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It's 437,000 words of purple prose describing Lyra being ground in to the dirt and losing constantly. At the end of the series, she's still lost and beaten in to the ground, and all character development has been lost.
I'd almost compare it to Pretty in Pink, just better written and less physical. At least Pretty in Pink had obvious intentions and got straight to the point, though.
After a great deal of effort, I finally finished Background Pony, and...well, just read the title.
To be perfectly fair, this is a fantastically written story. The early chapters were especially promising, with Lyra being placed in an unfathomably horrible situation and trying to make the most of it while also searching for a possible escape. It had all the makings of a fantastic character piece, and the heavy philosophical overtones (key word being "over") were fascinating. But then it just kept going and going, and after a while, I just got fed up with just how uncompromisingly and pointlessly cruel the story got by about the sixth chapter. I went from being excited about each update to dreading it, and finally just gave up, only occasionally forcing myself to trudge through the remaining hundreds of thousands of words by the end. But I had to finish it. After all, this is one of the greats of pony fiction, and I had to see it through.
And I wish I hadn't. The ending is quite possibly one of the most bleak, pointless, and downright horrifying things I've ever read, and not in a good way. After an entire story of Lyra being ground into dust over and over again, learning about previous sufferers of the same affliction and watching her fail time and again to just get somepony to remember her, she is completely and utterly screwed over by a Diabolus Ex Machina. And we are told we're supposed to be happy that she's made this non-decision, removed the key piece of her entire life, and will now be alone and gradually go insane for the rest of her life - because of something that could have easily been circumvented without wrecking the plot if SSAE wasn't a Complete Monster.
This story is the first time I've ever really suffered Darkness Induced Audience Apathy in a fanfic. The message the story presents is actually insightful and intelligent, but the narrative is so pretentious, the events so soul-crushingly bleak, and the ending such a slap in the face that it's just not worth it. I can see why this would be held up as highly as it is, but right now, I feel that my time was wasted. Right now, I'm just glad I'm done with it.
Let's be clear: Background Pony is not a happy fic. It is not a story that makes everything happy at the end of the chapter. It will make you very sadface.
If you don't like sadface, do not read Background Pony.
If you can handle sadface and are okay with philosophy, then Background Pony might vaguely interest you. If you ENJOY philosophy, Background Pony will blow your mind.
Background Pony deals, to an almost cosmically brilliant degree, with the intricate consequences of a single, fundamental shift. Lyra's curse in BP is so simple, yet so hauntingly painful that it strikes, to a greater or lesser degree, into the soul of any reader and demonstrates the important things about life through sheer vibrancy of dictation, characterization, imagery, and empathy.
It is a story about non-existence, about the intricate necessity to make an imprint on the world and how unimportant that imprint ultimately is. It is a paradox, and Background Pony demonstrates how both are necessary to be truly, definably alive in this world. Lyra's attempts to be remembered, her sad acceptance, then placid calm progression forward, are representative of the need for humans to be memorable, that moment when we realize we aren't, and the strength of character it takes to not give up and make a way where none apparently exists.
Are you up to such a task, dear reader? For while many of use may be fans of Lyra Heartstrings, not many of us would be able to persevere as she has.
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