Friday, July 12, 2013

Mini-Reviews Round 14

I'm currently putting together the initial list of Fandom Classics to be reviewed once the 6-star fics are gone; if you don't already see a new link at the top of the page by the time this post goes up, look for it to appear sometime over the weekend.  I had nearly a hundred fics suggested!  Anyway, I'm taking twenty for my "starter list."  If something you suggested didn't onto that list, don't worry.  It doesn't mean that I didn't see your e-mail or post (I hope!), nor that I thought it was a stupid suggestion and that now I think you're a stupid person, nor anything like that.  I'll be continuing to draw on the suggestions I've received so far and future ones that may come in to add to that list sporadically; the ones I chose to start with I picked--well, will pick; I'm still compiling the list as I break to type this--because they'll give me a reasonable variety of fic ages, genres, and lengths, instead of, say, bunching up a dozen novel-length beasts all together.

Anyway, click down below the break to see what I've just recently been reading!  A little commentary on some new-to-me (and mostly pretty new, period) stuff, down below.

1)  Shutdown, by CupcakesNom

What it is:  Equestria will be deleted in four hours.  Before it goes, Carrot Top needs to explain what's about to happen to Twilight.

A few thoughts:  This story's well over a year old now, and I only came across it because it was suggested to me on the grounds that there's a reference to The Purloined Pony in there.  Well, naturally I thought it was pretty darn neat that someone else was throwing around allusions to a story of mine, so I had to check it out.

In terms of structure, I would describe this as an unusually broad vignette.  There's not much of an overarching plot here, just a sad situation which is only explained in snatches.  As a vignette, though, it does succeed in hinting at the broader setting of the piece without resorting to mood-breaking infodumps, and that sense of reserve is welcome in a story like this.

Recommendation:  Although it's not much of a "story," per se, readers looking for a short (about 3k words) work of mood and worldbuilding done primarily through implication may find this to be of interest.

Also, there's totally a blink-and-you'll-miss-it shoutout to The Purloined Pony in there, and I highly recommend this to anyone who wrote that story and wants to experience the warm, fuzzy feeling of knowing that someone out there liked it enough to reference it in their own work.

2)  Movements of Fire and Shadow, by InquisitorM

What it is:  Princess Luna has been sneaking off during the night, and Paladin Artemis is going to find out why.

A few thoughts:  This is tagged as a romance, but don't let that confuse you: this definitely isn't just another "and then they kissed" shipfic.  Really, it's not much of a romance at all, though a mutual infatuation does figure into it.  This is a story about two broken ponies, lightened by some surprisingly appropriate levity from the interactions between Luna and her guard.

Mr. M has a knack for writing emotionally complex characters, and this story manages not to be relentlessly depressing and bleak while simultaneously providing a very honest look at the ponies in question.  The author does use the phrase "fairly unique," though, which were I an Olympic figure skating judge would definitely merit a tenth-point deduction.

Recommendation:  This is an excellent story for anyone who likes emotionally honest, intelligent drama.  Folks looking for clean, "simple" shipping will not find it here, but I'm not feeling too bad for them; they've got plenty of other fics to get their fix from.

3)  It Is My Fate to Enter Every Door, by Cloud Wander

What it is:  Pinkie Pie's sister goes to Tartarus, to visit to creatures whom she knows through her mother.

A few thoughts:  More Cloud Wander!  In the last round of mini-reviews, I said that I thought his Hearth's Warming Eve: A Princess Promenade was an enjoyable, but unfocused and occasionally over-dramatic, piece of writing.  Every Door, on the other hand, completely blew me away.

I admit that I have a weak spot for folk tales and stories told in that style, and this fic tickles that bone from the very first.  The story of Clyde (Pinkie's father) and his wife's strange courtship, sets the tone for the story nicely, and presents a thoughtful contrast to the denizens of Tartarus upon whom the later part of the story focuses.  Every Door is a sad story (a serious story set in hell would almost have to be), but it's also a hopeful one, and one which demonstrates a great deal of empathy for all the characters involved--a hallmark of the author's stories, and of great stories in general.

Recommendation:  I recommend this to anyone who likes good stories.  It's a poignant blend of sorrow and duty on one hand, and hope and reward on the other, which I can't say enough good things about.

4)  Villaintine's Day, by Swashbucklist

What it is:  Nightmare Moon, Discord, Chrysalis, and Sombra meet to discuss evil villain things and snark at each other.  But, mostly to snark.

A few thoughts:  I didn't finish this story.  While it wasn't aggressively awful, I also didn't find it terribly funny.  That being the entire point of the story (what else could it be, with a setup like it has?), I was disappointed by what I read.

Of course, humor is in the eye of the beholder.  What I especially didn't like (or at least, what I especially was unimpressed by) was 1) the number of repeated jokes, such as Sombra's incomprehensible/ridiculous voice, which I found mostly failed to gain traction with reiteration, 2) the amount of verbiage spent making transient points, and the general delay between the introduction of a joke and its punchline, and 3) a racial joke which I thought was in really poor taste.  That one was acknowledged in-character, but I admit it still rubbed me the wrong way, all the more so because... well, I understand it's a random comedy, but mocking orientals in a MLP fanfic just seems unnecessary to me, aside from being crass.

Recommendation:  If those things I just mentioned don't sound like an impediment to humor to you, by all means give this one a go.  The writing is fine from a technical perspective, and the characters I had no problem with--my issues were all with the humor itself.  If your tastes in comedy are similar to mine, though, I don't recommend this one.


  1. >Also, there's totally a blink-and-you'll-miss-it shoutout to The Purloined Pony in there, and I highly recommend this to anyone who wrote that story and wants to experience the warm, fuzzy feeling of knowing that someone out there liked it enough to reference it in their own work.

    I can't help but feel as if this is directed at me...
    Ah well, no harm in reading three-thousand words.

    It was good. Not great, but good. Thought the "game" bit was the reference until Pinkie mentioned the pixies.

    I'll check out Movements and Fate on your recommendation. I could use something to read.

  2. 1) I can't usually get on with the kind of story that little more than a single idea--this was no exception.

    2) Screw you, hippy!

    3) I'm not sure I'll take the the folk-lore style, but I'll give it a go if only to tell you you're wrong. Apparently it's my new shtick.

    4) I bet you couldn't resist reading this for the title-pun alone.

    1. 2) Well, screw you too!

      4) You know me and my reading selection strategies too well, it seems...

  3. A link to Cups' story on fimfic:

    I was honestly surprised to see a link to DA here!

    1. For these posts, I just link to wherever I first saw the story--usually FiMFic or EqD. Since I'm not on DA, I rarely read stories from there, but that's where I was originally linked.

    2. Oh thank God! I worried I'd have to read that like some kind of savage

  4. I've noticed a trend in these mini reviews that if I liked a short story, especially when it's a comedy, chances are Chris didn't.

  5. Ah, it seems we've had some intersection in our latest fanfic expeditions.

    1.) I've encountered this story twice in the past. Both times I thought, "eh."

    3.) I skimmed this story some time ago, and didn't think too much of it, but perhaps, on your recommendation, I should go back and give it a closer look.

    In other news, I've ran into an unusually high number of some really good ones lately. Makes me want to do my own mini-review thing, but alas, short on time.