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After spending countless man hours, and at the cost of many bothan lives, I figured out how to make that snazzy link to the guest columnist stuff which you should now see at the top of the page. Kneel before my computer prowess! Also, consider this your about-two-weeks-to-go reminder; plenty of time to write a post, even if you haven't started yet! I've got two confirmed posts being worked on, and a few more "maybe"s, so if you're on the fence and would like to give it a try, I could use a few more. For now, though, enjoy some Chris-written reviewing goodness. My thoughts on Bookplayer's Best Young Flyer, below the break.
Impressions before reading: Dash/Scootaloo shipping, eh? I have to admit, I'm pretty darn leery of this right off the bat; assurances that Scoots is aged up notwithstanding, the age difference and idolization of the older partner by the younger make this sound pretty unhealthy to me. The fact that it's also tagged comedy could go either way; I'm guessing it will either make a joke out of how bad an idea this relationship is, or else this will get really creepy, really fast.
Zero-ish spoiler summary: When Dash proposes some no-strings attached "bonding time" with Scootaloo, it seems like a win-win: it won't be love, it won't be serious, and nobody will get hurt. Things go about as well as you'd expect from there.
Thoughts after reading: Let me start by summarizing the first couple of pages: we're introduced to Scootaloo as she comes home from work via extended narration/recap of what she's been up to for the last decade, she plops down on the couch and starts masturbating to her Rainbow Dash poster, she finishes (via skip-ahead, thankfully) and thanks Dash out loud, and then finds out Dash was watching her pleasure herself through the window.
It's a good thing for this review that I make a point to read everything I write about in its entirety, because if I was reading for pleasure I'd have quit right then and there. Words which came to my mind at this point in the fic were "creepy," "uncomfortable to read," and "good god, is this supposed to be funny?" I guess I'm a wet blanket about this sort of thing, but really, that first section made for some genuinely unpleasant reading.
I did read the entire story, though, and what I eventually decided is this: it works, given two key conditions. First, that you don't mind a story in which literally everything every character does is about sex, and second, that you find it amusing to watch other people be miserable.
To start with, the first condition: everything in this story is about sex--or rather, relationships. The only things characters talk about in this story are relationships, or relationship metaphors (that is, the things themselves are metaphors for aspects of their relationships--the characters aren't literally talking about relationship metaphors). The only things characters do in this story is alternately try to build or avoid relationships, or act out metaphors for the same. And since sex is the end game (and often, pre-game) of every extant relationship in the story, the net effect is that everypony seems to be solely, exclusively focused on physical congress. A fair bit of this can be written off as being within the purview of the story--it's a romantic comedy, after all, so one should expect romance to be the focal point--but the fact that it's seemingly such an all-consuming part of everypony's lives is disconcerting.
To the second condition: while Bookplayer does show a knack for more general humor (Dash's listing, and explanation of, the most nervousness-filled days of her life was a particular highlight, and Sweetie Belle brings some nice humor to her appearances), much of the comedy here is based on laughing at the suffering of others. While it's not a particularly malicious story in that regard, there was a lot of stuff here which was pretty clearly intended to be funny, but which I found kind of sad instead. This was also my reaction to The Office (the British version, anyway), and plenty of people find that funny, so I'm not saying that it's poorly written for that. I'm just saying that, if that kind of humor isn't to your liking, this fic probably won't work well for you.
Past those conditionals, though, there's some nice thought here. For all my concern going in, the author actually does very directly, explicitly address the problems with a ScootaDash (is that the word?) relationship, such that by the end of the story I wasn't nearly as concerned what this might do to Scoots as I had been at the start. The writing also flowed pleasantly, though even after the introduction, there remains a tendency throughout the story to use the narration to fill in large chunks of "here's what happened between the show and when this fic is set." Still, if those are an annoyance, they're a tolerable one considering the quality of the prose.
It's true that this story is built on both a romantic premise and a humorous style which I don't have much appreciation for, so I may be a bit biased here. But I was ready to quit on this story partway through the first chapter, and while it improved, there are still issues I take with the story as a whole, and I can't imagine that this has much appeal outside of its target demographic. One of the things I look for in stories that I rate highly is crossover appeal; shipping stories that even non-shippers can enjoy, action/adventures that people who normally prefer more sedate and/or cerebral fare might still get caught up in, and the like. Unfortunately, this story fails that particular test by any stretch.
Recommendation: Readers who like awkward/painful/cringe-based sex comedy and who aren't put off by the premise will probably like this. In fact, they'll probably love it! But outside of that particular demographic, there's nobody else I'd particularly recommend this to.
Next time: The Sisters Doo, by Ponky