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