Friday, January 20, 2012

6-Star Reviews Part 31: Luna's Excellent Adventure

To read the story, click the image or follow this link

Because it's important that one have something to complain about at all times, I did a little math this morning.  Assuming that the average weight of the snow I've shoveled this winter was about 10 lbs per cubic foot (which is just a guess, but it sounds reasonable enough), I've shoveled more than 12,000 lbs of snow off my driveway and sidewalk so far this year.  Every year I tell myself I should just get a snowblower, but my masculine pride insists that to do so would be an intolerable admission of weakness.

Strangely, that same sense of masculine pride has no trouble with the fact that I have a blog dedicated to My Little Pony fanfiction.

Below, my review of Luna's Excellent Adventure, by Blueshift.

Impressions before reading:  The story description on EqD says this is "A MLP/MLP/MLP/MLP/MLP/Transformers crossover."  Huh.  My experience with the Transformers franchise is limited to theatre viewings of Michael Bay's Transformers and Transformers 3 (I was lucky enough to miss out on the first sequel) to which I was dragged by several friends of mine who have very questionable taste in movies.  Needless to say, I wasn't impressed.  Still, the fact that this is tagged as a comedy story, rather than an adventure or something, makes me optimistic.  I just hope I don't have to actually know anything about Transformers to enjoy it, since I never figured out how to tell the the robots apart when they weren't in their vehicle forms, and so I don't really know who any of the machine-based characters from the movies were.

I also hope I don't have to know much about previous generations of MLP, the other 5/6ths of the crossover listed.  But then again, I can't imagine that this story would have made it to 6 stars if it was inaccessible to folks who hadn't watched the previous iterations of the show.  After all, how many current pony fans have more than a passing familiarity with previous iterations of the franchise?

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  When Luna's finally had it with Celestia's authoritative tendencies, she decides to travel to another universe where she can become the sole ruler of the native ponies.  Of course, those other universes have their own problems...

Thoughts after reading:  Oddly enough, this story does hinge in many ways on familiarity with previous generations of MLP.  Never to the point that someone like me couldn't understand what was going on (or enjoy the humor for its own sake), but a lot of very specific shoutouts to previous shows/episodes are present.  For example, I had no idea what the deal was with "Minty" from the G3 universe was until after I'd finished the fic and was looking at the comment thread, where some kind anon explained that, "In the G3 'movie' A Very Minty Chistmas, Minty accidently breaks the candy cane which guides Santa to Ponyville, and so decides to break into everyone's houses and put socks there instead of gifts whilst singing a song about how 'Nothing says Christmas like a pair of socks.'"  Trust me, knowing that makes a certain segment of the story much more comprehensible.  Likewise, I'd never even heard of MLP Tales before, which made that entire section of the story more than slightly confusing.

But as I said, I was still able to enjoy these segments.  Blueshift uses Luna's search for a better world to highlight the foibles and failures of previous generations of the show to great effect.  Granted, pointing out the problems with G3.5 is kind of like shooting fish in a barrel, but her encounter with their world is no less funny for that.  In fact, the biggest weakness of the narrative was Luna herself, not the worlds she visited.

Luna is not confined to her canon personality (what little of it there was--this was before Luna Eclipsed, after all), nor is she even limited to what might generally be called "believable behavior."  Heck, her behavior and attitude aren't even particularly consistent from scene to scene.  Instead, she's used as both a plot device, to move the action from world to world, and as a comic instrument.  Since the worlds Luna travels to are mostly caricatures used for comic effect, casting Luna in a variety of humorous roles means that the story often lacks a straight man (straight mare?) where a serious reaction could really help the absurdity of a situation shine through.  Without a more serious Luna, I felt that the story at times consisted of too many zany antics, without enough focus for any of them to really be funny.

Considering that it was the part I was most concerned about going in, I was surprised to discover that the Transformers segment was actually one of the funniest bits of the story.  It might (or might not, I honestly don't know) have been funnier if I knew who the transformers in question were supposed to be, but the sheer disconnect between Equestria and the war-torn world of endless robot fighting was sublimely silly.

Interestingly, the introduction and conclusion to the story were not terribly well-written.  Several grammar/sp errors stand out in both segments, and both feel stilted despite some decent jokes.  These problems are completely absent from the rest of the story, however.  I would guess that those elements were added to the story late, and perhaps not fully edited/vetted, to provide a bit of context for Luna's reality hopping.  Nevertheless, the reality-hopping bits themselves were, by in large, quite enjoyable.

Star rating:   (what does this mean?)

The story itself is reasonably funny, and never makes the mistake of dragging a particular joke/segment out too long.  However, a number of the jokes are only fully comprehensible to people with a fairly extensive familiarity with the source material, and Luna's character was unbelievable and incompatible with what we know about Equestria.  In a comedy fic, that might be forgivable if those traits were to the benefit of the story's humor, but more often than not they were in fact detrimental.

Recommendation:  This is a story that doesn't hold up well to inspection, but is funny and enjoyable enough when treated as nothing more than a quick bit of light reading.  I'd recommend it to anyone looking for something goofy, short, and filled to the brim with unrepentant silliness, and especially (but not solely) to anyone familiar with the early iterations of both My Little Pony and Transformers.  If you're looking for something more substantial though, or if you like to be able to relate to the characters you're reading about, this might not be for you.

Next time:  Beyond Forever, by Bobcat


  1. Speaking as a longtime fan of the series who gave Michael Bay probably 20 bucks for his three shitty movies purely out of nostalgia's sake, let me just say: you get to go watch the original Transformers now. :D It's silly and often incomprehensible, in the way that only 80's cartoon shows can be, but the characters are colorful and easily distinguishable by personality, unlike the walking piles of CGI gears that Bay created in his twisted, twisted alien mind. Just, be prepared for weirdness. I'd recommend the earlier seasons leading up to the original 1986 movie.

    1. All true, but you missed out the awesome '80 power rock too.


      Starscream is best pony, or something.

    2. Not to mention that Orson Welles is the voice actor for Unicron. I mean, c'mon!

    3. Orson Wells was a VA for Transformers? Maybe I do need to check it out...

      Of course, I've been meaning to go watch an episode of Samurai Jack ever since I reviewed Jack and the Ponies, and still haven't gotten around to it. I just never seem to have enough free time!

    4. I know that feel.

      Just so you don't get your hopes up, Orson Welles was only in the original animated movie, and to get the real effect of what goes on in it, you ought to watch some of the first two seasons. At least to know who the characters are.

    5. Samurai jack is awesome. Probably the first cartoon I ever actively downloaded so I could make sure I'd watched it all. Granted I have a big thing for samurai in general, but being able to do a good Aku voice definitely helps my enjoyment of it!

  2. You could probably even up your snow removal estimate. Density of fresh water at 32F is ~62.5 lb/ft^3. Snow has a density of about 1/10 to 1/2 that of liquid fresh water (depending on how "fluffy" it is, and it tends to drift towards the denser end of that range as it sits there on your driveway). So a ballpark of even ~20 lb/ft^3 would be justifiable.
    Think of it as invigorating exercise.

    You know, I didn't really connect it, but Transformers also a Hasbro franchise, isn't it? That could be interesting; a crossover of Hasbro properties. MLP/Transformers/GIjoe/whatever else they own.

    1. I've been clamoring for just that since I got into MLP.

      Or rather, I clamored immediately, then realized it would never happen and set out to write crossover fanfic instead.

  3. Hi! Thanks for this review, it's always nice to have a critical eye over things. To be honest I've not got a clue why this one got 6 stars and some of my other (in my mind more deserving) stories always hovered below. I have a theory that some (not all) stories that get 6 stars do so because they're both good enough, but also inoffensive enough not to have anyone rating them down, a bracket I think this one falls into.

    Yeah it's fun. It does its job (in my mind at least) and its funny, but it's not particularly ambitious. I can absolutely understand why some people really liked it. It's the sort of story where you don't lose anything major from not having experienced the other generations, but you gain more from it if you have. For example, I use Transformers since there wasn't a pony Generation 2 cartoon, so instead we visit Transformers Generation 2, dohoho. It's a fun look back and certainly not a disappointment, but at the same time not a literary great. It has a job to do, it hits the nail on the head, and that's it, nothing more.
    For the record, I didn't do the framing sequences at a different time, it's odd that you think they're quite different in style.

    If you ever get around to reviewing 5-star fics, I'd be really interested in hearing what you have to say about The Star In Yellow, since that's the fic I'm most proud of, though it ended up a mere fraction of a point away from 6-star, quite disappointing!

    1. I'm glad that you appreciated my review! I think there is something to your idea that most 6-star stories have a certain level of inoffensiveness to them, though a more charitable soul might say that they're "widely accessable." Po-TAY-to, Po-TAH-to, to my mind.

      I'll take a look at The Star in Yellow sometime, when I've got the time. I'll be sure to let you know what I think, whether or not I post anything about it on this blog.

    2. Well the way the star ratings works, if even one or two people 1-star a fic, the liklihood of it reaching 6-stars is pretty impossible. For every 1 star a story gets, it needs 25 solid 5-stars. Doable but hard, and there's part of me that thinks a good fic needs a good emotional reaction, which could be bad as well as good. Of course some do manage it!

      Also thanks, I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on it, it seems to follow through a lot of the themes you touch on in your authorial context essay