Saturday, 26 April 2014

Ponyfic Roundup 5: Special Edition

I wasn't planning to do a Ponyfic Roundup this week, but I have a specific reason for this. In the previous four Roundups, I've posted potted reviews of five stories each time. Here, I'm going to deal with just one. And on this occasion, I won't confine myself to my usual short paragraph. You'll still get that, but I will go on to discuss my feelings about the story in considerably more detail than usual. Since there will be significant spoilers in that section, I'll keep it under a break-cut. And so:

Fallout: Equestria by Kkat
Mane Six, CMC, Spike, Derpy and OC
Dark/Crossover/Adventure; 620,295 words; Sep 2013; Mature (Gore)
KKat's story (actually much older, but I use FIMFiction dates) should have been a disaster. A vast, sprawling, post-apocalyptic dystopian fantasy game crossover – with pastel ponies. Told in first person, at that. And yet she has produced an extraordinary piece of pony literature. It doesn't all work – the writing takes a few chapters to settle down and there are some irritating stylistic quirks, especially the overuse of show quotes – and it's arguable whether it should have a Sex tag too, but it's so much better than it has any right to be. Yes, it really is worth the time it will take you to read it. 9/10

All right; this is where you should leave me if you're going to read the story and don't want to be spoiled. I'm using a break-cut, but that won't work on RSS readers etc. So consider this a spoiler warning on its own! Okay, here goes:

I was absolutely blown away by this story. I've seen a lot of people claim that "Fallout: Equestria" (hereinafter simply FOE) is one of the fandom's crowning achievements, and until now I've always been pretty sceptical about that claim. But you know what? It is. It really, really is. It has its faults, and I'll get to those, but it's a truly remarkable piece of writing. This is a story whose enormous length – it's significantly longer than War and Peace – actually works in its favour, allowing a rich, deep world to be explored.

That exploration is something we do with Littlepip, FOE's central character. From the moment she leaves the Stable she's known all her young life, her horizons gradually but continuously expand. Not merely in the geographical sense, either: she comes to realise how much more there is to life than simply the Stable, or even simply ponies. And she takes us with her: our own horizons expand with her, as we experience the Equestrian Wasteland through her senses.

This is such an ambitious story, and although the very edges of its ambition don't always work (I wasn't keen on the alien angle) I'm very glad that Kkat tried. She wouldn't have created such a memorable fic otherwise. One of the most ambitious aspects, though, is the way she brings in the Mane Six, the CMC and other show-canon characters and gives them a whole new story. If you can accept that they'd be willing to fight what is largely a racial war – one of the story's many disturbing features – they really are believable here.

There are also some superbly realised OCs. My own favourite, and I suspect many other readers', is the renegade pegasus, Calamity. The moment he discovers the true magnitude of his own destiny was the point at which I most felt like cheering out loud. I was also very impressed with SteelHooves, especially Kkat's courage in ending his story as she did. I'm still uncertain about the "Applesnack" thing, though; it felt like a one-note joke dragged out much too long.

As for Velvet Remedy, I'm not a big fan of her second name: it doesn't roll of the tongue, but maybe that fits with her occasionally abrasive character. She didn't really become the deeply interesting pony we all knew she could be, though, until after she learned the truth about Fluttershy. (On which note: for ardent Flutterfans like me, FOE is a story that is likely to prove hard going at times. But don't give up on her: in the end, as so often in the show, her story is one of triumph over adversity.) Velvet and Xenith formed an interesting partnership at times, too, even if the zebra's brutal past was a little forgotten late on.

And then there's Homage. I'll be honest: she was not really my favourite character. Yes, she played an immensely important role, and without her Littlepip could not have accomplished her quest. But Homage was also, frankly, a bit of a juvenile idiot at times; you could almost hear the teenage sniggering when she brought up her and Littlepip's sex life at several completely inappropriate moments. I thought that brought an unnecessary danger of distraction at a pivotal moment. Homage has seen so much, but here she still could do with growing up.

There's a lot of violence in this story, some of it pretty brutally described. For a while, in the early chapters, the gore is a little overdone: it succeeds in its aim to shock, but it risks going too far in that direction. Thankfully, Kkat seems to realise this, and later on the really brutal scenes are much lower in number – giving their appearances much more impact. The massacre at Arbu is perhaps the single most shocking scene in the whole of FOE – yes, more so than the Luna-skull necklace – and it will live with me for a long time. Especially because of who perpetrated it.

I could go on a lot longer, but I'll end with two thoughts. One is that the ending conflicted me. I didn't much like the way the "Galvanize" chapter was laid out, but the final few pages were beautifully done... except that one little mention of Homage's ability to get to Littlepip's new home rather diminished her (Littlepip's) sacrifice, which was after all her virtue. The second is simply this: my native city is Wolverhampton. Its civic motto is "Out of Darkness Cometh Light" – and that, I think, is really rather fitting here.


  1. Oh good, someone who legit liked FoE also hates Homage. :V I was worried, seeing your score for the fic (I gave it a 6 on your scale), but you are redeemed. V:

    1. Is it bad of me to have wanted Homage to sacrifice herself in some satisfyingly bloody manner? Probably.

      I occasionally wonder whether I'd lower this fic's score if I were rating it today. I'm honestly not sure: I certainly wouldn't go as low as 6, but maybe an 8 would be a possibility. It's still enough of an achievement to me for me to keep it in my favourites, though, and that generally means 8+.