Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Fandom Classics Part 207: A Pony Walks Into a Bar...

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

Why does AJ have a bunch of red Solo cups sitting next to her?  She's clearly perched at a bar; why would a bar be using disposable cups?  It doesn't look like they're set up for beer pong or some other one-off activity; just what is going on here?  I do not have an answer; all I know is what I've reviewed.  And today, what I've reviewed is A Pony Walks Into a Bar..., by chief maximus.  Check out my thoughts, below the break.

Impressions before reading:  A "ponies get drunk" fic from 2012?  I don't have high hopes going in; there were a number of fics with that premise written in in the fandom's early days, which did nothing more with the idea than show one or more of the main six acting stereotypically drunk--perhaps mildly amusing the first time you read it, but less so the 80th.  Come to think of it, you don't see so many "ponies get drunk" fics these days; I wonder why?  Regardless, the point is that I'm hoping there's more here than just some slurred speech and awkward oversharing/blurted confessions, but I guess it's fair to admit that I don't really expect anything but that.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Frosty Mug, proud owner of Ponyville's only bar, recounts the week during which each of the main six visited his bar in succession (and also some other characters, in a few "bonus" chapters).

Thoughts after reading:  Although it's assembled in the form of an overarching story, this is best understood as a series of semi-connected vignettes, each sharing a narrator and setting, but otherwise only loosely linked.  The bonus chapters are really just additional scenes, which can be fully enjoyed as part of the story proper or left aside as the reader desires.  The vignettes have highly variable tone, with (for example) the first two taking a very common shipfic form which is totally absent from the rest.

That does, however, also mean that it can be difficult to get a handle on what the tone of any given segment "should" be, and that elements that wander farther afield from show-tone (e.g. the bartender going for his shotgun in order to stop a knife-wielding robber) don't feel well integrated into the story.  Likewise, the in-universe comedy--that is, the comedy inherent to the universe itself, rather than dialogue- or character-based humor--ranges from wacky-random in Pinkie's chapter to barely-there in Gilda's.

The entire fic is narrated by the barkeep, who is a bit of a mixed bag.  He's presented as a snarky but basically friendly and competent sort, and thankfully the "snarky" isn't played up too much--he avoids becoming an unlikeable ponce.  That said, his voicing can be a bit grating, especially when he over-describes ponies' feelings or reactions.  Psychoanalyzing somepony for the reader's "benefit" gets old fast.  Luckily, the story keeps a quick pace across all of its chapters; rather than dwelling overmuch on any pony or dilemma, the proceedings are kept light and breezy.  On the whole, while the narrative style avoids the most common pitfalls of writing of its type, it's also true that it does little to elevate itself.

As far as the individual scenes go?  Well, they vary quite a bit, obviously.  The first two chapters are pretty standard shipfic stuff; the Pinkie chapter is half goofball, half dull exposition (sadly, listening the someone describe the results of a multi-part drinking contest just isn't all that interesting); the Trixie chapter is a fine example of wallowing in self-pity, up until the predictable but still enjoyable twist at its end.  If nothing else, they do help keep engagement up through sheer variability... but it's also true that that variability, combined with the loose thematic connections, make this an easy fic to put down when one hits a rough patch (or just a chapter that isn't to one's tastes, character- or plot-wise), and an equally easy one to abandon.

Star rating:

To its credit, this is more than just a "look at the drunk ponies!" fic.  However, it is still a rather insubstantial piece, written in a voice which dances on the line between amusing and annoying.

Recommendation:  If you're looking for something goofy and snarky, this would make for good light reading, and due to its design, would be a good choice for reading when bingeing the whole fic isn't an option--the chapters can be read virtually independent of one another, after all.  However, it's not a fic that will appeal to those seeking anything resembling "depth," nor anyone put off by over-expository and flippant storytelling.

Next time:  The Centerpiece of My Collection/The Collection of My Centerpiece, by geldon

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