To read the story, click the image or follow this link.
Instead, let's talk about Hearth's Warming Tail, which I already briefly commented on over on FiMFic. Don't worry though, I saved the best for you guys:
At this moment, my only regret in life is that Carrot Top's too far in the background for a higher-resolution image
ARE YOU KIDDING ME? LOOK AT THAT DRESS! LOOT AT THOSE RUFFLES! LOOK AT THOSE FEATHERS! LOOK AT THAT CARROT NECKLACE! I thought that dancing Carrot Top .gif I posed on Wednesday was going to be the highlight of the episode, but OH MY GOD THIS IS THE CUTEST THING IN THE HISTORY OF THINGS
Y'all are on notice: if anyone makes a nice-looking plushie of Carrot Top wearing this outfit, I want to know about it. I think I've finally found the piece of FiM-merch that I'm willing to spend unreasonable amounts of money on.
Okay, okay, I'm getting to the review, honest! Click down below the break for my thoughts on AdmiralTigerclaw's Arrow 18 Mission Logs: Lone Ranger.
Impressions before reading: I've heard that this is one of the best HiE fics out there, and with over 45,000 views, it's certainly one of the most popular (the 40th most popular, it looks like--at least, if we take "most-read" as a near-synonym). A missing comma and some awkward phrasing in the long description doesn't bode terribly well, but this has been recommended to me by multiple people who I know are pickier about grammar than I am, so hopefully that's not portentous.
Zero-ish spoiler summary: The mission logs of a lone human explorer's trip to Omega Centauri, a celestial anomaly of a system where the start seemed to orbit an Earth-like planet instead of vice-versa--and of the first-contact mission which that trip quickly became.
Thoughts after reading: There are, in fact, a good number of editing errors in this fic, but that's not a particularly noteworthy part of the story (I only start with it because I talked about it in the pre-reading impressions). The types of mistakes being made are rarely the sort that impinge on readability, and while the writing itself tends toward the simple and straightforward, it's perfectly servicable. In any case, the story is told almost entirely through the main character's written logs, so that all can be attributed to in-universe mistakes, if one feels charitable.
Now, let's talk about the interesting stuff.
The strength of this story lies in its lower-key moments. Much of the story revolves around Randy (our titular lone ranger) working to catalogue Equestria, figure out how Celestia's able to move the sun, and help Twilight learn more about Earth, humanity, and English. These are pleasantly drama-free, with the author wisely allowing the characters to interact cooperatively, to not instantly assume the worst of one another for no good reason, and to generally avoid the types of conflict which would detract from the tone of the story. The result is a fic which is, in a word, pleasant: there's still plenty of conflict, make no mistake, but little in the way of ill will and hurt feelings.
On the other hand, concept is one of the largest weaknesses of the story, specifically as regards the vast number of unaddressed contrivances which litter the fic. To pick out a few of the major ones, in no particular order:
1) It's never explained how or why a world precisely like a 250-year-old children's show exists in the "real" worldThis is far from a complete listing; it's just a few of the bits I highlighted in my reading which were never returned to. Now, there's nothing wrong with leaving some mystery in a fic, nor with asking the reader to accept an unlikely event as the premise for a story; if "Randy's on this mission alone because reasons" was the only (story premise-level) contrivance I was being asked to accept as a reader, that wouldn't bother me overmuch. But much of this fic fails to hold up to even cursory inspection, and looking over my notes, well under half of Randy's core explorations are conclusively addressed. Not "answered," mind: less than half even have him acknowledge the question after framing it as an important one at an earlier point in the story.
2) It's never explained why the sun is orbiting the planet in the first place (despite this question being repeatedly brought up)
3) It's never explained how or why Randy is largely immune to magic
4) The explanation for why Randy is the sole individual sent on the mission is nonsensical
5) There's no explanation for why Randy is so willing to let Twilight near sensitive equipment, given his repeated insistence that there are literal "everyone dies" buttons on the ship, and Twilight's repeated demonstration that she's going to keep messing with things without understanding what they do (this is lampshaded at least once, but still)
There's also the question of the framing device, to wit: that this is a collection of mission notes and journal entries, occasionally supplemented by video log transcripts, e-mail chains from the folks on Earth, and the like. AdmiralTigerclaw does a commendable job sticking to the restrictions of the chosen format; I can't think of any entries that struck me as egregiously "not what someone would write," and there's enough flexibility in the "supplemental materials" to work in certain elements that wouldn't work/make sense in strict journal entry format. The one area where I felt a little disappointed was in Randy's tendency to end entries on cliffhangers; while this could arguably be written off as his flare for the dramatic showing through, in at least two places it struck me as terribly out of sorts for someone to sit down and type. Generally speaking, however, the format was a strength.
The narrative itself has little direction; Randy does a variety of first-contact-y things and futzes with his ship, but with little in the way of overarching goals; while he was nominally sent to investigate the "celestial anomaly" which a geocentric system represents, that's not a driving motivation for most of the story. This is not a bad thing, necessarily; the laid-back structure gives the author plenty of room for SoL moments and plot digressions, which create the kind of relaxed, calmly investigatory atmosphere for which the story strives. But it does result in a story that's easy to put down and never come back to: especially if one knows that few of the questions posed are addressed by the time "the end" rolls around, there's not much forward impetus to keep a reader going.
★★☆☆☆ (what does this mean?)
This seems to me like the kind of story that people who like the kind of story this is (whew!) will enjoy quite a bit, but which isn't going to do a lot to win over people who don't have a pre-existing yen for friendly first-contact HiE. That's not a bad thing to be, of course... but a story that only appeals to one particular subset of readers is hard to broadly recommend as "the best the fandom has to offer." On the other hand, it's hard to see many people getting terribly bent out of shape over this story (save, perhaps, those who finished it solely to find the answer to a particular question posed by the story who came away disappointed). "Broadly enjoyable" may not describe this fic, but "broadly inoffensive" is probably fair.
Recommendation: For HiE fans looking for something low-key and gently, consistently entertaining, this is an easy story to recommend. It probably isn't a good choice for those looking for tightly focused narratives, or an emphasis on lore or believability. And for those who just aren't interested in HiE to begin with... well, this isn't what you're afraid of, but it probably isn't going to win you over so much as earn your neutrality.
Next time: Princess Twilight Sparkle’s 500th Birthday, by Autumnschild
...Okay, I have one thing to say about The Saddle Row Review:
Devil-Rarity's got nothing on Devil-Carrot Top.