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After the better part of two years, my new cat (which will remain the "new cat" until it dies and I get another--my understanding of "new" works in funny ways) has finally realized that sitting on my lap is a better way to get attention than stalking around a room adjacent to me and yowling. That's good; I like warm laps! The only downside is that I can't really keep a feline and a computer perched on that lap at the same time, so his newfound ardor is cutting into my typing time.
I still found time to type this review up, though! Click on down below the break for my thoughts on Equestria From Dust, by Soundslikeponies.
Impressions before reading: I'm getting mixed messages from the description, so far as my personal excitement level is concerned. On the one hand, I love origin/mythology stories, and this looks to be exactly that. On the other, "Alternate Universe" is a dangerous tag to toss around, especially with something as broad as "the creation of the world." I'm not sure whether to be excited or fearful!
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Celestia awakens to a featureless plane of white--white sandstone stretching for eternity beneath her, and white emptiness stretching for eternity above. After an unguessable time before time, she begins to act.
Thoughts after reading: After reading, I'm not entirely sure what the AU tag is for. Certain aspects of this fic are no longer Equestria-compliant as of S4, but most of the contradictions with earlier seasons have in-story explanations or fall under the purview of "'real' history vs. show mythology." Regardless, I found that I enjoyed this story very much.
I was surprised, initially, by the choice of voicing--third person limited, present tense is a rare combo in storytelling, especially obvious "past" narratives. The strengths of present tense writing (increased tension, greater immediacy) tend to be less important in such stories, and its weaknesses (less natural to most readers than a story told in past tense, disconnect from reader awareness that the story isn't actually happening as they read) tend to be magnified. Yet what the choice does here is provide narrative distance from Celestia by using an unexpected structure, while calling attention to her essential timelessness--essential qualities for this story. Likewise, the extremely telly narration, while generally a poor decision in ficwriting, serves a useful purpose here: it emphasizes the gap between Celestia (whose thoughts and emotions are stated directly) and everyone else (whose motives remain more ambiguous, at least to the narrator).
However, the style does tend to call reader attention to the writing itself, which magnifies errors in the construction. Occasional missing words, or other editing problems, are by no means common here--but they're often more noticeable, because the stylistic choices Soundslikeponies makes make it harder for the reader to skim past them. There are also repeated issues with word redundancy; sometimes, especially at the beginning, a particular word or phrase is repeated several times for emphasis, but on other occasions, lack of a handy synonym seems a more likely culprit.
This story begins, quite literally, from nothing, and over its chapters spans vast stretches of time and development. But ultimately, this is a story about Celestia. This focus drives the story, and explains why several seemingly large questions are never answered. Even allowing for that, however, the last four or five chapters do seem abrupt compared to the calculated languidity of the earlier portions of the story--or rather, the developments seem abrupt by comparison to the slowly-spun hints which preceded them.
In the end, though, Equestria From Dust paints a vivid picture of who Celestia is in relation to Equestria, and does so while crafting a suitably grand parallel for her budding awareness in her shaping of the world. The balance between her relatability in her more self-conscious moments, and the alienness of her broader decisions, is maintained all throughout the fic, and it is this commingling of intimate and epic which ultimately sets it apart.
Star rating: ★★★★☆ (what does this mean?)
This is a story that quickly sets itself apart from the "average fanfic," through both style and plot choices. And although not everything falls perfectly into place, Soundslikeponies consistently demonstrates the ability to use those style and plot choices to good effect, creating a finished product which is both unique and enjoyable on its own terms.
Recommendation: To a certain extent, mythology fics are always going to be divisive; just as some people love shipping, some people love worldbuilding... and just as plenty of people don't care for shipping, lots of folks won't have much native interest in a creation fic. However, even for those without a predisposition to this style of story, I'd still recommend this to anyone looking for a great example of using how to paint a character in a memorable, expansive manner.
Next time: Integration, by Raugoes