Friday, April 22, 2016

Mini-Reviews Round 130

I must be getting old; I completely failed to realize that Wednesday was 4/20 until the next day.  Boy, you become an adult, you start losing touch with all the memetic touchstones.  But even if drug puns are passing me by, at least fanfiction is here for me!  My thoughts on several recently-read stories, below.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Octavia and Vinyl are supposed to be celebrating Octavia's latest gig, but there are two problems: first, the night is young and Octavia's already blitzed.  Second, the bouncer won't let Vinyl in without an ID.

A few thoughts:  I went into this story expecting some mild drunk comedy, and hoping (based on the SoL tag) for some sort of unifying theme or message beyond "drinking shenanigans," and darned if this story didn't deliver.  That's not to say that there's all that much here--the level of depth is about what you'd expect from the title--but rather than absurd escalation, this story goes with "relatably intoxicated" for its humor, and then transitions to a somewhat more serious look at Octavia's mood and fears, all framed by Vinyl's questionable but apparently effective brand of "support."  Also, as someone who spent a few summers in college working at a liquor store that required that everyone have a valid ID--and who once had to refuse to sell a bottle of wine to an 80-odd-year-old lady--I can relate to the bouncer, here.  Hey, rules are rules.

Recommendation:  Obviously, this is a poor choice for people with no interest in ponies + alcohol, or for readers who generally aren't looking for low key but still unmistakably "drunk" comedy.  However, within its particular paradigm, this is an above-average blend of character humor and exploration which stays light and airy even in its more "serious" moments.

The Visiting Hour, by Horse Voice

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Bon Bon visits Lyra in a mental hospital (sorry for not coming up with my own, but I can't really out-succinct the author's own summary)

A few thoughts:  This strikes me as pretty typically Horse Voician: it's all setup for the reveal, in this case of the apocalyptic variety.  There's exactly nothing "pony" about this story--Bon Bon and Lyra could be replaced with a pair of humans without any meaningful change (well, that and turn a little magibabble into technobabble, but that's a purely cosmetic difference), but unlike in some of the author's stories, I never felt like the choice of Equestria as a setting particularly detracted from events.  And the pacing is spot-on, dealing out information steadily and uncloyingly, and giving the reader enough space between being able to guess the ending and seeing what actually occurs to savor the coming dread.

Recommendation:  If you're looking for a bite-sized dark disaster, this is absolutely for you.  Readers who like happy ponies and happy endings should stay far away, though those specifically averse to gore may still want to give this a look: without getting into details, the horror here is of a more classic variety.

Let Go, by Gigabowser

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  A stallion is freezing to death in the northern tundra.  Before he dies, he is visited by a friendly apparition.

A few thoughts:  "So Pinkie's a psychopomp now?" wrote one commenter on the story, and honestly, that's a pretty good summary of my thoughts.  I wish more had been done with Pinkie as Pinkie--casting her in such broad strokes diffused her character more than I would have preferred--but on the whole, I suppose it's for the best that the author didn't go the other direction, and try to make her goofy and unaware of the gravity of the situation.  I also appreciated that, despite being about a pony freezing to death, this story doesn't feel the need to beat the reader over the head with how terribly tragic everything is; there's a pleasant matter-of-fact-ness to the story, that ultimately lets it hit harder than stories which try to hard to drive home their tragedies.  This is a quite respectful story, all in all, but after reading, I was a bit at a loss for what was accomplished; it shows us an event, and the event is a sad one... but there's not a lot beyond that.

Recommendation:  If your immediate reaction to "a dying pony's last moments" is a negative one, this story probably isn't for you; while it does avoid all the worst pitfalls of stories I could similarly describe, it doesn't do anything particularly likely to win that crew over.  On the other hand, if you're in the market for a sad story that doesn't wallow in unearned angst or wax melancholic over its central source of sadness, this would be a good choice.

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