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A Strange Beast

By Rhodeworks, author of Not All Heroes

Jul 24, 2018: (Review up to Chapter 19 – very minor spoilers)

The Mighty Pinata is an odd little story so far. On one hand, it bucks the trends of superhero serial fiction (the hyper-competent first-person narrator) but, on the other, it also apes trends in other serials (a wry, ‘comedic’ narrator who is Hip To All Those Funny Genre Conventions). There’s a quote that burst into my mind while reading this, but I’ll keep it for the end.

We’ll start with the good. The grammar and spelling are all solid. The website is bright and colorful. Updates are short and simple enough to follow along, digest and get caught up quickly. It’s an easy read, although it’s not exactly perfect.

So, the problems. Given that some updates barely crack 1000 words, and others don’t even reach that, many of the updates feel too short. There just isn’t much description done, not much of an attempt to draw you into the world, and chapters often end at points that feel arbitrary. Short updates can work but many of these don’t. Many of my favorite authors are succinct and concise and I think it’s a sign of a great author to do the most they can with the least amount of words. But there’s a difference between being concise and being abrupt.

What agitates this is that, while updates are short, sentences can occasionally get very long and clunky when the narrator feels like they’ve found a clever simile or metaphor. The prose isn’t as redundant as a lot of web fiction can be, but there are points where it is wasting time in another way—by being painfully obvious. For example, "His right eye . . . was white and milky like an ivory marble."

The story leaps into its main plot without much attempt at establishing the world and the tone (see my previous point) which makes it hard to tell what the stakes are. I can’t quite determine whether this is a comic book world and the events and characters are all fairly normal, or whether this world is more mundane and those events and characters are unusual. I could argue for or against either one.

The story doesn’t do much to establish the protagonist, either. What exacerbates this is then that the story leaps into different perspectives in a way that feels random and I couldn’t get a grasp for the connective material. This is a story about The Mighty Pinata, but there are frequent chapters where we follow along other people. Over the nineteen chapters I read, there are more chapters from perspectives that aren’t Pinata’s than there are of him. Character development is frequently sudden, like being slapped in the face during an about-heel turn.

Between the shortness of the updates, the jarring changes in perspective chapter-by-chapter, and how abrupt things can seem, the story can be hard to follow. The rhythm is all off and I found myself frequently taken out of the story. Additionally, there are bits and pieces of each chapter that I’m not sure why they’re included beyond to seemingly wink at genre conventions.

There’s some action and it’s not bad but it’s also not great. It is nice and quick and doesn’t get as ponderous as some serials can get (‘I drew my arm back and tensed my shoulders and lashed out and felt my fist connect with his jaw and send him stumbling back’) but it still has moments where the blocking and sequencing of events in the prose were a bit off. For example, if someone had raised his gun and fired it, hitting him in the arms won’t cause his shot to go wild.

My biggest problem with the serial is the protagonist. Reading about the Mighty Pinata—a man who clearly isn’t all there—made me fairly uncomfortable. It’s a thin line to write a character so addled as Pinata clearly is and not have it come off as laughing at someone’s mental impairment. I do not think that was the author’s intention, but this is, ultimately, a story where his beating-induced brain damage is played for comedy. You are, essentially, following a story where the protagonist is completely detached from reality, and isn’t that just so zany and funny? It just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

That’s kind of the failing of the work. It’s intended to be comedic but it just isn’t very funny.

In a way, I was hoping for Sir Digby Chicken Caesar and I got something that, while I don’t want to say it’s mean-spirited, it’s certainly a bit off. If this placed us more in Pinata’s mind, did more work to establish a better sense of world and tone, I think it’d have the makings of a weird, genre-savvy ‘superhero’ story. As it is, it just doesn’t quite work.

As I said at the start, there was a quote that came to mind when I was reading this, and I feel it perfectly encapsulates my feelings about this serial: "I get it. It’s not making me laugh, but I get it."

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