Just a few fics this go-round; the things in my life which aren't pony have been keeping me busy lately, and they have a disappointing tendency to demand precedence over my fanfic reading. A few thoughts on some casually-read stories, below the break as always.
1) Mission: Implausible, by John Perry
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Vinyl Scratch and Octavia are secret agents for the crown, sent to investigate a cartel operating in San Fransiscolt.
A few thoughts: I've reviewed a couple of Mr. Perry's stories previously, but this one never cracked the six-star barrier. Pity, that; I liked this story a lot, and would go so far as to say I liked it even better than those other two.
The overall vibe is light action/comedy, and while the tone does occasionally wander towards heavier action staples (some (non-explicit) sex jokes and references to ponies dying feel out of place against the rest of the story), it mostly maintains an engaging readability. It's also full of the name puns and comic/expository asides which I love to see in humorous works, but never becomes so obsessed with being silly that the plot gets overwhelmed or tossed aside. There's a nice balance of elements here, on the whole.
Recommendation: Anyone looking for a mid-length (about 30k words) bit of light reading will probably find this entertaining, and I highly recommend it to readers who want to see an author do something with Vinyl and Octavia other than ship them unconvincingly. Heads up, though: if you're one of the people who react violently to any hint of LUS, this fic will drive you batty.
2) Two Beats, by NickNack
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Crossfade is an industrial worker by day, and a DJ by night. His life is also rapidly spiraling out of control, as he tries to balance these two lives--and the addictions that are maintaining and destroying him.
A few thoughts: This is another one of those "pony in name only" stories. I always kind of wonder why the authors of these don't just write original fiction, if there's nothing about the setting, tone, characters, or meta-commentary to connect the story to its nominal source material.
Be that as it may, this is a powerful story on its own merits. A casual read might leave one feeling that it strained credulity a bit too far with some of its contrivances, but these contrivances make their own point about Crossfade's present state. The ending, without revealing too much, is one that will probably frustrate, but in the service of driving the reader to think about the story--the best kind of frustration to have.
Recommendation: To be clear: anyone looking for any semblance of the tone, sensibilities, or worldbuilding of FiM will not find it here. But readers who don't mind a bit of original fiction which happens to be enacted by ponies will find this a brief but powerful piece.
3) Mortal, by BenMan
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Twilight's friends are old, but having become a princess, she remains as youthful as ever. Twilight has the power to grant them immortality as alicorns, but must not... something not all of her friends can accept.
I'm pretty sure the premise has been shot down by show staff since the author began writing, but never mind that.
A few thoughts: The additional tags on this story are "I hope you like melodrama," and that's as good a review as anything. To be clear, I actually liked this story, but it's mostly ponies arguing back and forth. The draw here isn't so much the story as the moral and ethical arguments made, plus one key fact: I genuinely had no idea what was going to happen for large chunks of the story.
The biggest compliment I can pay this story is to say that, although the dialogue sometimes edges towards the cliche, the story events assiduously avoid falling into predictable tropes throughout. It's a rare story that can make me say "Wow, I never would have thought that's where this was going" without adding "...because that's really stupid," but that's exactly what the author accomplished multiple times throughout this work. As much as anything, I finished this story because I was curious to see just how (or if) everything was going to resolve. Add to that strong characterizations, the apparent variances with canon of which are all addressed over the course of the fic, and there's a lot here to keep one going.
Recommendation: Folks looking for a story that's heavy on ethical dilemmas, and one which will keep them guessing, should absolutely check this out. But readers seeking something less debate-oriented (despite the high stakes, some of the conversations can get rather dry) and/or heavier on action and narration may find this too dull for their tastes--or rather, the wrong kind of interesting.