Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Fandom Classics Part 92: Cracked Beauty

To read the story, click the image or follow this link

One thing I see in a few students every year is that "I'm going to send you to the office if you don't stop ______" doesn't have any effect... but "go to the office" results in a perfect 180 in behavior, shortly followed by shock and anger that yes, they still have to go to the office.  Once I say "go to the office," it's too late to dodge the consequences!  I sometimes wonder if this is just what they've learned based on their home life, or if there's a more fundamental developmental reason they have this expectation that those consequences will be rescinded (I've heard people claim both), but either way I figure they need to learn sooner rather than later that listening to warnings is far better rewarded than trying to get punishments overturned.  Ah, life lessons.

Click below for my review of Slate Sadpony's Cracked Beauty.

Impressions before reading:  I'm positive I read this already--just looking at the summary and cover art, I remember the plot--but I could have sworn it was a lot longer than a year and change ago, when this was published.  I guess I must be going crazy.  Anyway, assuming my memory is otherwise reliable (hah!), I thought at the time that this was kind of heavy-handed, but otherwise enjoyable.  Let's see!

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Derpy's boss gives her one last chance to deliver a package without breaking or losing anything.  Naturally, there are complications.

Thoughts after reading:  Yeah, "heavy-handed" is definitely the right word, here.  From the beginning, we get passages like "She knew well how much she was a disappointment to her boss, despite her best efforts... [M]any of her coworkers had begged her to go on disability for her strabismus. But she just couldn’t. Without this job, what did she have?"  That's pretty typical of the subtlety, or lack thereof, throughout the whole story, and I found it grating at times to have everything presented with such ponderousness.  Rare is the mood or fear which isn't stated, then expounded upon, sometimes to almost comical degrees.

Past that, though, is a simple, straightforward, but very satisfying short story.  I found myself thinking that this would be good for younger readers, in fact--the vocabulary's a bit advanced, but construction-wise, this has a good tonal arc and moral.  Both bluntly delivered, but that's appropriate for younger readers; inference is a learned skill, after all.  The characters here are vivid and, again, simple; Derpy is innocent and put-upon despite her hard work, her boss is vindictive and uncaring, etc.  There's no nuance here, but those broad strokes do paint a clear, easy-to-follow picture.

The twist(s?) makes for a nice reversal, though it comes relatively early in the story.  As a result, the ending feels like it drags out too long; a quicker move to show how Derpy's situation has changed and hammer home the moral one more time might have had more impact.  But although it may feel overlong, the ending at least succeeds in creating and maintaining its strived-for mood, and so doesn't ever really turn into a slog.

In the end, though, this is clearly not targeted at the younger reader--you don't go throwing words like "strabismus" around without explaining them in a book for kids--and reading it is probably too much of a cudgel-ing experience for those who don't need the story to literally spell out the stakes and emotions of these psuedo-archetypes at every turn.  The end result is perfectly readable, and even enjoyably sweet in the right places, but its structure and its style in combination don't really lend themselves to any group of readers.

Star rating:

I'm a sucker for a good Derpy story, and this one has its heart in the right place (not to mention a nice, if predictable, twist).  It's just far too unsubtle about... well, everything, really.

Recommendation:  If you don't mind a little black-and-white in your characters, emotions, and events (and if you don't mind being told exactly which ones are black and which ones are white), then this is probably a good fit for you.  If you find that sort of thing offputting, however, you might want to look elsewhere for your reading needs.

Next time:  The Writing on the Wall, by Horse Voice


  1. Ohh, I remember this one. I was disappointed that the main "conflict" ended up resolving itself by not actually being a conflict at all. And then Rainbow Falls went and canonized the story, boo.

    I suddenly find myself wondering if you've got something big planned for #100. :D

  2. Slate here. I'm sorry that "Cracked Beauty" didn't hold up. I'll try to take your comments into account and write something better next time.

    1. Nothing to apologize for; I've read some awful stories before, and this is definitely not one of them. I'll be looking forward to seeing what else you may come up with!