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TComet Sighted
Sandbar is visited by an old friend from Canterlot. What starts out as a harmless friendly visit soon turns out to be much more.
jnzsblzs · 20k words  ·  13  0 · 752 views

Author: jnzsblzs


Description

This is a story about friendship, light and darkness, and how sometimes even the most unreasonable sins have reasons.

Sandbar's life has been great. His friends from the school of friendship are awesome, his crush on Ocellus blossomed into a wonderful relationship and in general he's never been better.
But then a much anticipated visit from an old friend turns his whole world upside down and inside out.

Initial Thoughts

So, in the story’s long description, jnzsblzs notes that this was initially intended as a rewrite of Jay David’s Old Friend, No Longer, which is now part of that author’s anthology series, The Young Six. I had to go and read the original story (now chapter) in order to get a better grasp of the context. I was surprised; I’d actually seldom read fanfiction rewrites, let alone essentially what amounts to a soft reboot. Based merely on length alone, this story does certainly deviate from the original version by quite a lot. 

I note that the first paragraph in the description feels entirely unnecessary; it comes off as “sleeve talk,” that is, what you’d see on the sleeve of a book in the place of a synopsis. I’d therefore advise the author to simply keep the paragraph afterwards.

Onto the story.


Summary

I’m going to avoid as many spoilers as possible here, because this story benefits from a blind mind to such things. Here is what I can say: this is a story, as the initial description states, about friendship, light and darkness, and how sometimes even the most unreasonable sins have reasons. Essentially we are faced with a conflict between Sandbar, whose perspective we follow throughout, and his old friend, Comet. This conflict is beyond just disagreement; it’s clear that they have differing worldviews, and as a result, they inevitably come to blows. 

Plot

There is a smorgasbord of ideas and themes, beyond friendship and light and darkness, which the story plays around with, using Sandbar as the conduit for which such themes are examined. There are some fairly heavy topics, too, some handled with grace and care, and others which could be a bit stronger.

This means that the story has a lot it needs to accomplish, and in the end I’m not sure of the close to 20k words fully fulfilled them. (More on that in a bit)

As the plot comes down to the conflict between Sandbar and his old friend Comet, it becomes necessary to evaluate the buildup to that conflict. The author has decided to break that buildup into two parts: a short prologue which introduces some of the themes and key differences between the two—ingredients for the conflict—and the chapter which operates as the heavy-rewrite of the original by Jay David. Yet taken as a whole, I’m left wondering as to why the break was made in the first place. 

In part that’s because the prologue, perhaps because of its short length, is much more on the nose with what it means to say—that is, it’s quite simple in its approach, but comes off as “preaching” its themes rather than exploring them, as is done in the larger chapter. That’s an issue of the length more than the idea, though, and I think that an easy fix would be to put the prologue as part of the larger chapter, or divide the larger chapter up into smaller chapters throughout. 

(On that note, this is a story that could operate as having multiple chapters as it could be one long one.) 

In regards to the ultimate execution of the main source of conflict, I’m actually conflicted myself. I attribute this to the length with which the author has gone about employing it. Even in that 18k space, there were parts where elements of the plot were clearly given differing levels of development. While the story tries, to admirable degree, to paint a complex view of racism, paranoia, and justification for fear of the “Other,” there’s a part where a particularly graphic reveal which is meant to further contextualize the justification for that same fear feels like it falls short of being fully delivered, a gripe which will tie into another issue I had with the story. 

That basically means that the story’s plot had so much going for it, that the author could not juggle them all in a manner that would have given each the proper amount of development. But at the same time, there are elements that work so well that it’s almost forgivable that the story did not meet its premise midway. For example, this story goes beyond a wooden portrayal of racial tensions, and fuels it with political and social ramifications. In this way, the story plays with the topic in a “smart” way, a complex way, which feels justified given the slow crawl through the plot. 

As a whole, there are not necessarily plot “holes,” but there are pieces that were missing. A cursory glance may forgive this, but a closer inspection reveals the discrepancy between developing themes. What works, works; but what doesn’t quite get the job done, really shows. 

 Score - 7 / 10 

Characterization

I admit that I have a bit of an ambivalent view of The Young Six. I like a few of them, not all of them. And I haven’t read a lot of fanfics that quite seem to get their characters right.

This story, though told in a very limited third-person perspective, handles its characterization of the YS pretty well, aided no doubt because this story is an alternate universe set in the not-so-distant future. Because of this, the story has a unique amount of freedom in showing who these characters are while also having a good base upon which to form this interpretation.

Sandbar as the narrator really sucked me in. While in my opinion he’s a bit plain as a character in canon, here I enjoyed seeing him come to grips with plenty of cognitive dissonance. Given his normally passive “pony” attitude (a fitting term, considering one of the themes the story explores), this dichotomy between a simple, easy, pleasant life, and whatever cold realizations his “friend” Comet exposes to him, provides an excellent route to character evolution. Sandbar becomes more than Sandbar by the story’s end, strengthening his beliefs not because they’re right (maybe they are, maybe they aren’t), but because he recognizes that they have a greater importance given what he now knows. 

Of course, this would not have happened without the help of Sandbar’s old “friend,” Comet. By his mannerisms we see he’s got a certain view of himself, and he speaks with finesse, class, and status that resembles the hoity-toity ways of Canterlot elites. But we also see a darker, much more violent side to him, a side that is rough-hewn and covered no doubt by innumerable scars. He’s pleasant on the surface, but as he reiterates many times throughout the story, not everything is as they seem. 

I think jnzsblzs did a great job with turning Jay David’s original concept for Comet into a gray-aligned one. I can’t condone his beliefs as much as Sandbar might in his heart, but it’s clear that great thought went into trying to figure out why a pony would think this way. Flirting with the lines between racism and fear, jnzsblzs paints a painfully understandable picture of this kind of character, in a way that marks his vulnerability as much as his prejudice. Are we supposed to like Comet? To some extent, yes; he’s our neighbor who has seen a different side of life and is therefore ruined by it, and we must like and pity him if we are to not become him. 

There was one instance, however, where Comet employed an invisibility spell. The veracity of this, I’m not sure; I was under the impression such a spell requires intense training. 

There was one character who I did not think had the best characterization, though: and that was Rainbow Dash. While her inclusion is part of the device to reveal the last revelation to Sandbar, and therefore the reader, she feels ever so slightly different from who she is. She emerges as a moralist and a lecturer, things that I am unsure if Rainbow would ever be; perhaps the former, to a degree, but the latter seems out of place, even given her position as a teacher. Given the theme of loyalty, it makes sense she’d show up, but her execution leaves something to be desired. 

Yet overall the characterization was undoubtedly the strongest part of the story. It may turn some readers away for a radically different Sandbar, but that’s part of the charm of having him aged up; he’s a different pony, now, and has matured in that difference. 

Score - 8/10

Syntax

One of the author’s comments mentions that he had a native English speaker help with proofreading, so some slack must be cut for instances of awkward syntax. Still, it bears some importance to bring them to light.

I noted a lack of commas, especially with dialogue tags. For example:

“Because this place is just creepy if you think about it.” Comet said with obvious fascination in his eyes.

To fix this, I would change it ever so slightly:

”Because this place is just creepy if you think about it,” Comet said…

The rule is that when a dialogue tag follows dialogue, the dialogue should end with a comma (unless the dialogue is an interjection or an interrogative). This rule doesn’t apply when in place of a dialogue tag, an action is given. 

Another issue with the commas was a lack of them in places with conjunctive adverbs—adverbs that seek to “conjoin” two thoughts within one sentence, usually to describe one idea. A traditional use might look something like this:

“He was not, however, much of a playwright,” she said.

You may see it in a lot of academic writing to start an argumentative point, but it comes up in prose, too. Generally you need commas after them when they’re written in the middle of such a sentence. There are some more nuanced rules involved when the conjunctive adverb is meant to break up two contradicting ideas, but that’s a little too complicated for me to explain fully.

One final grammar issue was an abundance of fragments and “as if.” I don’t mind fragments, provided they’re used well, but here they’ve broken up the pacing of the syntax in a way that works against the general diction and sentence flow. And the “as if” follows with the same issue. 

Score - 6 / 10


Final Score - (7 + 8 + 6) / 3 = 7 / 10

Final Thoughts

Can ponies be good? Is it in their nature? These questions, along with those about the legacy of sin, race, love, identity, historical prejudice, and the like, all come into play. These are all difficult concepts to write about, so the effort put into trying is admirable. Certain things fall short, though. I suspect that’s because the author wanted to put them all in—an interesting attempt, but too clunky without properly providing the space needed to develop them all, which may have resulted in sacrificing a concise length in favor of a longer one. 

Furthermore, part of the story’s problem is that it meanders quite a bit on what it wants to say. A lot of the reveals near the end feel like they take away from the big one that Comet provides—and that reveal’s impact is lessened. For as much as they might add to the “main” point of the story, they do so in a way that works counter to its intent. 

But there are points where the story does reach its stride. It just takes a while to get there, but when it does, the reader is rewarded with a careful examination of some heavy themes, and great characterization to fuel that examination. The story shines there the most, and honestly, writing anything of this length makes for a difficult weighing of the plot scales. The effort alone is commendable. 

Readers who like characters forced into deeply uncomfortable mental situations (not necessarily destructive, but rather, darkly illuminating) will enjoy Comet Sighted. 

Hey there!

Thanks for the review it was quite illuminating. Unfortunately you got my first work, (technically second, my first was also a rework of a chapter of some other fic here, but unlike this one that's the 37-th chapter of a 2 million word epic so I can't really expect anyone to read several houndred thousand word just to be able to read my fic.) and that meant my style was the least mature out of all the stories. Which caused most of the balancing problems you talked about.

The scope and the pacing is off I agree with that much but I'm intrigued why you'd think the Comet's reveal is the big one. I thought it's fairly obvious the focal point was Rainbow's point a scene later. Then again, the emotional high point is definitely Comet's scene... bah what was I thinking trying to cram this much into one little fic. It almost makes me want to rewrite it, I do have some ideas how to make it better.

But can you tell me directly which parts of the story work and which don't? I mean I have a pretty good idea based on the review but since you were somewhat cryptic to avoid spoilers I'm not a 100% sure exactly which parts you liked or not. So it would be beneficial to clear that up. If you don't want to do that here just hit me up in PM or something.

Anyhow great analysis I'm glad you put this much effort into reviewing my work.

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