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Hope you all had a happy Easter weekend! Between time with the family and a surprisingly enjoyable (if scattershot, moral- and intent-wise) episode, it's been a good one for me. Once you finish sleeping off your Easter dinner, drop down below the break to check out my review of Airstream's Minuette's Lesson.
Impressions before reading: "Sweetie Bot" is one of those things I just don't get. I don't understand why people think it's cute, I don't understand why people think it's funny, and I can't for the life of me understand how it's become such a fandom thing--I mean, the humor in the Friendship is Witchcraft series (which spawned the idea of Sweetie Belle as a robot) isn't generally to my tastes to begin with, but it's had plenty of running gags, musical numbers, and stand-alone jokes which I enjoyed. Sweetie Bot has never been one of them. Based on that, I'm not terribly optimistic about a story that's clearly based on the Sweetie Bot meme (even if it doesn't seem to be directly connected to FiW).
Also, I'm awfully worried about the AU tag, given the premise. Hopefully, that just means that this is a somewhat teched-up version of Equestria to accommodate a sapient AI.
Zero-ish spoiler summary: After some bullies mock her, saying a robot can't be a "real pony," her sister/builder, Rarity, offers her some advice about what it being real really means.
Thoughts after reading: In the end, my problems with this story aren't related to the writing, nor to the plot per se. The former is solid, the latter is classic slice of life. The moral is a bit simple and isn't explored in great depth, but it fits the work fine. No, my problems with this story lay in the choice of characters and setting.
The AU tag here neither indicates what I hoped for going in, nor (as I briefly wondered) that it was a FiW fanfic rather than a MLP fanfic proper; it clearly is intended as the latter. It means, rather, that Rarity in this world is an engineer rather than a dressmaker, who builds all sorts of automatons and ponylike robots, including one (Sweetie Belle) which has gained sentience. Why Rarity is playing this role, I honestly don't know.
That is to say, I don't know why Rarity was used in this story. If we answer "Because her relationship to Sweetie is at the core of the story," then that only begs the question "Why is Sweetie Belle a robot in the first place?" The only answer I can come up with is "because it's a fandom thing." Now, just because something is or has become a fandom thing doesn't mean you can't use it in your story, but it's not in itself an explanation. To put it another way: this story would be both thematically stronger and more immersive if it were written about two OCs rather than about Rarity and Sweetie Belle. More, it would be stronger and more immersive still if it weren't written about ponies at all.
And there's the crux of my problem with this story: there's nothing inherently "pony" about it. "Pony enough" is a murky line at best and almost entirely arbitrary at worst, but I feel it's a fair complaint to make when a story is actually worse because it's about ponies. Place this story in a generic steampunk setting, change out the names, and find/replace hooves for hands (and the like), and Minuette's Lesson would not have lost one ounce of its meaning or weight as a story. It would, however, have avoided a significant amount of thematic and characterization dissonance which the AU tag can mark, but in this case, does nothing to ameliorate.
Star rating: ★☆☆☆☆ (what does this mean?)
I don't have any particular complaints about the concept of this story. However, I feel that the choice to use pre-existing characters, and then alter them to such a degree that they're all but unrecognizable, all while placing them in a setting which isn't natively supportive of the technological requirements of the story... well, when a plot is fairly insubstantial to begin with, those kinds of problems can quickly overwhelm the story.
Recommendation: Hey, if Sweetie Bot is your sort of thing, and if you aren't going to get caught up in characterization or milieu issues, then by all means give this one a look. It isn't poorly written, and it's pleasantly, inoffensively sweet throughout. For most readers, though, I wouldn't single this out as something worth reading.
Next time: Twilight Sparkle: Night Shift, by JawJoe