FimFiction Link - Short ID: 439970/friendship-is-magic---extended-cut
Published: May '19 — May '20
'Friendship Is Magic - Extended Cut' is a 112k word AU rewrite of the first two episodes of Friendship is Magic. Although the events of the original episodes are still reflected in the fic, this expanded AU takes on a darker and more 'realistic' approach to the world and its characters. To its credit, the Extended Cut showcases a bunch of good ideas. Unfortunately it fumbles on the execution in several ways.
The first chapter does the story a great disservice. It dumps a ton of irrelevant worldbuilding on the reader without the intention to even mention most of it later. Not just that, the opening loredump is quickly repeated a second time when Twilight summarizes it to Celestia. I suppose the author wanted to highlight the differences between the canon Equestria and his AU right at the start but I can't say that this approach was all that necessary. IMO, it would've been far better to let the reader find the differences themselves by reading the actual fic. Furthermore, some of the choices regarding the prose of the fic are... questionable, to say the least, and chapter 1 is where Extended Cut's style has been the closest to intolerable for me. More on the prose later.
After that, the fic starts to get a lot better. This is where I need to emphasize that the main plot of the rewrite is surprisingly good; I liked the story, even despite what I'm about to say in a moment. The mystery regarding the Lunar rebellion and the beginnings of post-NMM Equestria is very good and the OC characters that appear a third of the way through the fic prove that the author is more than capable of writing interesting characters and an interesting story. The portrayal of Mane 6 was a mixed bag for me. I really liked this version of Rares and Ponk but Twilight is sometimes a lot more cynical, dismissive, unsympathetic and outright mean than her canon counterpart. Oh, and Fluttershy isn't 'shy' at all, Extended Cut's version starts out already being more confident than the show Flutters ever got. This is not a bad thing per se, it's just something to get used to; the fic utilizes the AU tag to its fullest, it is most certainly NOT the Equestria (You) know from the show.
It's not a bad Equestria, though. I loved the Everfree and the Lunar rebels lore. Something that struck me as weird was the author's brief moments of reluctance to commit to his own AU. Some of the confrontations and especially the lines of dialogue taken directly from the show don't really mesh with the rest of the fic. If you decide to read the Extended Cut, you'll probably do so for the interesting story and the world that the author is trying to show, not some loose callbacks to canon. Yes, we all watched the show (>implying).
The fic also has some totally random out-of-place le ebin references to other media like Cupcakes or FNAF. Those moments aren't that common though so It's not a huge deal.
It's finally time to address the two elephants in the room.
First, the lack of proofreading. Extended Cut has by far the most errors out of the fics the fimfic book club has read so far. They range from incorrectly placed punctuation marks and phonetic misspellings to missing spaces and jarring typos that would be underlined red by every spelling checker in the world. There is just no excuse to have them in the fic. I would guess that the reception varies from person to person, but personally I find them incredibly distracting, immediately disrupting the flow of the story. Aside from the errors, the fic insists on using the worst formatting of the dashes I have ever seen in a story. Hyphens replace the dashes and they're spaced from one, seemingly random, side of the punctuation mark. It looks pretty terrible on its own but combined with the author's tendency to use many hyphenated words, following some sentences is quite a struggle.
The other elephant is the writing. One of the anons aptly described it as 'Pythagorean prose' and it's a very good way to put it. It's technically sound (with the exception of the errors) but it's just so unevocative and sometimes outright boring. It's especially bad in longer descriptions, but it shows up everywhere. For as many words as the sentences in this fic tend to use, they tend to be very sterile. The constant overuse of italics in both dialogue and narration perhaps should've made it less of a problem but it didn't work. Artificially adding an emphasis to every other sentence diminishes the effect of italics. On top of that, the fic romances with the rationalfic genre. Thankfully it doesn't cross that line but it gets close to it on many occasions. Again, it's not an objective flaw but it's sort of silly, like all rationalfics and tend to be. Shout out to Spike taking fucking ground glass with him as s snack.
All in all, I'm really torn on the Extended Cut as a whole. I want to reiterate that I did like the story. If it was written differently -- something which I'm confident the author could've done since almost all the 'errors' are either simple oversights or dubious creative decisions -- I could easily see myself giving it a higher grade. If (You) don't care about the weird prose and the errors, and are willing to endure the mediocre opening, I'd recommend it.
Sadly, since those things are a part of the fic I have to take them into account and settle on a more unexciting 5/10.
FiM: Extended Cut is a medium length adventure fic, advertising itself as a mature fantasy re-imagining of the first two episodes of the show.
While it definitely gave off "fixfic" vibes before I read it, it certainly isn't one. The beginning few chapters feel like if Faust was a particularly obnoxious LessWrong poster, going much too deep into details that realistically shouldn't matter to anybody reading the story. This feeling subsides after a few chapters, however, and it becomes a smoother read, with many enjoyable scenes, and interesting action. Linked background music is a nice touch.
However, the writing throughout can feel rather dry. It may be because most of the story is from the perspective of Twilight, but it still doesn't seem quite right. It's very competent, but not very evocative.
As for the plot: I don't have much to say about it. It's like the first two episodes, except better written. It's cohesive. It makes sense. It introduces some interesting backstory and original characters, but ultimately it's what we've all seen a hundred times already, but with more cream on top. It's not that it's bad, it's just hard for me to give my criticism on something like that.
The story attempts to make everyone's behaviour more mature and rational, which tends to make some of them act OOC sometimes (especially Fluttershy, I still can't imagine OG Flutters doing a lot of the things she does in this fic), but the ponies are still more or less close to their original counterparts. While the mane six went from strangers, sometimes borderline antagonistic, to going on a journey together a bit too quickly for my taste, them becoming friends over the course of it was more believable than the show itself.
Characters aside, I enjoyed the worldbuilding. It was well done, and clearly a lot of thought went into making it feel coherent. While some may argue the show being so vague about its world is what made it feel exciting, for me the details only helped build interest. I will definitely add the rest of the Extended Cut series on my Read It Later list, if only to see if all that lore goes anywhere interesting.
Overall: 7/10, not my favourite of Book Club reads, but I enjoyed my time with it and I can appreciate the thought and effort put into it.