Monday, November 10, 2014

Mini-Reviews Round 58

I've been wondering recently: what, if anything, can you tell about an author from the titles they pick for their stories?  Not "what can you tell about the stories," or even "can you tell what kinds of stories the author writes," but "what can you actually tell about the author, based just on the titles of their fics and nothing else?"

I mean, I'm guessing the answer is "nothing, or near enough as makes no difference," but maybe I'm underestimating how much so few words can tell you about someone.  At the very least, I wonder if you could tell who wrote a given story (from a small list, anyway) based solely on the title.  Maybe I'll try that next writeoff.

Oh, also, some short reviews.  Get 'em below the break!

The New Crop, by xjuggernaughtx

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Big Mac and Blueblood meet in the boxing ring, in a dystopian version of Equestria where desperate fighters do battle before bloodthirsty crowds.

A few thoughts:  This is firmly in alternate universe territory, if you didn't catch that, and I never quite got on board with the story in that regard.  It's literally not until the last chapter that we even get a hint why everything about this world is so different from what the reader would expect, and I'm not certain that the story gained much from that setting in the end.  On the plus side, though, the description of the match itself was engrossing and (to the best of my limited knowledge) remarkably well-grounded, and Mac's voice--twisted by the setting, but still recognizable--comes through clearly in the narration, making the story feel very personal.

Recommendation:  This isn't for anyone who's easily bothered by large, mostly unexplained changes to canon.  If you're willing to spot the fic its premise, though, I'd recommend it to readers looking for something bleak and violent, but not pointlessly so on either front.

Stealing the Deed, by Justice4243

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Trixie breaks into Twilight's library and steals the deed to it... which she's pretty sure means that she owns the place.  Right?  Right.

A few thoughts:  One thing I'll give this story: it has its moments.  Whether it's Spike jumping to conclusions, Trixie hate-crushing on Twilight, or just general silliness, I got more than a couple of grins out of this story.  That's about all I got out of it, though; the editing is very lackluster, the story doesn't really do anything beyond play with its central conceit, and even the fic's best moments are often stretched and repeated to the point of annoyance.

Recommendation:  Though it's not all that long (under 10k words), this story would have been even better at half the length and with the assistance of a good editor.  If those are sins you can forgive, though, there are certainly enough funny bits here to make it enjoyable as a bit of light comedy.

Twilight Buys a Toaster, by Cloud Hop

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  It doesn't work right.

A few thoughts:  Not much to say about this.  It's an archetypal "pony verbs noun" story: nothing but its titular premise, presented with little in the way of explanation or setting, and inexplicably escalating to massive destruction (as opposed to following a natural, or at least madcap-logical, escalation).  It's also pretty poorly edited, though on the plus side, I'm totally in agreement with Twi that finding a toaster that's big enough to actually fit a decent-sized slice of bread into is tough.  I compensate by almost never eating toast, but that's me.

Recommendation:  It's almost exactly 1000 words of Exactly What You're Expecting.  If that sounds good to you, by all means, go for it.  If not... there's nothing here that'll change your mind.


  1. Hey, thanks for taking a look at The New Crop. I knew when I was writing it that it certainly wouldn't be for everyone, but I do think it has a place for people that want something darker.

    Pascoite has the same objection to the clue at the end as to what is going on with this story. He said that he didn't think it added anything. I get that, but I don't think it subtracts anything either. I don't think two paragraphs is yanking the story away from the overall plot or characters enough to jettison. The reason that it is there is as a lead in to a sequel that I hope to write that further explains what has happened to Equestria and what the ponies there are doing about it.

    It comes down to taste, and mine seems to be different than most people's. I don't mind some meandering in a story as long as that meandering is interesting. I do think it was in that story, since several of the commenters have specifically honed in that, wanting more.

  2. This is pretty much the description of all the stories I've read by Cloud Hop. A lot of people seem to like that kind of thing, though.

  3. Oh, and on the subject of titles... For some time, I've liked something fairly concise but evocative, often an existing phrase. In fact, a lot of them have been like that in the last year. Where the heart is, duet in the folk style (jargon-y, but still a phrase heard in music circles), luck of the draw, the voice of reason, love thine enemy, etc. Another I like to do is use a seemingly minute detail or phrasing from a minor moment in the story. I also went through a phase of a specific literary reference. My stories "At Close of Day," "Curse, Bless, Me Now" (still unpublished), and "The Sun in Flight" (the original title of "The Wrong Side of Tomorrow") are all lines from "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night."

    1. It's an excellent approach. Quite a few shows I watched growing up used pre-existing phrases or references, usually with a pun, so I'm drawn to those kinds of titles. The minute detail/phrasing approach is similar to a lot of songs I liked back when I was super into indie pop, like Death Cab's Tiny Vessels, where they'd just draw it from the bridge (unrelated, but isn't AABA just the best song form? So much better than verse-chorus)