Friday, November 29, 2013

Mini-Reviews Round 23

Hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving!  I can't say with any certainty, seeing as I wrote this in advance, but I'm going to assume I did/will.  I'll be with my family, which is always a good start.  Plus, I don't have to cook, and I'm not one to turn up my nose at a feast which requires basically no effort on my part.

If you need a story or two to get you through the weekend, though, click down below the break to see what I've stumbled across lately.

Cross Words, by Alaborn

What it is:  Twilight shares a little bit about her crossword-writing past with her friends.  That night, she finds she's too full of energy to sleep...

A few thoughts:  I've dabbled a bit in amateur crossword-writing in the past (I'm no better at it than I am at crossword-solving, I fear, i.e. mediocre at best), and everything about said puzzles in this story rings deliciously true.  The story doesn't take long, though, to transition into extensive headcanon about alicorns.  This was interesting material, and the transition makes sense in context, but it does give the story a somewhat more "serious" feeling than the early going suggests--a feeling which doesn't fit at all with the punchline at the end of the fic.

Recommendation:  That notwithstanding, I thought this was very funny, in a "smile as you nod in recognition" sort of way.  Fans of crosswords or alicorn theories will probably enjoy this, though readers looking for belly laughs or a strong ending might not find this to their tastes.

What Happened to the Orange Frog?, by Lord Smoked Meats and Fishes

What it is:  The tale of that frog who Twilight inadvertently turned into an orange.

A few thoughts:  I do have a soft spot for these sorts of "fill in the blanks" fanfics, which take some throwaway line or sight gag and expand upon it.  So, I wanted to like this one going in.  And indeed, it had some quite funny bits... but this was tempered by poor presentation and awkward phrasing.  However, once Naval Orange (the pirate-fighting orange seller) began sharing his backstory, I was hooked.  This fic hits the sweet spot between absurd and nonsensical, and if the writing was sometimes obtuse, it was worth it.

Recommendation:  This is a great one for anybody looking for something that's silly but still coherent, and full of gentle jabs and snark (at the very beginning of the fic, our titular frog reflects on how Fluttershy once took some of his compatriots to Froggy Bottom Bog... so wonderful a place that none had ever come back).

Spike on Strike, by Sarcasmo

What it is:  After being berated by Twilight one too many times, Spike decides walks out of the library--and refuses to come back until his demands are met.

A few thoughts:  There are few things that annoy me more than false equivocation in stories.  Okay, that's probably not true, but it does bug me a lot when a story in which one of two parties has clearly committed a much more serious transgression than the other resolves with "Well, I guess we both messed up."  So I was pleasantly surprised to find that this fic didn't try to make a one-to-one comparison of Twi's (mis)treatment of Spike and Spike's missteps as the strike goes on--they're not directly comparable, and it's nice to see a story not try to suggest that they constitute offsetting penalties.

Beyond that, though, I wasn't terribly impressed with the story.  That's not to say it was bad by any stretch--there's some inconsistent but occasionally quite funny comic bits, and the story addresses Spike's relationship with Twilight (and the main six generally) pretty intelligently and effectively--but a lot of the slapstick humor doesn't really translate to the written word, and several digressive sub-plots muddy what is, at its core, a very simple and straightforward fic.

Recommendation:  Readers looking for a smart take on Spike's role could do far worse than this, but those with short attention spans (or who're reading in a distracting environment) may find their attention wandering.

My British Pony: Stereotypes are Magic, by CartsBeforeHorses

What it is:  A fairly literal retelling of the first few episodes of FiM, only with British accents and the occasional bit of gratuitous fanservice.

A few thoughts:  Okay, I only read this because the author made a big stink about how this was the story that got him banned from submitting to EqD--or rather, his behavior after he was told the story wouldn't be posted did.  I'm not going to wade into that mess, other than to say that it's always disappointing when an author feels the need to mock, belittle, and insult someone who's providing a service for him which he himself requested.

But, to the story itself!  Sadly, I don't see the appeal.  I was only able to get through the first chapter, a scene-for-scene retelling of the FiM pilot, but what I found there was... well, it's a scene for scene retelling.  The only original bits are memetic "gags" (Dr. Whooves shows up just long enough to say he needs to go back in time to the middle ages, before the show narrative continues) and "britishizing" the ponies' voices.  There's... there's really nothing else here.

Recommendation:  I guess if you think that English accents and idioms are inherently funny, then this might be worth reading.  I wouldn't recommend it otherwise, though.


  1. Okay, I only read this because the author made a big stink about how this was the story that got him banned from submitting to EqD--or rather, his behavior after he was told the story wouldn't be posted did.

    Somehow, I'm never savvy to these sorts of things, I always hear about them from someone else. I guess I just know all the right people.

  2. Naval Orange is absolutely the best part of that story, just a really clever character. :D I also contend that Lord Smoked Meats and Fishes has the best author name in this fandom.

  3. Looks like Orange Frog's getting bumped up the queue and Cross Words is getting added

    I'm not surprised you didn't enjoy that last one. The author complaining about EqD seems to be a pretty good indicator of poor quality

  4. I think I've heard of that last one before. It was mentioned in passing in the comments of another story I read. The commenter never expanded much on it, but I recall that they compared it to Letters from a Disgruntled Friendship Student, and that's already a harsher put-down than any reviewer here could ever come up with. So I'm also not surprised that you didn't like it.

    As a Brit, I do find British stereotypes funny, but that still seems like an incredibly weak premise to build an entire story around, and it certainly sounds lazy from what you described of it (and looks it too, considering it covers four episodes of events in a 6K word count).

    And authors who abuse the EqD pre-readers are the worst sort of people.

  5. Regarding that last one, I'd say that his blog response to being rejected was a better comedy than the fic itself.