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In addition to the books I talked about a few posts back, I also got a throw blanket for Christmas. It's got a bunch of sappy-looking big-eyed kittens on it--it was intended as sort of a joke gift. But I can always use another throw blanket in the winter, and it turns out my cat really, really loves the thing, so he's spent the last few days leaping into my lap whenever I sit down and pull the thing over my legs. Eat it, gag-gifters! I'll enjoy your present whether you like it or not!
Anyway, Petriculture review by Kwakerjack by me, below!
Impressions before reading: Given my issues with the last Fandom Classic I reviewed (specifically, that it was only half a story), I'm a little trepidatious about the "part one of The Petriculture Cycle" bit that features prominently in the cover art and description of this story. Hopefully this tells a complete story, at least.
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Twilight needs something to distract herself with, so she decides it's time to try answering a question she's been wondering for almost a year: just what is a rock farm, anyway?
Thoughts after reading: Well, there's some heavy sequel bait at the end, but my pre-reading fears were assuaged; this story doesn't stop before reaching at least some sort of a resolution. Hooray!
It's worth mentioning that this story was written between seasons 2 and 3, and later canon has done a number on that resolution, if that's the sort of thing that bothers you. For my part, though, I thought it worked fine. The end of the story went in a very unexpected direction (at least, to me), going from the comedy/SoL tone of the early part of the work to more of a SoL/random ("unexpected, bizarre" random, that is, not "loluguise" random) bit of crazy theory-ing. Although it was a bit of a mood shift, though, I didn't find the transition offputting; it helps that some of the personal-comedy undercurrent remains, even once things start getting serious.
What I did find offputting, though, was one of the worst cases of Lavender Unicorn Syndrome (the replacing of names or pronouns with short descriptions) that I've seen in a while. There's rarely a good reason to refer to, say, Applejack as "the blond-maned pony" or "the palomino earth pony" (both examples from the story--in successive sentences, no less), and that sort of phrasing is a constant here. Luckily, Kwackerjack doesn't rely to heavily on dialogue tags, which mitigates the effect somewhat... but it's still jarring at times, to wade though the sheer number of [color][race]s in this fic.
Voicing is also occasionally an issue, with ponies tending to adopt overformal speaking habits. This is forgivable enough with Twilight (who does occasionally put her vocabulary to use, after all), but less so with the others. But on the plus side, those conversations do lead to a lot of good humor, especially in the first part of the fic. Even if the words weren't perfectly chosen, the tone of the dialogue was generally spot-on.
It's also worth touching on the explanation-heavy narrative style. Some readers will probably find it dull, but I thought it worked well in this story. The explanations and asides are often used to humorous effect, and if that humor is mostly of a mild sort, I thought it also made for a pleasant reading experience. This is one of those matters that opinions are always going to end up divided on, but for me, it worked.
Ultimately, this is a light character comedy that detours into an absurd, non-comic origin story. That's not usually a good way to start things... but what matters is that both parts are done pretty well, and they play nicely together. Writing issues notwithstanding, this was a well-put-together fic.
Recommendation: If you have a strong aversion to sequel bait, LUS, or "telly" narration, you should probably give this a pass. If you're looking for a short story that balances revelation and humor well, though, I'd suggest giving Petriculture a shot.
Next time: One Last Quest, by Vanner