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And on the subject of science, here's a story with a sci-fi aesthetic! Click below the break for my review of The DM's Voyage's End.
Impressions before reading: "Technologically advanced ponies find one of the Voyager space probes" has some potential to be interesting; the golden record is a rich opportunity to approach the idea of exploring humanity from an alien angle (as plenty of authors have shown before), and also provides an easy opening for some puzzle-solving. On the other hand... well, I think the perils of combining humans with Equestria are pretty well-known. We'll see what happens.
Zero-ish spoiler summary: When Equestrian radar pick up an unidentified satellite, it quickly becomes clear that it could potentially be from an extraequestrial civilization. Twilight spearheads the effort to recover the satellite... and to discover what it means.
Thoughts after reading: In a lot of ways, this is an oddly disjointed story. The majority of its length is devoted to identifying and bringing in the Voyager probe, with the famous golden record not appearing until well over halfway through the fic. This wouldn't be a terrible thing by itself, but the "identifying and bringing in" portion of the story is awfully generic; while it's got some interesting space-science to it (and a liberal dose of mageo-techno-babble), there's nothing there that serves much narrative purpose, nor that advances the story in any way more meaningful than introducing the idea of a high-tech Equestria. Things like Princess/Head of Pony-NASA Luna shouting orders at her underling officers neither build upon the characters, create tension, nor advance the story in any way more meaningful than simply beginning the story a few thousand words later would have.
Sadly, "generic" is also a good word to describe what comes when the setup stops and the study begins. I don't say "bad," because I found it interesting to see how a foreign culture might go about figuring out what NASA put on those gold discs, but my point is that that enjoyment was totally divorced from anything to do with ponies generally, or with Twilight and company in particular; this story could have been about any nonhuman culture, and been exactly as interesting. And it could do so without necessitating the mental gymnastics invariably required to place Equestria and Earth in the same galaxy (the story itself, I should note, wisely leaves that can of worms alone). Beyond that, I wouldn't say that the setting particularly harms the story, but I do wish that something more had been done with the characters.
With that said, I think Voyage's End did a fine job of being a light sci-fi vehicle. The numbers used mostly hold up at a glance, so long as one takes the magi-babble at face value, and watching (or hearing about) the scientists working out the information on the disc has plenty of appeal. I admit that I would have found a more alien perspective on the ponies' part more interesting, but... well, to paraphrase Cold in Gardez, "ponies are people;" they are a very similar culture to humanities, and more than brief confusion probably would have just left the ponies seeming like they'd been afflicted with authorially-induced idiocy. And although the two short add-ons to the main story are a bit shakier in their sci-fi bona fides (or basic logic; it apparently takes humanity about 40,000 years to go from our modern tech level to superluminal travel, while Equestria can make the same leap in a bit more than 1/1000th the time), they do a remarkably good job of presenting a plausible first-contact scenario in few words, without bogging down in the details (which, while they might have been interesting to explore in a longer fic, wouldn't fit here). All in all, the story did well in how it approached this aspect.
The writing, though, was a letdown. There are frequent errors, mostly of the sort that I imagine comes from incomplete editing (repeated words, multiple articles, spellcheck errors, etc.). Along with that, dialogue tagging was something of an issue; while this story may not be full of ridiculous saidisms, there's definitely a lot of "shouted"s, "called out"s, and the like, to the point where I found it noticeable (along with some really odd speaking descriptors, e.g. "Twilight said with intense focus"). The sentence structure and overall language use were adequate, but there were enough errors of the "glaring" variety that I found myself frequently distracted.
★★☆☆☆ (what does this mean?)
This is one of those stories that I emerged from without any strong feelings; it was in many ways a pleasant, if shallow, story, and one which didn't make very many silly mistakes with scale or numbers despite involving lots of both, but which otherwise feels fairly unnoteworthy. Still, "pleasant" is always a good word to have associated with one's story, and looking at it strictly from a science-fiction angle, I think it holds up marginally better than when looked at solely as a piece of pony fanfiction.
Recommendation: Ultimately, I think one's initial reaction to the core concept is likely to prove an accurate harbinger of how they'll like this story. If "Voyager passes by Equestria" sounds intriguing to you, this is probably worth checking out. If not, I doubt this will offend, but it probably doesn't offer anything liable to change your mind.
Next time: In Memory Of, by Obselesence