Welcome back, internet travelers! It appears we're having an unofficial comedy week here as this is the second comedy I have reviewed and the second time I took the schedule as a complete joke! Yeah… Just give no regard to the calendar for now. I'll have it fixed by The Sword Coast! Promise! Jumping in, LordSmokedMeatsandFishes's On Time for a Change follows the story of Pendulum, an expert in logistics, as he tries to fix Ponyville's Winter Wrap Up problem. He runs into the inevitable roadblocks and humor ensues. Unfortunately, On Time for a Change has a great setup but is inhibited by its own setbacks. Pendulum is the stereotypical unlikeable Manehatten businessman and the story is rather ill-paced and badly executed. Everything else is not at all memorable or clever, making for an overall lackluster read. Head below the break for my review of On Time for a Change by LordSmokedMeatsandFishes.
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On Time for a Change by LordSmokedMeatandFishes
Incomplete (last updated on 25th June 2014)
A little town called Ponyville.
Oh sure they had sent their request late giving Pendulum only a day to get there and organize a schedule. Sure the records they sent were disorganized at best. Sure they hadn't come close to succeeding for over 70 years. But really, how difficult could it be?
Pendulum would soon come to regret those words... Read it here.
Tags: Comedy, Slice of Life - Rating: Everyone
Word Count: 18,662 words total
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I often say the biggest problem with fan fiction writers, particularly with My Little Pony because of its outlandish characters, is that canon characters are all too often hard to write. This is hugely apparent in On Time for a Change. Many characters are ill-voiced or are completely out-of-character. Applejack, for example, actually gets along with Pendulum, an outsider, and, unlike everyone else, looks forward to the changes he proposes. It's odd because if anyone has proven to be speculative of the intentions of strangers, it has been Applejack. Even more strangely, Rarity hugely disagrees with the protagonist even when he’s trying to increase the town’s productivity. Wouldn't Rarity be the most likely (other than Twilight) of the Mane6 to approve of such changes? Not to mention he's a big city professional with a reputation of turning around backward businesses! This characterization of just two of the Mane6 comes off as hugely sloppy and rather contrived to fit the plotline. Unfortunately, this isn't the end of On Time’s character problem.
Pendulum, without a doubt, drives this story. Yet, he's also its Achilles Heel. He's selfish, manipulative and his self-righteousness just drove me further and further away from him. It begs the question: What was LordSmokedMeatandFishes' outline for this character? Was he suppose to be an OCD-plagued hero that is just held down by this compulsive nature such as Soul Eater’s Death the Kid? Ignoring the fact that Pendulum’s disorder is actually his cause for success, Death the Kid actually does have redeeming qualities and while he has his setbacks, he prevails in protecting his positive core values. However, Pendulum doesn't have any of these values. He just indulges in his OCD and self-righteousness as it is his avenue for success. If he's not Death the Kid because of his lack of morals, would Pendulum be just a genius protagonist lacking in core values such as House’s Gregory House? Possibly. When you compare the two, it’s pretty easy to see the similarities in their God complexes and selfishness. But Dr. House serves as that kind of character done right. House’s primary goal to save lives, even if it is for egocentric reasons. In contrast to Pendulum who has no reason for us to root for him.
However, the ultimate difference between Death the Kid and Gregory House versus Pendulum is that Death and House make mistakes! The thing about unlikable characters is that they have to fail and in the process of failure they realize their faults. We root for those characters because we have seen their transformation into a better person by the end of the story. However, Pendulum gets his way too often to make the reader connect with him. In fact, I felt he really had no reason to complain everytime he had a setback because things seem to be going so well for him and his goals.
Perhaps even worse, Pendulum's Mary-Sue-ish perfection completely downplays the entire conflict. There's no tension when he does face a setback simply because the reader already knows he can confront it or ignore it and he'd win either way. Not to mention the worst he's faced just caused some minor annoyance. Remember I mentioned that Pendulum's lack of a redeeming goal also affects the conflict? Well, his lack of a redeeming factors actually makes it seem like the obstacles put in his way are justified. It’s almost like the story is told from the point of view of the antagonist. Which begs the question: Why should the reader hope that everything works out for him?
If there's something this story has a lot of, it's filler. Unfortunately, On Time for a Change is about 19,000 words in and it's still moving at a horribly slow pace. It feels almost as if we have barely touched on the conflict simply because everything - and I mean everything - in Mr. Pendulum’s day is covered. If he was a normal character with a torturous case of OCD, I would call this an engenius illustration of the main character's attention to detail, but the end result is a story that crawls along at a snail's pace. In all honesty, my best advice would be to trim the fat and cut a lot of the word count for the introduction. Inevitably, the story will be able to focus more on the conflict and keep the reader engaged.
Speaking of keeping the reader engaged, I can't say the scene visuals do a very good job at that either. Scenes usually open with long descriptions of a setting followed by the actual scene. The problem with this is that it's a clunky and forgettable way to introduce the scene. Not to mention the scene that follows is void of any visualization of the situation and outdoor scenes have almost zero description. In other words, there's barely any scene visualization and the little there is slams on the brakes only to set up a scene.
If there's one thing that I can say On Time for a Change did right is its dialogue. Although the characters behind it aren't well done, conversations rarely falter and characters deliver their lines well. Even with some unusual awkward moments when aggression shifts quite suddenly, the exchanges feel well rounded and flow well. One thing I would say to be careful with is that some of the paragraph structure might be confusing to the reader. I understand the seemly random breaks in paragraphs during conversations are there to prevent “walls of text” but this just left me thinking it was another speaker. It would be easier on the reader if there were natural interruptions in the speaker’s line or some indication that it's in fact the same speaker. Other than that, the dialogue is rather solid.
From the weak characterization to the lackluster scene visuals, On Time for a Change will need some polish before I can recommend it to anyone. Many of the story's issues can be attributed to Pendulum's character and his lack of depth or relatability. Along with the problems surrounding canon characters, flawed pacing and faulty conflicts, I can't help but recommend this story goes back to the drawing board. This has been Amy Clockwork. Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!