FimFiction Link - Short ID: 531748/read-eternally
Published: Feb '23
'Read Eternally' is a two thousand and seven hundred-word oneshot posted originally as part of the Pastejam. A mare is stuck an endless library.
My reaction to this fic is best summed up by an old local saying: "One of my eyes cries, the other laughs", because really, this fic has a deeply engrossing base concept squandered by messy prose and an unsatisfying narrative.
First things first, prose: It feels hard to properly put it to words, but something about the way this story written takes me out of the experience. I'd say this fic has "filtering sentences" instead of words. That is, a lot of things are stated as if a narrator were telling it to us, instead of feeling like its part of the world. Which in moderation wouldn't be an issue, but even at the height of action I felt very separated from the events happening, which sadly really hurt the experience. Also some sentences are confusing or seemingly disjointed from the rest of the fic, making the reader work assumptions to match things up.
As for the story, I was immediately reminded of Borges's 'Library of Babel', which is a story I'm deeply fond of. The concept of an endless library, even one not "haunted", is engaging and potentially terrifying or awe-inspiring, but the fic does little with its setting: It uses the word "book" only twice during the library parts, once as a memory and once mentioned by another character. If, instead of bookshelves, the protagonist just walked in a stone or hedge-maze, practically nothing would have changed.
We could have seen her try to read some of the books to figure out where she is (or how to leave), use them as markers, run her hooves through them to stave off sensory deprivation, or basically anything. Instead the story ambles on for a thousand or so more words reasserting facts we already know. Then an antagonist randomly appears, who is promptly dealt with when the protag has her moment of determination. Then, after the now-pacified antagonist tells the protag "now you can read any book you desire and I can't do anything to harm you", she doesn't even stick around for five minutes to look at any of them, just figuratively goes "lol, no thanks" and straight-up leaves. I get the idea, but it's sloppy.
I don't mind that we don't get a wiki article about the rules of what just happened. Mystery is a core part of horror after all, but by the end I kind of felt unaffected by everything that happened. The OC does little to make us care about her, the antagonist comes and goes with little fanfare, and the epilogue (while sweet) has no real relevance to the events that transpired—the whole thing just felt like a story with a flash of an arc, bracketed by a lot of meandering.
Overall: 3/10 Decent idea on paper, with great potential for both horror and mystery, but the execution sadly leaves a lot to be desired. Perhaps the sequel will improve on things.
I partially agree with the other anon, but there's a couple of things I feel the need to elaborate on:
I disagree, this is a completely valid way to tell the story. That's the biggest thing; going from "it's fine" to "it hurts the experience" is what makes the fic go from pretty nice to pretty bad. I really liked the mood of the fic, the first 2/3 of it anyways.
Again, opinions are just that but I enjoyed it quite a bit. You don't have to say 'book' every other sentence to properly communicate the gloomy atmosphere of the place, and that atmosphere was the most enjoyable part of the fic. Same goes for the villain -- it's not a long part of the fic (even compared to the short length of the story), but the moment had plenty of really well-executed suspense. And again, the horror atmosphere in the first half is genuinely good.
I don't think it's a must read or some hidden gem, but I do think it's a good story. If I were to rate in a review, I'd lean towards 6/10 or a 7/10, primarily docking points for the somewhat disappointing ending and the occasional mistake or two.