Monday, September 24, 2012

6-Star Reviews Part 103: Forever!

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

Crossovers with television or video games tend to go over my head, but crossovers with books... that's more in line with my interests.  So its nice to see that it's time for a Dresden Files crossover!  My review of Chengar Qordath's Forever!, after the break.

Impressions before reading:  I really like The Dresden Files, a series of books about a wizard detective who lives in modern-day Chicago.  I'm not quite sure why; the first few books weren't all that well-written, frankly, as the author was clearly still trying to find his "voice."  And about the time the writing improved, the story started moving away from its original conceit (which I loved) and more towards straight-up supernatural adventure as Harry became more and more powerful.  Still, I really enjoy those books, and have been faithfully reading each one as they've been published.

So it should be no surprise that I've already read this story, and have been following the sprawling in-progress sequel (which, being incomplete, I'll hold off on reviewing for now).  Honestly, I'm looking forward to re-reading this.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Chicago's only wizard-for-hire unwittingly invokes Pinkie Pie, who immediately appears and--what else?--begins planning a party.

Thoughts after reading:  To a certain degree, crossovers are almost always more enjoyable to people who are familiar with both of the things being crossed than to folks who only have one of the books/movies/tv shows/video games/whatever in question as a reference.  Still, as I've discussed elsewhere, I think that it's reasonable to ask that a story which appears on a site specifically dedicated to My Little Pony should be accessible to all readers regardless of their grounding in the story's other element(s).  And when that story is six-starred, suggesting that it's considered on of the best stories on that site by the reader base, I definitely think it's fair to expect a story to be readable and understandable to all ponyfic readers, even if it might not be equally enjoyable to all.

In the broadest terms, Forever! certainly accomplishes this.  Although I have no doubt that Dresden Files readers will get more pleasure out of the depictions of major characters from the books like Lieutenant Karren Murphy, if only because of how well Chengar Qordath captured her attitude and mannerisms, the way she's presented here make it clear to any reader what she's like, what her relationship is to Harry, and so on.

However, a number of smaller points would be lost on any reader not familiar with the books.  Molly is mentioned a few times in passing, but without knowing that she's Harry's apprentice, these references are meaningless (and her father's appearance in the story, while no less understandable in context, loses some of its depth). Likewise, conversations with Ebenezer McCoy or Nicodemus are less intrinsically amusing than they are amusing because of the way those characters interact with Harry in the books vs. in the context of this fic.  While I don't think the non-Dresden-reading ponyfans would have trouble following the action, I suspect that most of the humor of segments such as those will be lost on them.  There just isn't a good way to provide enough context for how Nicodemus and Harry have sparred verbally and physically against each other in the past in a story this short, and when much of the humor is dependent on that context... it's certainly not bad, but it's something that only Dresden Files readers can really appreciate.

On the other hand, those are relatively minor instances and, as I said, at no point is it difficult to follow the action or dialogue for readers of any stripe.  And the characterizations really are spot-on; Harry's affable snark and penchant for quips (the source of much of the humor in this story) come through very clearly, and the pony side of the equation is also handled very adeptly.  Pinkie's appearance is never really explained, which is probably a wise choice--even though there's magic that could theoretically bring a fictional character to the "real world" in the Dresden-verse (this is a major element of the sequel, in fact), a short comic story about the things she gets up to during a brief visit is well advised to not get caught up in the nitty-gritty.  Forever! is short and to the point, and does a good job of not dragging.

I don't have much else to say, save that the writing really does do a pretty good job of matching the source material, and that the comedy was excellent for fans thereof.  Also, I personally thought the "stinger" ending was unnecessary, but that's just me.  In point of fact, I have no doubt that for some readers it will be the best part.  And in any case, I certainly wouldn't consider it inappropriate given the tone set by the rest of the story.

Star rating:   ☆ (what does this mean?)

This is a crossover that generally does a good job of keeping itself accessible to all readers.  Moreover, it does a good job of combining snarky narration and Pinkie Pie zaniness in ways that don't grate.  Despite the merely okay handling of some of the minor characters and the lack of cohesiveness to those without past familiarity with the characters (and some punctuation confusion, which I just realized I forgot to mention above), Forever! is consistently amusing.

Recommendation:  To fans of The Dresden Files, I recommend this without reservation; it does an excellent job of mimicking the wizard's style, and the characters are almost always spot-on.  For others, this is still one to consider, if you're looking for something more in the "wacky comedy plus deadpan observations" line of humor.

Next time:  The Rummy Business of Old Blooey, by Cloud Wander


  1. I'm very glad to hear that you like Dresden Files, if only because it's the only series of books I still keep up with.

    I seem to recall having read this, but not much else. And the second story is up to 22 chapters? Geez. Guess I'll have to give it another whirl sometime.

  2. I've heard of The Dresden Files, but never read it or even knew what it was about. Guess I should look for Storm Front next time I'm at the library

    1. You absolutely should. It's true that the first few books aren't nearly as ridiculously fun as they get later (though I'd hardly call them "not well-written," myself, just comparatively boilerplate), but Butcher's style evolves and improves as they go on, and he starts showing some real imagination in the way he sets up and resolves his many, many ongoing intrigues.

      Also, his lesser-known Codex: Alera series is just... man. Seriously. He took a bet that he couldn't write a good story based on two random ideas (in this case, Pokemon and the Lost Roman Legion) and turned it into one of the most unique, gripping fantasy series I've ever seen. I'd even recommend it over the Dresden Files, since you don't have to wait a few books to get into the real meat of it.

      Okay. Turning off fanboy mode now. Glad to see "Forever" held up well!

    2. Thank you. Codex Alera is something I had never heard of before, and is now something I absolutely must read to make my life complete.

    3. Kavonde: Yeah, in retrospect saying that the early stories weren't poorly-written per se; the problems were 1)that the writing was much worse in the early books than in the later ones (which makes it easy to compare the one unfavorably against the other), and that Butcher was still wedded to a lot of detective novel stylings and conventions, which made his first few stories seem comparatively flat and two-dimensional. Compare Murphy circa book 2 to her more recent portrayals, for example.

      I still liked the "put-upon wizard tries to pay rent while bucking the masquerade, despite an unbelieving populace" vibe of the early stories better than the "Let's see which entire supernatural community Harry's going to punch out this month, while Chicago burns in the background" that's been going on more recently. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoy the books, but I had more of an affinity for the lower stakes of the early outings, personally.

      All in all, it's definitely a series I'd recommend to anyone intrigued by the premise. Plus, the books are all quick reads with relatively short chapters, so they're perfect for reading on the bus/during lunch break/etc.

    4. Oops, better ignore that "saying that" in the first sentence; that's what happens when you start rewording the sentence in your head, but forget to let your fingers know it's time to delete the old phrasing.

    5. Ugh, I hate when that happens! It only seems to happen when writing on a computer; never paper.

      When you say the chapters are short, do you mean Dan Brown short? 'Cause that'd be another reason to read this series. I end up reading far more when chapters are short than I do with lengthy ones

    6. Not quite that short, but mostly in the 10-20 page range; I can get through a typical chapter in ten to fifteen minutes, I've found.

    7. Jesus, man! Speed read much? That's, like, 300-330 words per minute

    8. Not quite that much (at least, in the paperbacks), but there generally is more emphasis on twists, turns, and action than on introspection, so it's not the kind of story you need to stop and think about--you can just sit down and power through a few chapters without missing a lot of nuance.

      I don't mean that as an insult, by the way. It's really good twists, turns, and action!

  3. The Dresden Files crossovers by Chengar Quordath and psychicscubadiver are by far the gold standard of direct "worlds collide" crossovers in the fandom. Crossovers are my favorite genre by far so I tend to be lenient with it, but still try to be realistic. Only 1 or 2 crossovers have even come close to being as well done.
    And I have never read the books. That's how well they're written.