It's back! I've got a number of short fanfics that I've read recently, and here are some opinions!
To recap: these are all stories that I self-selected, either based on an EqD posting, another review, a recommendation, or just from seeing it pop up on FIMfic. Most of them are recently-posted, but there are a few older selections mixed in as well. And of course, these don't constitute full, in-depth reviews: think of it more as a casual guide to several works which happened to catch this reviewer's eye. Click below to see what I've picked out for myself, and what I have to say about it!
1. Author, Author!, by Pascoite
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Pinkie speaks to Princess Celestia about her fourth-wall awareness, and the two of them examine the implications of being able to alter reality with a swipe of a pen.
A few thoughts: There are lots of stories about Pinkie breaking the fourth wall. This is one of a very small number which uses that device not as a comedic device or (or crutch, more often), but as a stepping stone to ask some very fundamental questions about free will and personal responsibility. Author, Author! is one of my favorite kinds of stories: the kind that demand a bit of introspection in order to appreciate. I suspect some might find that the story gets a little preachy at times--Pinkie learns some very blunt lessons about the prices of both action and inaction--it was never condescending or unbearable.
Recommendation: This is an all-around excellent short story which takes a cliche and overused plot device, and breaths new life into it by examining it from a new and unexpected angle. Any reader looking for something which will provoke a bit of thought will likely find this to their tastes.
2. A Tale of the Sun, Moon, and Stars, and
3. Her Happily Ever After, by Dal
Zero-ish spoiler summary: A history of the three goddesses who define Equestria, followed by its sequel: a look at how Celestia comes to grips with the burden she's laid upon the ponies who wielded the Elements of Harmony for her.
A few thoughts: I won't lie, the dominant emotion I feel towards the upcoming alicorn-Twilight episode is resignation. Still, plenty of time to dwell on whatever's coming after the show's aired. In the meantime, here's a story that presents a theory for how Twilight might ascend to Goddesshood which I found quite palatable--a difficult enough feat by any stretch. The framing device was uninteresting, but the author wisely kept it to a minimum, focusing instead on the history of the three celestial sisters.
The sequel, however, wasn't particularly to my tastes. Ponies (or vampires, or anything else, for that matter) moping about immortality has never been something I've inherently found enjoyable, and Twilight and co.'s solution to Celestia's anguish doesn't seem to really address any of the issues at hand. I ended up skimming through most of it.
Recommendation: A Tale is a very nice piece for those who enjoy fan histories, and don't mind a bit of discontinuity from canon (even before the new episode has aired, it's clear from the summaries we've seen that Hasbro's version of Twilight's basis for princesshood is far different from Dal's). Her Happily might be enjoyed by those who still get a lot of mileage out of the unelaborated-upon concept of the burden of immortality, but those looking for something similar in tone, style, or worldbuilding to the first story will be disappointed.
4. A Final Question, by Grayson Gears
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Celestia speaks to Twilight, as her now-aged student lies upon her deathbed.
A few thoughts: There are some very nice things about this story. The early going looks at Celestia's routines in a way which shows quite a bit of thought, and her emotions are never overstated (at least, not to a mood-breaking degree). In the end, though... well, I didn't like the end. At the risk of spoilers, was this whole story just a setup to write about Celestia singing "You Are My Sunshine," or did the author decide as he was writing that that would be a fitting ending? Either way, it was an uninspired and disappointing way to wrap up a promising short story.
Recommendation: Despite my disappointment with the ending, I still enjoyed this one. It's a very short, easily digestible what the comes of being an immortal monarch with a penchant for taking ponies in close to oneself.
5. Princess Celestia and the Laser Pointer, by Countsmegula
Zero-ish spoiler summary: It's all there in the title, really.
A few thoughts: This is one of the vast legion of stories which are, ultimately, an eye-catching title with nothing else behind it (eg: Fluttershy Goes to Hell, Rainbow Dash Reads a Sex-Ed Book, Lyra Tries to Play Rock-Paper-Scissors). That said, it's very well executed, technically (a rarity among these types of stories), and if it doesn't have much too offer beyond the initial premise... well, at least it's honest.
There was a funny, if ever-so-slightly risque, bit of dialogue between two guards in there as well, actually. I guess that's two things it has to offer.
Recommendation: I read this because I thought I could use a thousand words of mindless comedy, and that's exactly what I got. If that's what you're looking for two, I can wholeheartedly endorse Laser Pointer. Just don't expect anything more: this story is its title, nothing more, nothing less.
6. Blueblood's Blush, by Marcella Howard
Zero-ish spoiler summary: At the behest of Celestia, Blueblood goes out to mingle with the "common ponies." When he comes across a poster for the Great and Powerful Trixie's show, he decides to attend (having nothing better to do), and this idle decision sets off a chain reaction that ends... well, it's a shipping story, so you can probably guess where it ends.
A few thoughts: To be honest, I have no idea why I saved this story to my e-reader. I'm not much of a shipping fan, let alone a fan of shipping Trixie (though I'll give points for not shipping her with Twilight, I guess. It seems to have dialed back in recent months, but there was a time when Twixie was just as prevalent, and often just as bad, as ScratchTavia). But I did, and then I saw it sitting there waiting to be read, and I said "why not?" and gave it a go.
I didn't finish the story, but to be fair, I didn't particularly dislike it. It struck me as a very traditional shipping story, full of the kind of forced interactions that drive me batty (Blueblood asking Trixie to dinner for no particular reason after spending a show being insulted by her, for example), but which fans of the romance genre are typically much more willing to swallow. Not for me, but from what I read, not bad for what it was.
Recommendation: Fans of romance, and particularly those with an interest in the particular ship at hand, will find this to be a well-executed story of that form. There's nothing from what I saw that would make me recommend it outside of its target demographic, though.
7. Elements of Excess, by cleverpun
Zero-ish spoiler summary: After failing to defeat the ponies by making them act opposite of the Elements they stand for, Discord hits upon a new way to cause, er, discord: to drive the main six to act upon their Elements to their logical extreme.
A few thoughts: The story started out reasonably funny; I particularly enjoyed Applejack's brutal honesty in the early going, as she started flat-out insulting friends and relatives (granted, honesty is probably the easiest element to skewer, but it was still entertaining). I found the story lost steam after that, though, for two reasons. First, I didn't get much out of Dash's portrayal; "clingy" doesn't strike me as the hyper-emphasized version of "loyal," so I didn't find her antics all that entertaining (beyond the inherent comic value of reading about Dash being clingy, anyway). Second, there's an increasing amount of retreading between chapters as the story progresses, and although some readers may find reading about the same events from the perspectives of two different ponies enjoyable, I felt it was needlessly redundant. When I read the story it stood at six chapters, and although there are more coming, I don't think I'll be following this story.
Recommendation: Readers with a higher tolerance for repetition than I may find this to their liking; there are some quite nice, if fairly obvious, bits of comedy in this story (even if Dash didn't work for me).
8. The Last Tears in Tartarus, by shortskirtsandexplosions
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Ten years after the inhabitants of Tartarus broke free and conquered the surface world, a pony slave, Number 83, struggles through life in a world which seems to lack any redeeming qualities.
A few thoughts: Did you know that I've never read anything by SS&E? Not because I've been avoiding his stories or anything--I just never actually got around to reading any of his stories until now. But I saw this story pop up in a story recommendation thread and thought it looked interesting.
I enjoyed this story, but with one crucial caveat: I didn't think it was a terribly good fanfic. Honestly, it would have taken a minimal amount of effort to change the ponies to humans, remove a reference or two to cutie marks and Princess Celestia, and showcase this as a piece of original fiction, and I think the story would have been much stronger for it. The thematic and conceptual ties to FiM are tangential at best--this isn't a story that gains anything from its grounding in the MLP universe, which tells me that it really shouldn't have been written as an MLP fanfic to begin with.
Recommendation: To fans of dark, dystopian sci-fi, this is an easy recommendation: well-plotted, with vivid setting, memorable characters, and more than a hint of poignancy at the end. People looking for something which relates to My Little Pony in any way beyond a few names and the species involved will want to keep looking, though.
9. George Bush Invades Equestria, by Crass McWriter
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Once more, it's all right there in the title.
A few thoughts: After reading this marvelously insightful review, I figured I had to check the story out and at least see if a review of "Dafuq?" meant hilariously random, or atrociously random. I read about fifty words into the story, even though I had my answer after the first sentence. Then I closed the tab.
Recommendation: If you're looking for something silly and random, there are much better stories out there. The editing is nonexistent, the writing style is offputting... there's not a lot here to recommend.