Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Mini-Reviews Round 47

For some reason, I've been feeling pretty brain-dead lately.   The 35k words from the minific writeoff took me more than twice as long as that amount of writing should have to get through, and I've been having a tremendous amount of trouble getting myself to sit down and read--fanfiction or otherwise.   Nevertheless, I've got bits of this and that under my belt, and here's what I thought of 'em!   Short reviews of short stories, after the break.

And We Are Not Yet Saved, by Grey Heather

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  A vignette about Chrysalis and the changelings, post-love-blast.

A few thoughts:  Not a lot to say about this one; it's a humanizing but dark look at what the failure at Canterlot would mean to the changelings, as Chrysalis gathers survivors and tries to keep faith.   I would describe it more as a mood piece/episode followup than as a complete narrative, but what this fic sets out to do, it does very well.   The mood comes through clearly, the writing is crisp but sufficiently evocative... for what it is, I have no real complaints.

Recommendation:  Readers looking for a short shot of melancholy should absolutely read this, though readers looking for something more substantial will want to try elsewhere.

Twilight Verbs Article Nouns, by Lapis-Lazuli and Inky J

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Twilight is tired of the mob of reporters (and attendant articles) which surround her ever since she came into the national spotlight.   So, with Sweetie Belle's help, she hatches a plan to get them off her back.

A few thoughts:  The title had me expecting something significantly more madcap than what I got; this is definitely a comedy, but it's a relatively low-key one, at least relative to the expectations I was bringing in.   It was breezy enough and didn't outstay its welcome, both of which are crucial for one-shot comedies, and it managed to make a few meta-jokes which actually worked in the context of the story.   On the downside, a lot of details in the writing were decidedly un-equestrian, the voicing was often weak (Brits and other heathens take note: there is no good reason for any of the main six to use "bloody" as an expletive, unless they're... I dunno, making fun of Pipsqueak, I guess?), and the resolution was a little too clean and neat to really be funny--though the end of the story got a laugh out of me, at least.

Recommendation:  Those who like light comedy that takes some gentle, non-immersion-breaking fandom potshots might want to give this a look.   Readers who are leery of "X Ys Z"-titled stories... well, this is better than you think, but not so much that you're likely to enjoy it.  You know who you are.

The Rose, by Bradel

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Rose gave Ember a very special flower, once--a rose, which seems to be changing color for reasons Ember struggles to understand.

A few thoughts:  This one left me confused, which was both a tribute to its open-endedness and an indictment of the lack of clarity at the end.   Without going too far into spoilers, it's pretty clear that Ember's not in a great mental place by the end of the story, but it's not at all clear if he's making bad decisions because he's stressed and unstable, if he's jumping to all sorts of crazy conclusions and seeing everything through psychosis-tinted goggles, or if he's full-on crazy.   Since he's the one telling the story, the unreliable narrator angle is heavily in play, but the reader never gets a good indication of what "really" was going on.   On one hand, there's excellent ambiguity here which makes the reader think about what's just been read.   On the other, I feel like I never got enough information to even have an informed opinion about what I'd read, which ended up killing the impact for me a bit.

Recommendation:  Readers who like "literary" fanfics, and who have some patience for ambiguity, should definitely give this a look.

The Ultimate Alicorn, by Cerulean Voice

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  A look at what would have happened if, instead of agreeing to trade her quadruple-alicorn powers to Tirek for her friends and Discord, Twilight had refused him, in favor of seeking the one thing that might give her the power to defeat him alone.

A few thoughts:  I think this story was too short for its own good; a lot of things happen here, and the reasons why they happen are sometimes glossed over.   The way everypony at the end reacts to Twilight, for example, seems to come out of left field (the fact that they seem to blame her for everything does, at least), and the logic behind Tirek's actions are completely unexplored.   This story also gets very grim, very fast, which does a nice job of shocking the reader into realizing just how AU this is (I'm not a big gore fan, but that's an aesthetic preference; I despise gratuitous blood and guts, though.  This is clearly not gratuitous, thankfully), but also does make Twi's decision seem even less understandable in retrospect.   The author plays with some inner voices on Twi's part to paint that decision, but the central conceit of the story is still essentially one that the reader just has to accept.

Recommendation:  In my fanfic experience, it seems there's a significant contingent of people in any fandom who are perennially unsatisfied with happy endings.   To that contingent, I heartily recommend this.   For more general readers,  this might be worth looking at for fans of "what if?" scenarios, but will likely leave behind those who aren't willing to accept its turns (even beyond the premise) as givens.


  1. The Ultimate Alicorn is basically the story of Twilight doing the objectively rational thing (not giving up the one obvious hope of defeating Tirek and trusting the evil overlord to keep his word) instead of the morally right thing (moral as presented in a children's cartoon show), but the world is still the one where she should have done the 'correct' thing and therefor she is punished. And, yeah, you pretty much have to just accept that Twilight would do something that Twilight would never do.

    1. Now that's a description that makes me want to read it!

  2. Huh. Can't say I thought The Rose was particularly ambiguous at all.

    But then, this is why Present Perfect thinks I obfuscate too much (I'm told he even brought it up at a convention). This is just right, and I enjoyed it hugely for that.

    1. Actually, I'm the one that brought up your work, since I'd been reading it just before TrotCon. Present merely responded, and I'm probably not the best source for relaying his thoughts, considering I have the memory of a goldfish

    2. Either, or. :)

      The point stands!

    3. Yeah, I don't remember this happening at all. :V Be glad people are talking about you!

    4. Inquisitor, I just wanted to clarify because your comment could be misread as me stirring up drama between you two. It probably wouldn't have been, but I've spent enough time around women (and some incredibly insecure men) to learn how to spot these potential landmines and diffuse them before it's too late

      Present, it was very brief, when we were hanging out by the fountain, and you may've been on your DS or whatever that was. I think we were talking about fanfiction in general, and I brought up Inquisitor since I'd just finished reading Shades of Grey a couple days earlier. I'd had some trouble understanding the characters and asked if you had any similar issues with his work; you seemed familiar with what I was talking about and brought up how he has a problem with other authors spelling things out for the reader, saying he sometimes went a little too far in the opposite direction

    5. You have a better memory for things I say than I do. <.< I'm worried.

    6. Drama? Present Perfect? Moi?

      Good lord, I'd get slammed so hard my tongue would touch the floor standing up.

      First rule of the internet: never take it too seriously. It's not like PP and I have a glorious history of agreeing on things!

    7. Too late! I'm submitting all of this to that Fimfiction Drama account. So everyone will know of this vicious fighting.

    8. Except that account hasn't been active in a month. Q_Q

      ~Super Trampoline

  3. >Brits and other heathens

    I should have expected this kind of treachery from a resident of the colonies, I suppose, but still! The nerve of you! Shame, Chris! Shame!

    (Though I also still really wish people would stop writing ponies that way, because it's actually really distracting when Celestia talks like my dad.)

  4. I've read two of these, and I have to say I agree on both, though for slightly different reasons.

    In The Ultimate Alicorn, my main issue, which I've seen other readers express in the comments, was that I didn't at all understand Tirek's logic. He's holding Twilight's friends as hostages because he's in a Mexican stand-off with her. Then she leaves to go get something she says will enable her to defeat him, but he doesn't believe her, and yet while she's gone, he destroys his bargaining chips? He no longer has any leverage against her, which he'd need if her errand truly failed, as he thought it would, or if he secretly does believe she's found some new power, he's going to make her even more ruthless (or reckless, I could buy, I suppose), but now he can't even use them as a living shield, if he's that desperate. Another pre-reader decided he could just see it as lack of a backup plan, but even in that case, I don't get how he thought he even needed a backup plan. There are more chapters or a sequel planned for it, and I know it will go on to answer some other questions, like what happened to the other princesses, and perhaps it will cover some of this as well.

    I was similarly confused by the ending of The Rose, but that's not at all unusual for me. It's just that as I considered each possibility of what was implied, my line of reasoning kept running into some logical inconsistency for each thread. My biggest issue was how inconsistently Rose's medical problem was portrayed, some of which might make sense, depending on how you interpret the ending, like why she won't say what's wrong, even though there's not any show of animosity on her part, why she'd get her friends in on the deception, why one of those friends would decide it's serious enough to spill the beans without spilling the beans, and the one that didn't make sense no matter how I read it, that the doctor urgently wants to speak to the main character about Rose's condition, only to say that she'll be fine. It should be said that Bradel's apparently going to tweak the story a bit from this form before putting it up on Equestria Daily, so if you liked the story, you might want to check back again later to see if you like the changes.