Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Ponyfic Roundup 31: Special Edition

Way back in the summer, I started to read what (if it's ever finished) will be a quite enormous cycle of 12 books by "Imploding Colon", one of shortskirtsandexplosions' alt accounts. Austraeoh is the first book in the sequence. It has over 15,000 views and a votes ratio of +1,297/-46, but does it deserve such a stellar following and reputation? It took me months, but I did finish it:

Austraeoh by Imploding Colon
Rainbow Dash
Random/Adventure/Alternate Universe; 213K words; Oct 2012; Teen
The sum total of the description for this story is "Rainbow Dash flies east." The rest only becomes clear as the story progresses. It's a highly episodic story, with only a thin (though important) thread of connecting narrative. Scenes vary between imaginative and dull, gripping and annoying. At its best, the world-building is fascinating. Horribly overblown language early on thankfully settles down, but sadly the proofreading doesn't: far too many typos and weird word choices. (My favourite is a character "strolling icily".) Not even close to the greatest fanfic I've read, but worth ploughing through if you like world-building and episodic adventures with OCs – and have a high tolerance for Rainbow Dash. 6.5/10

All right. Now for my more detailed thoughts: these will contain lots of spoilers. If that doesn't matter to you, read on...

As far as I can tell at this point, the backstory of the fic is that "The Return of Harmony" went wrong, chaos is taking over and Rainbow Dash is flying east for some way to stop this, even as she herself fades into chaos. That's partly guesswork, but it'll do for now. Okay, fine, I'm all for "What if?" AU stories. Parts of it were amazingly obvious – I'd figured out that green book from a few chapters in – but there were still emotional thumps. "Ashes", near the end, was the chapter that did this to me the most.

You do indeed need a very high tolerance for Rainbow Dash to get through Austraeoh, as she's the only Mane Sixer who appears, at least in the present. Luna and (to a small extent) Celestia are also around, though Luna speaks in a horribly mangled version of the Royal Canterlot Grammar that quickly drove me up the wall. (This is but one example of a wider problem that I'll get to.) Dash is very much in "awesome" mode and everypony else knows it, and it doesn't help that she succeeds and succeeds and succeeds at... well, just about everything...

...until the last act. This alone makes the Silvadel sequence by far the most interesting part of the story. Rainbow actually fails at something for a change, and something which has huge consequences. There are other interesting sections of the fic – most things relating to Darkstine are quite good – but I'd got pretty fed up with "Dash finds isolated village, quickly solves problem, is treated as a demigod" long before it stopped happening. This doesn't happen in Silvadel, which is why it's so much more engaging to read.

There are some interesting OCs in this tale, though its highly episodic nature means that we don't get to hang around with them for very long. A few have distractingly bizarre names (Stu?) but most are at least passable. For example, I became quite a fan of Cold Canter, the Darkstinian border guard. I was rather hoping he'd buck the trend and become an ongoing character for Dash to talk to – but no, his communications were abruptly cut off and (one passing reference aside) we never heard anything more about him. I did find that frustrating.

As my summary review may have suggested, this story is a bit of a mess technically. It's horrendously badly (if at all) edited/proofread for a piece by such an experienced author. IC appears to believe that "uttered" means the same thing as "said", while every so often he falls in love with a certain word or phrase and just won't let go. You'll be thoroughly sick of the words "devilishly" and "seethed" by the end, while Lavender Unicorn Syndrome has a new rival in the form of Ruby Eyes Syndrome. Okay, in this story the colour of Dash's eyes at any particular time is significant, but even so. Oh, and talking of love: why the pointless AppleDash ship teasing?

Austraeoh is also too long: it would certainly not have harmed the story to have dropped one of the pre-Darkstine village encounters, for example. Combining that with tighter (any serious?) editing could probably have reduced the story's length by tens of thousands of words, as well as reducing my annoyance at finding "peak" and "peek" confused for the umpteenth time. I probably will read the next book, Eljunbyro, but I'm not going to expect miracles. This story is a moderately interesting, rather overblown ramble. It's not, by any stretch of the imagination, a true classic.

3 comments:

  1. Well, the next story has much less Rainbow Dash in it. It's also much more a single story instead of a series of vignettes. Also quite a bit darker in a lot of ways.

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    1. I've actually started reading Eljunbyro now: I'm halfway through the "Cold Sweat" chapter, to give you an idea. And so far? Frankly, I'm finding it rather dull. A few hints of darkness are starting to make themselves felt, which is really what's keeping me reading, but it's going to have to get better than it is right now for me to be any kinder to it than I was to Austraeoh itself.

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  2. " – and have a high tolerance for Rainbow Dash."

    *runs away screaming*

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