Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Mini-Reviews Round 37

By unspoken accord, this week appears to mark the start of the "counting down the days until summer" phase of the school year.  I mean, there are guys who can tell you how many days are left when we're still in October, but now we're to the point where everyone's counting down, even those (like me) who try not to.  I mean, it's a watched pot sort of deal; if you count the days, they just go slower!

So instead of doing the math, let's all distract ourselves with a few short looks at what I've recently read for fun, below the break.

Despicable Blue, by Einhander

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Over the course of his life, Prince Blueblood's managed to rack up billions of bits worth of expenses--all charged to the crown, of course--without accomplishing a single thing of value along the way.  Now Celestia is determined to start reverse the cash flow, but there's only one pony in Equestria crazy enough to actually hire the prince...

A few thoughts:  Much like the crayon drawing (or colored pencil, maybe?  I'm bad with visual art) which this fic uses for a cover, Despicable Blue is done in broad, colorful strokes, with little in the way of nuance, but a simple charm which suffuses it.  Although the story does set Blueblood on the path to redemption, it doesn't skip right over his character traits (well, character trait) on the way to reformation, and there's a strong current of humor throughout the work.  Sometimes, this humor is a bit too predictable for my taste, and on a few occasions, the story skimps on transitions from scene to scene, but I definitely enjoyed the final product.

Oh, and there's an odd bit of headcanon here--apparently, Blueblood is over three hundred years old.  I'm not sure why, but this is only mentioned tangentially, so I was able to gloss over it.  Still, it struck me as an odd thing to mention offhandedly.

Recommendation:  Those who prefer heavier fare, or who object to predictability, might want to avoid this, but for readers looking for some simple, straightforward comedy based mostly around taking Blueblood down a peg, this fic delivers.

The Six Deeds of Harmony, by Defoloce

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  In the ancient days of Equestria, a knight sets out to prove his worthiness with Princess Cadence as his guide.

A few thoughts:  The entire story of the knight traveling Equestria and meeting different races while learning of Harmony is told in blank verse, and the author absolutely nails the style of a Renaissance epic.  The language is exactly the right kind of flowery, and although the placement of stressed syllables is merely okay at the start, this fic quickly hits its stride regarding both meter and action.  I loved every moment of this, and I am incredibly impressed that Defoloce managed to not only render the tone, voicing, and style he was aiming for so well, but that he was able to tell a wonderful story about worth and meaning along the way.

Recommendation:  Anyone with any appreciation for verse, historical storytelling modes, or epic exploration should absolutely read this.

The Long Delivery, by Not a pipe

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Big Mac takes his pies out to be delivered.  Unlike Applejack, he doesn't merely contend with fire swamps and chimeras.  His route is a bit more... surreal.

A few thoughts:  There were some minor but consistent editing problems with this story, and unfortunately, they really undermined the whimsy of the tale in places: simply put, it's not always clear whether a non-sequitur is deliberate, or the result of a missing verb or lack of punctuation (for example).  Past that, I like the idea of this story, and there were moments that shone bright (including the ending, which is just the right kind of logical nonsense for the fic), but there were also stretches, mostly toward the beginning, which dragged along solely on the strength of their mild randomness a bit too long.

Recommendation:  Readers who like a good random story (the tag's not used here, but it would have been appropriate), but hate it when that tag is used as an excuse to not actually tell a story, should give this a try.  Those with little patience for occasionally muddled meanderings might want to try another fic.

Scootaloo Dies a Bunch, by Alexmagnet

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  What about the title wasn't clear?  Each chapter is a short scene from an episode, altered slightly to accommodate Scootaloo's gruesome death.

A few thoughts:  This is refuge-in-absurdity-type comedy: when the joke is that Scootaloo dies every few hundred words, what else could it be?  When I started reading, I loved the first chapter, which is worth reading just for it's take on the "Scootaloo is an orphan" fanon, but bogged down after a half-dozen chapters.  Since then, I've continued following the story, though, and have found it's good for a quick laugh or two; it's just easy to burn out on.  This is something best enjoyed in small doses.

Recommendation:  There's something kind of endearing about the increasingly ridiculous ways the author keeps killing Scoots off; if that kind of black humor is your thing, go ahead and give this a look, though I recommend spacing out your reading.  If this isn't your kind of story... well, honestly, you probably don't need me to tell you, with a name like that.


  1. Huh. I totally missed Blueblood being centuries old when I read Despicable Blue. Weird what the mind picks up or skips over.

  2. Despicable Blue was fantastic, one of the best entries in that contest. :D I'm really noting Einhander as an up-and-coming name in well-written fic.

    Also, the "first chapter is great, but it wears on you" complaint is one I keep hearing for Scootaloo Dies, so it must not be just you.

    1. That'll be because it's a formulaic comedy. It's going to have that problem just by its very nature. A joke stops being funny when repeated verbatim, and the whole point of a formulaic comedy is that it's one joke told in a variety of ways. This makes it an exceptionally hard fic to write well.

      I'll say that Scootaloo Dies a Bunch is one of the better examples of its type. The trick to sustaining a formulaic comedy is to not rely on the one joke that it's built upon. Dies seems written with the intent to remain funny even if a given chapter's Kenny gag turns out to be a miss. Even if you get tired of Scootaloo dying, you could still end up laughing at the observational humour or the slapstick or the sarcasm or the comedic sociopathy of some of the side characters.

      Of course, formulaic comedies have another pitfall that they need to avoid, and that's that after a while they begin to get more and more outlandish and random as the author runs out of ideas. A formulaic comedy officially giving up is usually heralded by the arrival of a Pinkie Pie fourth wall break and random self-insertion, as was the case with The Many Secret Origins of Scootaloo, another Scootaloo-focused formulaic comedy.

      So far, I think Dies is doing pretty well, and it might maintain its current level of quality until it ends. But it'd be the first to do so that I ever read.