Time for some short takes on short stories that I've recently read! Also, time to rake, but this seems more important. I've got three trees in my yard, and they all drop about two weeks apart from each other--why bother raking until the last one's lost its leaves? I'm sure my neighbors won't mind! Yes, we'll go with that plan, and devote our attention to the mini-reviews below the break.
Old friends, by Bad Horse
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Philomena knows that ponies are like phoenixes; they keep coming back. But unlike phoenixes, they're different each time. It's confusing, and sometimes sad.
A few thoughts: I really liked the idea of this one, and Bad Horse does some nice things with Philomena's perspective. My big gripe is that that perspective isn't terribly consistent. For example, she's shown stumbling over words (as opposed to concepts) in her narration, yet she is also depicted as being unable to understand language. The story seems to have trouble deciding whether she's basically an intelligent animal, or basically a stupid pony, and while I prefer the latter (at least, for this story), what I'd have most liked was a strong commitment to one or the other.
Recommendation: With that being said, I still enjoyed this, and the central idea of Philomena's understanding of death was a strong one, with a nicely open ending. I'd recommend this to a reader looking for a story that uses POV to good effect.
The Fraternal Brotherhood of Mann, by Insert Pen Name
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Spike is invited to join a secret organization dedicated to preserving the ancient code of machismo, valor, and stallionhood known as "mannliness."
A few thoughts: This is an old, old story (first published on EqD in November 2011), and in some respects it hasn't aged all that well; there are some editing problems, and the whole story is rather too liberally sprinkled with referential humor for my taste. But what does still hold up is the comedy and tone: the silly but sincere way that Spike and the stallions go about trying to show how "mann-ly" they are, and the laid-back, aside-filled format of the story, create a pleasantly relaxing atmosphere in which to giggle at the slew of macho jokes (thankfully, mocking the traditional idea of machismo, rather than, say, a bunch of Jersey Shore crudeness).
Recommendation: Even on re-(re)-read, I still enjoy this a lot. It's definitely one that will put off readers sensitive to lackluster writing, but the central joke is solid, and the presentation remains reliably comic.
Dust, by Pearple Prose
Zero-ish spoiler summary: Nightmare Moon wanders her dust-strewn prison, with only Luna's ever-present thoughts as company.
A few thoughts: Nightmare Moon being literally trapped on the moon is one of those interpretations that just seems too silly and literal for me to enjoy most of the time, but the interplay between her and Luna here was pitch-perfect. Moreover, the reversal of a classic NMM trope (instead of NMM being the whispering threat in Luna's ear, the roles here are reversed) was welcome, and while the exploration wasn't terribly deep, it was still interesting as a concept.
Recommendation: Although it does indeed get a bit gory, the violence in this story doesn't feel gratuitous. Readers looking for something short and dark with an interesting twist should give this a look.