Friday, April 11, 2014

Mini-Reviews Round 35

I was given a box of Chiclets today.  I didn't even know those were still a thing; it was the candy equivalent of dredging the coelacanth up onto my deck.  Which I think is my tongue, if I've still got my simile straight.  In any event, they're still just as quick to lose their flavor and turn into unappetizing semi-chewable pellets as I remember.  Point is, some nostalgia trips aren't worth taking.

But enough about the past; on to the future!  A future to be briefly dominated by mini-reviews, assuming you click below the break for all the fanfic-thought goodness I'm spewing down there.

My Sediments Exactly, by Twinkletail

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Maud and Big Mac spend some quality time together.  Their conversation is exactly as riveting as you might imagine.

A few thoughts:  Actually, this story was at its best when it just let Maud and Mac talk; there are some very funny moments that come from the meeting of stoic and stolid.  Much of the time though, especially near the beginning and end, the author piles on the narrative observations.  Some scene-setting is necessary, obviously, but I felt that having each pony's line seperated from the next by a lengthy paragraph of Maud's impressions or action descriptions had a dampening effect on the humor.  That said, the impressions and descriptions were sometimes interesting in their own right, but the wheat-to-chaff ratio (while not abominable) wasn't quite where I wanted it to be.

Recommendation:  This story doesn't go anywhere particularly unexpected, but it does deliver on the promised Maud/Mac conversation.  If that's what you want out of a story, this will tickle that bone and is unlikely to do anything to make you regret giving it a chance.

One Tenth-Bit, by Estee

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Rarity ends up on the wrong side of of an overbearing police officer while on an excursion to Canterlot... one who has a particular interest in browbeating her.

A few thoughts:  This story takes a while to get going--while it peddles in using gained context to reframe situations, and thus quite rightly witholds quite a bit initially, I found myself thinking that this 10k word story took about a thousand words too long to get past the "what's going on" stage.  Speaking of reframing, some of the stuff near the end was pretty obvious, but this was a contrast to both the early going, and to the pleasantly thoughtful ending, which simultaneously provides a moral and acknowledges that sometimes, a moral alone isn't enough.  In any case, though, this story is pleasant enough even when it feels a bit over-obtuse: Rarity's whining blend of observation and disparagement was always fun to read, and the policepony has a somewhat predictable but nonetheless vivid and enjoyable character.

Recommendation:  Readers interested in good but not over-simplified morals in their SoL stories will want to give this a look.

The Railway Ponies: Highball, by The Descendant

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  A pony recounts his days working for the Baltimare and Ohayo Railroad, and one pony in particular who epitomized what he wanted to be.

A few thoughts:  This story does skate close to "not pony enough"--in more than a few places, the world the nameless narrator inhabits feels more like Manifest Destiny-era America with hooves than Equestria--but two things save it from that dubious fate.  First, the absolutely hilarious, occasionally self-aware, and yet entirely story-appropriate bit in the middle about the "Toy Class Engines" which run the Canterlot to Ponyville Route.  And second, the fact that, even in the story's darker moments, it's still full of the unabashed sincerity and faith in humanity (equinity) which mark the show.   Highball is a wide-ranging fic, and like many of TD's more serious (or rather, his less random/comic) stories, it does at times delve into hyper-dramatics, but what sets this story apart from the mass is the author's ability to weave these moments into the story in such a way that, rather than being laughably maudlin, they ring with genuine emotion.

Recommendation:  The prose here is typically Descendantian: flowery, effusive, and full of capital-r Romantic flourishes.  If that isn't your thing, then you probably won't care for his writing here.  But for fans of the style, or for general readers looking for something dramatic, funny, and touching at turns, this is a great entry in the "every emotion under the sun" genre.

(The Most Inappropriate) Hearthswarming Stories for Foals, by Biochi

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Princesses Luna, Cadence, and Celestia regale the main six with less-than-pleasant bits of Equestrian lore.

Thoughts after reading:  The joke here is that the main six are psychologically scarred by the princesses' stories about all sorts of horrible things and brutal customs from the distant past, and frankly... it's mostly a miss for me.  The reactions feel so extreme compared to the stories being told that, even allowing for the sunshine-and-gumdrops history which the ponies presumably grew up on, I never really bought in.  As for the stories themselves?  Although they do seem a bit grim (though not violent or explicit, never fear) for the show, that's kind of the point.  And with that granted, I thought all three were interesting in their own rights.

Recommendation:  Although I didn't care for the framing device, readers looking for a "grown-up" version of Equestrian history may find the three sub-stories here to be of interest.


  1. The concept of Hearthswarming Stories sounds interesting, but I'll pass on it. Highball's already in my queue (always happy to read TD's work!), but One Tenth-Bit will make a fine addition

    Bah, I've got too many pony fics to read! Need to make room for some Poul Anderson and Lord Dunsany. Talk with my co-workers has gotten me wanting to re-read some Crichton as well. Come to think of it, I don't believe I ever got around to Micro (which I assume to be about Michael Crowley)

  2. This was the first of TD's fics that I found interesting and enjoyed. It wasn't as heavy-handed as "Shine" or "A Cup of Joe", and it wasn't as boring as "Variables" or "Of the Fair and All After". TD is a skilled writer whose stories don't quite align with my tastes, so I was pleasantly surprised by this one.

  3. I liked Sediments. Haven't read much else on this list.