Friday, September 23, 2016

Fandom Classics Part 178: Veil of Thoughts

To read the story, click the image or follow this link.

Sometimes I like to spoonerize titles, for my own marginal amusement, when I read them.  As such, it occured to me as I sat down to begin reading this story that "Theil of Voughts" would be an excellent name for a D&D character, or possibly a classical Greek philosopher.  Either/or, really.

Head below the break for some (marginally more substantive) commentary on Starwin's Veil of Thoughts.

Impressions before reading:  Spoonerism-related impressions aside, I'm not terribly positive about this going in.  The cover art looks, for lack of a better word "MSPaint-y," the first sentence of the description is missing a comma, and that description also ends in a direct appeal to the reader ("you'll never look at Twilight Dash the same way again").  All in all, my hopes are pretty tempered.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash have become fused into a single being, due to a spell Twilight cast, and now their combined mind is unraveling.  But Twilight would have known that this would happen... so why did she do it?

Thoughts after reading:  There are a couple of really nice things about this story.  First, Starwin has a knack for dropping dramatic cliffhangers and posing forward-leaning questions in ways that keep a reader engaged.  A few of these verge on cheap, but their unquestionably effective, and there are no false cliffhangers here (i.e. the sort that could be resolved solely by ending the chapter a couple of sentences later).  Second, there are some clever elements to the presentation of Twilight Dash (as the amalgam refers to itself)'s fractured consciousness; things like the ways chapters three and six overlap from two incomplete perspectives, or the varying self-awareness shown at different points in the fic's various dreamscapes and non-physical domains.

Sadly, a potentially interesting core concept is predicated on an idea that was already silly when this fic was being written (season two): that Twilight, Dash, and the rest of the girls are literal paragons of their elements, and that character traits from the show are inflexible absolutes ("Fluttershy never gets angry" is spoken without irony, presumably a mere few months in-universe after the events of Dragonshy).  Meanwhile, the drama in the fic is largely predicated on ridiculous, out-of-character moments: Celestia shows up quickly and, after determining more-or-less what happened, informs the girls that she needs to separate Twilight and Dash, but it's likely she can only save one of their lives.

Then, she asks them all to vote on which of their friends she should try to bring back.

Then, they all go around in a circle and vote.

It's as jarringly absurd a scene as it sounds.  It's not the only character flub, either; Pinkie sticks out as particularly ill-written, showing a mood-breaking inability not to be goofy (or more often, simply "random") about things like one of her friends dying, but large bits of this story just don't hold together very well as regards the characters themselves.  This feels especially tragic to me, because there are moments--Dash's "shut up and listen" moment in the penultimate chapter especially comes to mind--that simply shine, in terms of recognizing motives and beliefs and/or envisioning perfectly consistent ones.  But too often, ponies speak or act for the sake of drama or advancing the plot.

Anyway, this ill characterization is emphasized by the writing; dialogue is often over-expository, and narration is often absurdly repetitive, re- or pre-stating whatever information the dialogue conveys ("Whatever Applejack had expected to hear, that wasn’t it. Her friend… friends… had just called her a liar! The one thing she absolutely was not! 'Now hold on just a darn minute! I ain’t no liar!' said Applejack").  There are also a lot of construction issues, mostly as relates to comma usage; although the story is almost never difficult to parse, it's not terribly well put-together.

Star rating:

There is a promising idea to explore here--or rather, the manner in which the author wanted to explore this idea was promising.  But ultimately, the bright spots here don't shine brightly enough to erase the impression left by the rest of the fic.

Recommendation:  If you read that bit about Celestia and the girls voting on who to save and thought "Chris sounds like he's blowing this out of proportion," then this might be one to check out, if you enjoy slow reveals and mental exploration, and don't mind comma errors.  It would also be a decent choice for readers who lament their inability to finish stories, as it has a goodly number of built-in draw-on moments.  Beyond that, I wouldn't go out of my way to specifically recommend it.

Next time:  And the Temptress Came Unto Her, by Device Heretic


  1. Theil?


    Consider that stolen.

  2. "...'Theil of Voughts' would be an excellent name for a D&D character..."

    Better yet, make him an aeronautical engineer in GURPS :p

    I'm still fond of one I made for a rogue/transmuter from Ptolus — Ænder Diebs

    "...but they're unquestionably effective..."

    That voting bit sounds hilarious! I'm tempted to read it just for that

    Also, sorry for not wishing you a happy birthday before (seems everyone's been having those lately). I've been falling behind on stuff and missed the last couple posts