On Monday, one of my kids asked me if we celebrated "America's half-birthday." Guys, this is a great idea, and we should get on it: every fourth of January, we should drink a bunch of leftover eggnog and blow things up, to celebrate the USA continuing to exist for another six months. Other countries should feel free to celebrate, too; there's no shame in recognizing America's greatness. USA! USA! USA!
In less jingoistic news, I also have some fic reviews! Click down below the break to see what I thought of my recent reading.
Fermentation, by Orbiting Kettle
Zero-ish spoiler summary: In a far distant future, Twilight and Luna--two of the only four creatures still alive--meet to speak, to drink, and to drive away the crushing loneliness.
A few thoughts: This was a rather intimate take on the old "the princesses are capital-I immortal" idea, and I found that focusing so intensely on Luna and Twilight's feelings--on the way they they interacted with one another, and on their discussion--gave this enough of a distinct PoV to move it beyond mere immortality wangst. I was a little disappointed by the revelatory nature of some of that conversation (a couple of the plot points, one would think, would have come up over the past however many centuries), but I still enjoyed some of the touches showing just how much centuries alone can change someone. And in any case, the writing is certainly a selling point, offering plenty of descriptive, easy-to-visualize flourishes while still maintaining its readability.
Recommendation: While readers who are well and truly burned out on "alicorns after the end" probably wouldn't enjoy this, I think it would be a good choice for many other readers, especially those looking for something sedate but not stodgy.
The Lonesome Drake, by Bok
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Spike accidentally signs up for an (Equestrian-style) western dueling contest. Now, he's going to go up against some of the fastest draws in the west... whether he wants to or not.
A few thoughts: The writing here is something of a letdown; there's a lot of telly narration, in addition to some basic editing errors. However, I found the goofy take on dueling (involving pop-guns) and the absurd names and character archetypes to be a silly, lighthearted sendup of the genre, which is something I appreciate. Even outside of the construction quality, this might not be a story with a broad target audience, but it has an undeniable charm.
Recommendation: This isn't going to appeal to those bothered by writing issues or by a story placing archetype ahead of narrative pacing, but for readers looking for a loving sendup of westerns, this will deliver plenty of smiles.
Language Barriers, by Silver Tongue
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Luna reflects with Celestia on the ways in which language has changed since her thousand-year banishment, and what it means for Equestria--and for her.
A few thoughts: This is a very simple story, conceptually: Luna has trouble adjusting to modern vernacular. But it doesn't just delve into the titular language barrier; it also uses that as a jumping-off point for Luna's fears and worries as she tries to become part of Equestria once more. At times this fic gets pretty sappy ("Crystalline tears formed in her eyes as she remembered the stares, the looks of contempt, the exuding fear. She wanted to be loved the way she loved them. Each and every pony was dear to her heart"), and it does end on a note of sisterly bonding that feels rather trite in its banality, but the treatment of the language here is excellent.
Recommendation: For those interested in the evolution of speech, this is a well thought-out (albeit, hardly exhaustive) read. Folks sensitive to cliche might want to avoid it, though.