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Well, not so much a free salad, but more a "delivered straight to my desk without me having to get up and assemble it from the random collection of vegetables and leafy greens currently inhabiting my fridge." Free would definitely be ideal, but that's not the deal-breaker in this scenario.
Sadly, it seems I'll have to do without no-effort salads. Still, I'll push through and get this review out for y'all. The sacrifices I make! Anyway, go check out my thoughts on AestheticB's Twilight Sparkle Gets a Free Salad, below the break.
Impressions before reading: I'm of two minds going in. On one hand, this will be the third of AestheticB's three stories that I've read, and I liked the other two pretty well. On the other, the description really sounds like the kind of random-for-the-sake-of-random "comedy" that I've never particularly enjoyed. So, hopefully hand one proves a bit weightier than hand two.
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Twilight Sparkle is determined to redefine the paradigm of salad pricing at fast-food restaurants. The Equestrian Intelligence Service feels that the resultant explosion indicates that she's a threat to Equestria.
Thoughts after reading: This is the second fandom classic in a row about which I don't have a whole lot to say. Not that there's anything wrong with that, in and of itself, but it's mildly annoying as a reviewer; it feels better to have too much to say than to have too little.
Free Salad is a comedy of hyper-exaggeration, in terms of both characters and overall plot. In it, Twilight is portrayed as a neurotic, literature-based polymath, perfectly willing to engage in martial combat (which she's an expert at; she read a book about it!) over two bits--or rather, the principle behind those two bits. In it, there's nothing particularly unexpected about the EIS having all their most-secure doors openable by giant red "DO NOT PRESS" buttons, conveniently located right outside said doors.
And within the context of this story, that's absolutely fine. The humor and events are in total agreement with the tone of the story; while this might be an exaggerated setting, it's a consistently exaggerated one, which lets the reader feel moored in the story even as they're able to appreciate the absurdities on which it's founded. Even outside of its core humor, there's a nice blend of other comedy, from cheap shots:
The Manager stood a little straighter, something Twilight had not thought possible. “I have a university degree in philosophy,” he said.To visual gags rendered (often surprisingly well) into a written medium:
“Then why,” Twilight said, “are you working in a Burger Princess?”
The Manager gave her a level look. “Because I have a degree in philosophy.”
[The EIS director] stopped and turned to face a steel doorway that was bare but for the letter A emblazoned at its center in red. With a flash of magic, he opened it.And on. Where I was somewhat disappointed was in some of the combat descriptions. While there's a certain inherent humor in Twilight's battles, the scenes where she straightforwardly kicks butt (as opposed to those where she, say, follows the advice of her books a little too religiously) don't always translate well to the written word, and are easy to skim over. Another disappointment was the ending; the story doesn't have much in the way of a conclusion, abruptly ending on a tangential callback.
The door swung open, and the seven stallions in the hallway held their collective breath as they gazed in at what constituted a threat of the highest order to the security of both crown and country. Brooms. Mops. Buckets. A sign intended to warn of wet floors.
Nopony said a thing. Director Zig-Zag eyed the janitorial closet, his face an expressionless mask, before shutting the door. None of the members of his entourage met his eyes as he turned to the other side of the hallway to face a door marked AB.
Beyond that, there's construction: there are some minor comma issues, but little else to complain about on the writing front. Cohesiveness sometimes also take a backseat to the joke of the moment, though that's not really a flaw in the context of this story. Overall, this does a pretty good job of being what it's trying to be.
Good news, Impressions-Before-Reading Me! Hand one was indeed the weightier. I guess that's not much of a surprise--good authors tend to write pretty decent stories, natch.
Recommendation: If you're in the market for an over-the-top exaggeration comedy, this will absolutely hit that mark. I don't know that it has huge appeal outside of that, but it's definitely far, far more than the series of non-sequiturs I feared.
Next time: Dying to Get There, by Titanium Dragon