Wednesday, July 18, 2012

6-Star Reviews Part 84: Moonspire Run

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

TitanRising's fic,
Moonspire Run, gets a review
Below the page break.

(Yes, I did a haiku joke.  Sorry, I couldn't think of anything interesting to say)

Impressions before reading:  The additional tags promise "action, adventure, fun."  "Action" can get pretty dull and repetitive if it isn't well-handled, but there's certainly ways to write it so that it's both exciting and edifying to read.  "Fun," on the other hand, is something everyone likes!  Who doesn't like fun things?

Also, the description had me a bit worried; it's the first thing a reader sees, after all, so it's not the place you want a typo ("Rainbow Dash gets a lesson on more than just flying from he hero, Spitfire").  Apparently though, that was the blog owner's fault, not the author's.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  After a stressful day of practicing, Rainbow Dash discovers that she's been being watched by Spitfire, who challenges her to a race through one of the most challenging courses imaginable: the fabled Moonspire Run.

Thoughts after reading:  Let's start with the "fun:" Moonspire Run is a fairly serious story, but the author does an excellent job of weaving in enough comedy to keep the proceedings appropriately lighthearted.  Little things, like Dash kicking a pillow into the air in frustration only to have it land on her head a moment later, help deflate the heavier moments in the fic.  Often, we talk about deflating or negating dramatic scenes as a bad thing, but this is true only when done poorly or unintentionally.  When that weakening is undertaken for a purpose, as it was here, that's a different matter.  And the purpose is clear: the author intended to keep the story's tone light (well, not so much light as "not heavy"), while allowing the characters themselves to stay serious.  In this, I think he succeeded.

The structure, however, could have used a little work.  While the technical proficiency demonstrated in this piece is excellent, word choice throughout tends to be excessively descriptive.  This proves a poor match for the many racing scenes, where the speed and drama are undermined by languid, overly effusive sentences.  As a result, those scenes quickly become dull to read.  Were I not planning to write a review of it, I'd have ended up skimming many of those scenes, which isn't the mark of a riveting story.

Also, TitanRising frequently uses "sky pony" as a synonym for pegasus.  While I wouldn't say it was wrong, it felt very clunky, and using a self-made phrase for a species which already has a name in the show seems like an odd decision in any event.

The author shows a tendency towards grandiosity, which brings mixed results.  On the one hand, making the entire Moonspire Run such an over-the-top, overkill-ish (but perfectly beatable--think the Death Star) place gives that section of the story a kind of "if this is only the second obstacle, I wonder what comes next," excitement.  On the other, sometimes this determination to make everything bigger, badder, and more awe-inspiring distracts from the story.  The spire from which the race takes its name is described as being 10,000 feet high.  Now, in a world filled with magic and which apparently lacks any sort of building codes, I'll concede that such a thing isn't exactly impossible, but really; a two mile high spire?  The idea took me out of the story, busy as I was imagining how long it takes non-pegasi to get to the upper floors, what the base must be made of, whether the upper floors have to be pressurized, and so on.

Unfortunately, what I really want to talk about with this story is the message it imparts, which necessitates some pretty significant spoilers.  The short version is that the message was very muddled, but obviously I have more to say than that.  So as usual, I'm putting my thoughts behind the spoiler tag, where you can read or not read as you see fit.  Don't say I didn't warn you.

Oh, and although the race scenes were draggy, I was impressed by the author's familiarity with the mechanics of flight.  So, that was nice.

Star rating:   (what does this mean?)

Although the tone the story sets is very good, and some of the worldbuilding is quite interesting (or at the very least, grandiose), the actual racing is less impressive.  And since the actual racing is the majority of the story, that's a significant problem.

Recommendation:  Although the muddled message and poor story/writing synergy mean that this isn't a story for everyone, I think that readers seeking a high-intensity story with plenty of exciting setpieces will be perfectly happy with it. For those who are looking for something they don't want to think about too hard, this is one worth looking at.

Next time:  My Little Dashie, by ROBCakeran53


  1. >Next time: My Little Dashie, by ROBCakeran53

    Oh, this should be good.

    1. The comments section should be busier, at least

      Oh, and I finally got an account, so no more anonymous postings from me!

    2. Strong Emotions incoming from all directions! The scale is off the charts!

    3. I intend to bring popcorn.

      Also, I'm surprised we've reached the point of "Dashie" so quickly. It's still a ways away from its first anniversary

  2. I read this in preparation for this post, and...really felt nothing. I liked the racing, I liked the worldbuilding, and I liked some of the other, little touches in the fic, but the ending just left me confused at how it completely undermined its message.

    For a while, there seemed to be a fad of stories where Dash meets Spitfire, they do something, and Dash is taught some kind of lesson. About the only I did like was "Tough Love" (Dash fails the Wonderbolt tryouts, Spitfire tells her to grow up and try again next time), and sadly, that one never made it to six stars. The rest were

    And next is...My Little Dashie? Words cannot describe how much I have been waiting for this moment...

  3. I remember when this story came out; I might have even pre-read it once. All I know is I could never get that into it, it just wasn't very--

    My Little Dashie, by ROBCakeran53

    Oh shit, son. Things 'bout to get heavy.

  4. I'm deeply sorry Moonspire Run, but you've been eclipsed by what is possibly the 3rd most argued fic in the fandom.

    I'd better go was my flame retardant underwear... y'know, just in case.

  5. Yes, the next review should be quite good.

    *wrings hands*

    "This story reminds me of 'My Little Dashie'" is a critique that means entirely different things depending on who says it. To his credit, the author is very forthcoming about what he was trying to accomplish, and he did what he set out to do.

  6. And it looks like it's up to me to do the two things the comment section is meant for. One to actually talk about the fict the review is about (you can wait till Friday people [funny how it's the popular and hated ones that attract the most anticpiation] and IM I don't want to know anything about your long johns, it was scary enough learning what PP looks like) and two to disagree with Chris (what a surprise, Chris and I disagreeing).

    Let me say that I partly agree with you, Chris on the action and structure of the race, this is what my notes said.:

    “There are a few passages (mainly in the opening paragraphs) that I had to read again because I found the action to be hard to decipher. To be honest, this fict at times suffers from “medium misplacement”; literature has a number of advantages but displaying action such as a race really isn’t one of them. There were times I thought to myself, “This would have been more enjoyable if this was in a more visual format.” However, TitanRising kept Dash’s inner thought enough place to justify the literature but still, this thought remains.”

    The inner thought part to me is key; it’s because of this that I that whole racing action wasn’t a problem. The real drama to me isn’t Dash racing, but Dash’s racing thoughts. So, this didn’t bother me as much.

    As the grandiosity of the tower, I’ll admit that in retrospect that it’s overdone but it didn't worry me while reading (and no offense, it sounds like a nitpick). After all it was created as a prison for Celestia and created with Nightmare Moon’s magic, so I don’t think anyone would have been allowed in, (I just imagined it as a big black rock that pierces the sky rather than an actually building). I’ve always been one to complain about the plausibility of something’s existence whether it was in a work I liked (like that the fact I couldn’t really buy that ponies in Fallout: Equestria could live on the wasteland for over two hundred years given their food situation, amongst other things) and those I disliked (a nearly two mile tall tower is nothing compared to the spawn of Jormungandr in It’s a Dangerous Business with it’s tongue that stretches from Canterlot to Ponyville) but this seems less of problem than the ones I mentioned and a host of others.

    As for the message, I can see where you’re coming from. But personally, I saw it as a reminder for Dash that she has plenty of room to grow and needs to get better. I think there's room for both interperations.

    However, I still enjoyed this a lot overall because it had a lot of what I look for: plotline that feels like it could come from the show, good characterization, no plot holes or complaints in story structure, and a few touching moments and comedic bits. Once I did get in, it was hard to put down. I liked how Dash used here(her outburst at the beginning as well her doubts were well-displayed). And that to me outweighs a problematic message and some occasionaly uninteresting action.

    1. Talking about the story being reviewed? What a novel concept!

      It's always interesting to see your thoughts, Bugs. “This would have been more enjoyable if this was in a more visual format” pretty much hits the nail on the head, I think; translating action sequences to a written medium is certainly possible to do well, but it is a task fraught with peril.

      Since you brought it up, and since I was a little to light on explanation in the review, I thought I'd take a moment to talk about the grandiosity in this story. If the tower's height was an isolated incident, I completely agree that it'd be nitpicky of me to harp on it (as I said above, it's hardly impossible to conceive in a world like Equestria). What bothered me was the pervasiveness of over-the-top feats and obstacles that dotted the fic, and I intended to cite the tower only as an example. Whether it's Dash performing a lavaboom (or whatever it was called), Spitfire's ability to go from zero to a thousand instantaneously, or Derpy's super-speed (albeit, that one was played for laughs), there are a lot of moments in this story that seemed to me like the kind of thing where the author said to himself "You know what would be totally awesome?" and then just went ahead dropped it in the story.

      It's a Dangerous Business does indeed suffer from a similar problem, but the difference between the two (so far as I was concerned) is that DB takes the time to foreshadow, and subsequently justify both thematically and in-character (with a few glaring exceptions, like the World Serpent), its "epic" moments. By contrast, many of the character abilities and locations in MR seem to serve no purpose larger than emphasizing just how incredibly badass the characters are and how insanely extreme the setting is. While there's nothing wrong with showing using location or abilities to establish stakes, at a certain point it stops being a story aid and becomes a distraction. For me, this story crossed that line.

  7. Fair enough on Moonspire Run. Certainly the character's abilities came out of nowhere and do suffer from a tendency to be overly grand.

    However, I don't agree that It's a Dangerous Business justifies its "epic" moments thematically but that's because what I took from it wasn't what you did. Both times I've read it the biggest issuse has always been that the characters take one too many actions that show a lack of intelligence, responsbility, and/or logic and are not punished for these actions. Not contacting Celestia is the prime example (and think about it, if you were Celestia or one of Twilight's parents and you found out that she died from a diease that she had contacted two weeks ago and you weren't informed of this disease, what would you think of her friends) but for another I think of them entering the Shimmerwood because AJ was right, getting the flower as quick as possbile is the smart and the "morally right" thing to do (and considering the fact that the last time they let magic draw them into a dark place nearly got them killed, you'd think they would learn). It's the fact that the fict has too many such moments that (for me) showed a lack consideration for Twilight's well-being that baffle me (any piece of fiction needs to work as a story first before it can even attempt to have a larger point worth taking seriously). It's why of all the six stars (so far), it's probably the one I disagree with you the most on. You are still free, of course, to enjoy it and to disagree with me.

  8. Meh. One of the best fics in the fandom, IMO. YMMV.

  9. Considering that this is well after the time this fanfic was submitted to the community, I know that pretty much no one will read this, or even care if they do. But I just had to say a couple things. First off, great review. I wish I'd had this kind of feedback available to me when I wrote Moonspire Run; I had no brony friends at the time and was relegated to a solo venture.
    As for the height of the Moonspire... yeah... that was a bad, last minute rewrite. I originally wrote it as being 1,000 feet high, and then when I started writing the sequel I thought that a 1,000 foot high spire wouldn't be large enough to contain everything that was to take place inside (in the following story I hinted at towards at the end), so I tacked on an additional zero to give myself more space. Kind of a silly call, but it is what it is. As for Spitfire negating the story's message, that's why I added the bit at the end with Soarin reprimanding her for using her 'Laserboom' technique (I struggled with the name of this, by the way, it was originally 'Laserbolt' because I didn't like the correlation to Dash's 'Rainboom', but 'Laserbolt' was too close to 'Wonderbolt', and I wanted it to seem like her own technique and not one shared by all Wonderbolts. Not the best call, but I went the way I did, and I admit it made it a little generic. Sorry.) to show that Dash won fair and square, but Spitfire felt she had to bring Dash down a notch, and at great personal risk. The encounter with Derpy (Ditsy, as she was still known then), I originally wrote as having Spitfire gesturing above both their heads, after Dash's confusion to Derpy's sudden departure, to reveal Derpy hovering upside down while reading a map right side up, but then I thought it would be funnier and more mysterious if Dash simply never noticed.

    And something I have never said is that the entire story was a personal exercise in writing in a Young Adult style. Some of the confusion in my writing can be attributed to my attempt to simplify language and focus on more action-oriented, lighthearted peril. And according to your review, I did okay but not great. Which I completely respect and appreciate. It was not an attempt at a literary masterpiece by any means, but an exercise in entertainment. Thank you very much for taking the time to review this piece, and I absolutely appreciate the feedback.