjoys wide-ranging adventure and good secondary characterizations, and who isn't put off by some stumbles with narrative and protagonist voicing.

Next time:  Who We Are, by Kits


  1. To me, the biggest problem with Pink Eyes is simply that mimezinga isn't a native English speaker. By no means is that Pink Eyes's only problem—I really don't like the climax, for starters—but the story would be a lot better without the weird issues that plague the narration that come from not quite understanding the English language.

    For the most part, though, I liked Pink Eyes. I'm glad I read it.

  2. If I ever find myself with NOTHING to read, I might look at this. It sounds like it's filled with a lot of the same things I hated about FoE proper, though.


    Also Who We Are up next, awwww yeahhhhh.

    1. I never managed:

      To get past about chapter 13 of Fo:E, so I guess I'm out of the target demographic for this one, too.

      Also, with the comments Chris has made around the blog about his involvement in various singing groups, I'm looking forward to his reaction to the most recent episode. :)


  3. I don't know if that improved after the edit passes, but I remember liking most of the story, then falling completely out of it as Puppysmiles started speaking in lolspeak, or all her other bizarre speech tics. I think I liked the concept of innocent eyes walking around the wasteland much more than the actual fic, and that all the internet slang made her sound less like a child, and more like a internet-savvy individual roleplaying as a child.

  4. Oh, NOW it's working! I tried commenting twice last night, but Blogger ate both attempts :/

    *sigh* Let's try this again

    Isn't "blithering idiot utterly incapable of functioning at the most basic level" the very definition of a child? Maybe my copy of Webster's is outdated

    I don't normally read stories you've rated so low - the exception usually being prequels to higher-rated fics - but I did enjoy Fo:E, so I'll add this to the queue. It's goin' to the bottom, though. Shorter (and likely better) fics have waited long enough

  5. Hm. I didn't know that the editing had since been cleaned up, and I expected it to be rated a lot lower for that. And I was right to expect points to be deducted for the lolspeak and meme humour too, I see. Still, this review came out a lot more positive than I thought it would, so that's always nice to see. Like I said before, I quite enjoyed Pink Eyes, despite the editing issues, and I'm glad that you were able to as well, Chris.

    And like Present Perfect, I'm wondering what'll happen with the inevitable Project Horizons review. I said last week that I don't know what you'll make of Pink Eyes. I take it back. It's Horizons that I don't think I could ever predict your response to. Present Perfect I could easily tell would hate it, considering his opinion of the original, but you gave the original FO:E five stars, so...

  6. Speaking of Project Horizons, I highly recommend splitting that review up, whenever it happens. Read the first volume, review that. A few weeks/month later, read the second volume, review that, etc. There's five volumes, and you need to take advantage of them if you want to read all 1,000,000+ words without going insane.

    1. Isn't Chris a teacher? I'd think he'd have crossed that threshold long ago

  7. In Puppy's defense, she isn't even a child, or a pony, or really anything at all. She's a ghost, an after image, a hint of a former pony that hasn't managed to sever her ties with the world.

  8. I suppose I fall under the camp of people who are not terribly interested in Fallout: Equestira fan fiction despite having read all of Fallout Equestria. Eh.

    Word of the Day: Vacillate.

  9. The ending slides giving small insights into the lives of the remaining characters was actually an allusion to the original Fallouts as well as Fallout New Vegas. I know you're not especially familiarised with those, so I feel it's worth pointing out. That's actually why I ended up really appreciating the ending to this story, as the bittersweet conclusions instilled that same feeling I had when I finished New Vegas.

    Also, yes, SOLoS is the greatest robot character since WALL-E.