Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Mini-Reviews Round 9

Have some fanfics!  Specifically, have some fanfics I read recently that you may or may not have already happened across a month ago, because I'm always way behind on my everything.  As always, included is a link to the story in question, a bit of light commentary, and a recommendation.  Tally ho!

1)  Rainbow Typhoon, by Nonsanity

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Rainbow Dash is given a chance to be a stop-gap Wonderbolt for a short-staffed show, but things quickly take a turn for the dramatic when the flight team is called on to assist Manehattan in preparing for a massive storm.

A few thoughts:  This story functions primarily as a coming-of-age story for Rainbow Dash, and for the most part I think it succeeds brilliantly on that front.  Dash is very well-characterized, the author nailing the mix of brash arrogance and self-doubt which define her, and her emotional growth through the story feels smooth and natural despite the short and drama-packed timeframe over which it occurs.

I suspect some readers will be put off by the fact that the central external conflict of the story (the giant storm) doesn't fully resolve at the end; there's a lot of explaining left undone.  This was clearly deliberate on the part of the author, and actually makes its own point about Dash's worldview, but that doesn't change the fact that it will probably be unsatisfying to many.  Personally though, I thought it was a perfect denouement.

Recommendation:  This story has a good blend of action and introspection, and does a wonderful job melding conversation, inner thought, and high-stakes conflict.  Readers put off by incomplete-feeling endings may be disappointed by the conclusion, but I'd recommend this to anyone looking for a story which meshes inner and outer conflicts cleanly and without (excessively) straining credulity.

2)  Five Things that Never Happened to Twilight Sparkle, by Scribbler

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Five key moments from the show, re-imagined as if everything had gone horribly wrong and friendship hadn't saved the day.

A few thoughts:  I don't have a lot to say about this one; it's all there in the summary.  I suppose there was nothing wrong with the five shorts (most just a few hundred words) for what they were, but there wasn't any real hook other than "[Villain] succeeds instead of fails, now on to the next scene."  Reading these is kind of like watching the last couple minutes of a half-dozen episodes of The Twilight Zone in a row: you get the twists, but all the meat that makes those twists exciting is missing.

Recommendation:  Readers interested in the novelty factor of seeing the exact moment at which villain X could have won if things had gone differently may want to check this out, and at only a few thousand words between all five scenes, there's an excellent climax-to-time-investment ratio here.  These really are just five scenes, though; anyone looking for more (say, for enough build-up and resolution to invest in those climaxes) won't find it here.

3)  Old Friends, by RBDash47

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  A young pony sees Death at a funeral, when nopony around her seems able to.  It is not the last time they meet.

A few thoughts:  The basic premise of this fic is one I've seen several times in various pieces of original fiction--that someone or other has the rare or unique ability to see Death personified.  This story avoids the heavy-handedness and overwrought prose of the worst of those, using the scenario as a raison d'etre rather than a springboard for some larger point.  As a result, this is a surprisingly light read, despite its seemingly weighty subject matter.  The sparse descriptions and languid pacing, a seemingly odd combination in the abstract, match the tone very well, and the epilogue doesn't try to pull out any cheap or unearned sadness, which is always a plus.  It's sad, but that sadness is a natural product of the story, not the result of any particular attempt at emotional manipulation.

Recommendation:  If you're looking for a short bit of character interaction which doesn't try to be more than it is, this is for you.  And, if you're looking for a sad story which isn't cloying or ham-fisted, this is a good one.

4)  Knowing Everything Hurts Your Brain, by Princess Glitzy

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  One day, Twilight wakes up knowing everything.  Everything.

A few thoughts:  I quit on this one about a quarter of the way through.  I thought the concept was funny enough, but editing was merely adequate (although there were a variety of problems, the most annoying to me was multiple tense slips--for whatever reason, those seem to bug me more than most other grammatical errors), and the first quarter of the story basically just repeated the same joke thrice.

Recommendation:  As I said, I liked the idea, and it's entirely possible that the story ultimately does something interesting with its premise.  But I didn't get far enough to see it, and readers who are put off by mediocre (but, I hasten to add, definitely not awful) editing and repetitive structuring probably won't get any farther than I did.

5)  I Alone, by Razgriz557

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  From the author: "Me is the best friend I could ever hope to have. Me is always there in the pond waiting for I. I love me."  I realize that's pretty vague, but I'm not sure how much I can add to that description without spoiling the effect.

A few thoughts:  This is one of those stories that just wasn't for me.  It's well-executed by any reckoning, but the cloying (but necessary, for the fic) simpleton-speak was kind of a turn-off for me.  I was also bothered by the fact that there's literally nothing about this that's "pony."  In fact, you could replace just a few dozen words in the entire story and have a piece of original fiction about a human who lives in total isolation, and the story would lose absolutely nothing for it.  When I see that in a story, I always wonder why it borrows the Equestrian setting at all; if anything, the fic would have been much stronger without the suggestion that this is all happening right outside of Ponyville.

Recommendation:  Although it wasn't for me, this wasn't a bad story by any stretch.  Readers interested in seeing a unique spin on narrative voicing will definitely want to give it a look.  But if awkwardly obtuse (again, necessarily so) pronouns and lack of pony-ness are turn-offs for you, this might be one to skip.

6)  Blitzkrieg Poison Kills Assassins, by Cleverpun

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Blitzkrieg Poison, ninja extraordinaire, kills some assassins.  This is one of those random/comedy-type stories, if it's not obvious.

A few thoughts:  The nominal premise is that Blitzcetera is a movie, which weakens some of the punnery in the story.  Although the over-the-top dialogue and absurd plot twists are nicely parodic, some of the writing gags fall flat when the medium is expressly non-literary.  Lines like "Thanks to his training, the words were clear despite the sword handle in his mouth.  His mouth barely moved, but his words were unmuffled" nicely mimic narrative redundancy, but narrative redundancy (of that sort, at least) is a non-issue in movies.  Still, I did appreciate that the story didn't drag on longer than its premise permitted, and the after-the-movie scene at the end was both comic, and tied the whole thing back to Twilight and co. in a pleasant, amusing way.

Recommendation:  As goofy, random comedies go, this one's pretty good; it's consistently funny, and the plot (such as it is) ramps up nicely.  Anyone willing to accept that the premise on which some of the humor is based doesn't hold up well to cursory examination ought to get a few chuckles out of this.


  1. No comments yet?! This is an affront to OMPR and shall not stand!


    Um, I got nothing. Haven't read any of these. Sorry.

  2. Strangely enough, this time I have read most of the stories.

    I absolutely hated Five Things.... I thought that most of the scenarios were completely pointless (the first one was interesting enough, but not the others), that the writing wasn't gripping, and that Twilight was horribly OOC through all the thing.

    I agree with your thoughts on I Alone, but I quite enjoyed it. I am a sucker for this kind of narrative voice twisting, and I liked the main character. And I thought it was just enough pony to make it pony.

    Blizkrieg... was another dud for me. There were some nuggets of comedy here and there, but the random nature of the fic, and the narrative redundancy made me give it up half-way through.

    Finally, I thought that Old Friends was in a strange spot, where it does a bunch of stuff that I generally enjoy, but not enough of them to make me like it, and they interact in a strange way that made the whole thing worse. It is sad, because I like the premise, and I would have loved it with some adjustments.

    I guess I will give Rainbow Typhoon a shot. I skipped it when it popped on EQD for whatever reason, but it seems right up my alley.

  3. Haven't read ALL of these, but of the ones I did, I think Blitzkrieg Poison was my favourite. It kind of resonates with me. I like a high quality film just as much as the next person, but I'm also the kind of guy who would totally watch a real Blitzkrieg Poison movie.

    I'm the same with my fanfics. There are plenty of really well written works that I love intensely, many of which have been reviewed on this blog before, but sometimes I just have to read some of the drifting garbage one happens across when they hang around Fimfiction, and I often find them just as entertaining. Though in very different ways.

  4. I read "Old Friends" when the pre-reader that accepted it gave it a recommendation to the rest of us. I have to agree with Soge. It was an interesting premise, but left something to be desired for me. I guess it was because nothing was ever at stake, so it didn't feel like anything was accomplished. It was just kind of a feel-good story on its face that didn't go anywhere.

    And I haven't read any of the rest of them.

  5. Rainbow Typhoon added the growing list...

  6. The one day I feel the urge to sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame off by two words on my morning walk just happens to be the one day there's someone else out to hear me. Chris, thanks you for helping me make someone else's life more interesting.

    On topic, I'll give Rainbow Typhoon a look after finals. May try Old Friends just because I like what Pratchett did with Death.

  7. 1.) Looks interesting. Might give it a look.

    2.)"but all the meat that makes those twists exciting is missing."
    Agreed. And for that reason, I didn't find this very interesting.

    6.) Read it. Enjoyed it.

  8. I... hey! This is where new faves are coming from! I drop out of pony for a week and look what I miss.

    Don't mind me, I'm just tickled pink.

  9. Hi! I just found out about this blog! I'm Princess Glitzy, the author of Knowing Everything Hurts Your Brain. I totally understand what you're saying.

    First, this was written a long time ago and I, completely, agree that the story is/was mediocre. Back then, as this was written last year, I was a horrible author. I'm not going to sugarcoat it. I was bad. I had a really hard time expanding, so my stories were short and didn't flow, and I could never use the same tense throughout the entire story. I don't know why I couldn't but it was extremely hard for me to use the same tense. Grammatically, I was definitely subpar. I'm not saying I was horrid, but I am saying that I, simply, was not as good an editor as I am, now. So, on all counts, this writing was not my best.

    Second, the plot was okay, but I did not execute this properly. I fully realize that the story was receptive, had the same running gag the whole time, and never really picked up. It remained in the same place, telling the same joke, and the punchline was basically just her breaking the fourth wall. I admit that, at the time, I thought I had done a wonderful job and thought it was hilarious. Yeah, I may have thought a little too highly of my writing ability. Again, you're completely right. The story, itself, just wasn't very good.

    Thanks for the review! I hope that you'll read some of my newer stuff, so you don't have it in my head that this is as good as my stories get! Basically, this story sucks and I'm happy I'm not the only one who realizes it.