Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Mini-Reviews Round 86

I discovered yesterday that the word "quite" has very different meanings in certain sentences, depending on whether one is American or British.  Since I'm the former and a fair number of the regular visitors here are the latter, let me clarify: any story which I've previously described as "quite good," "quite enjoyable," or what have you, I meant in the American way, i.e. "very good" and "very enjoyable."  Apparently, across the pond "quite" is a negative modifier when the adjective it modifies is gradeable, while over here it's a straight intensifier.  Update your understanding of my opinions accordingly, and consider learning to speak the way God and/or George Washington intended.

Quite right, then!  On to some mini-reviews, below the break.

Remember Me, by Avox

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  When Spike visits Dash during one of her accident-induced trips to the hospital, he meets a mare distributing flowers to every patient.

A few thoughts:  There are a lot of little problems with this story: the writing tends toward the repetitive, and (even allowing for the fact that it's a romantic tragedy) tinges too purple for my tastes; language issues regularly pop up in dialogue, with ponies (and Spike) adopting vocabulary that doesn't fit them particularly well; almost nothing is done with Rose being blind, beyond foreshadowing the ending.  And yet, there's a wonderful story hiding behind those minor flaws, that examines Spike's second-tier status among Twilight and the girls without getting silly or overwrought, and which does a beautiful job showing exactly what Rose and Spike need, and why they need each other.  Unfortunately, the ending is a letdown, piling on the attempts to wring emotion out of the premise, and in so doing sliding toward melodrama.

Recommendation:  Complaining aside, there's a beautiful premise here, and the majority of the story delivers a meaty, meaningful examination of two characters.  Fans of Spike stories and sad-shipping in general should give this a look, though those sensitive to overwrought endings will probably be disappointed.

The Ballad of Barrakan the White, by kalash93

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  A bard tells young Shining Armour a tale of a terrible dragon, and how it was driven from Equestria.

A few thoughts:  The meat of the story here is the ballad itself, and unfortunately, it's not very good.  Rhythm is mostly nonexistent, rhyming is often irregular, and word choice vacillates between high epic and casual conversation (alongside of poetic descriptions of battle are frequently found lines like "He could crush her castle./It would be no hassle").  The ending does tie several things together nicely, but there's not a lot here to recommend prior to that.

Recommendation:  This might be worth checking out for the most linguistically/poetically tone-deaf, as the problems with the ballad might not even be noticeable you, and the meat of the story is fine in and of itself.  I wouldn't suggest it to anyone with an interest in verse, however.

Mr. Brannigan's Ghosts, by Moose Mage

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Twilight is visited by a famous musician, who's looking ill at ease... and who wants to know about ghosts.

A few thoughts:  This story has the makings of a good psychological horror/thriller, and it builds a feeling of dread nicely through its first half.  Unfortunately, it ultimately ends up going for shock value and gore which, in addition to being a bit of a letdown in and of itself (your mileage may vary; I've never found reading about self-mutilation or the like to be particularly pleasant, nor even frightening, but I know there are some who would feel differently), really drives home the disconnect between this story and its Equestrian moorings.  Although it's certainly not a case of "not pony enough," I still found myself thinking that this story would have been better off as a piece of original fiction, where that kind of disconnect would be a non-issue.  On the other hand, if the ending goes too far in search of visceral shocks, it does still manage to maintain a discomforting ambiguity as to what really happened, while still resolving its mystery satisfactorily.

Recommendation:  This would be a good story for readers looking for something dark and atmospheric, and who aren't averse to some gratuitous (effects of) violence.

Lily Valley Goes Shopping, by AJ Aficionado

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  When Rose uses up the last of the milk, Lily has to make a quick shopping excursion lest she be forced to endure the horror of dry cereal for breakfast.

A few thoughts:  This story's a bit on the rough side, editing-wise--especially when it comes to commas, which are haphazardly placed at best.  The narration does a nice job of capturing Lily's over-reactions despite that, but the dialogue is a letdown, especially when the subject matter turns more serious about halfway through; Lily and Carrot Top are uncomfortably expository and unnatural in their speaking throughout that section.  It was nice that the lesson learned at the end of the day wasn't so broad or one-sided that it felt uncomfortable, but even if the moral was fine, the presentation was lacking.

Recommendation:  Those who don't mind some heavy-handedness in their stories/life lessons (and who aren't put off by irregular comma-ing) might find this worth a look.


  1. Well... I like the name Moose Mage. I think that's pretty much all the input I've got in this situation.

  2. consider learning to speak the way God and/or George Washington intended.

    Remember, American English is the purer form! It's changed less since the Puritans came over than British has! Shakespeare sounded like an American! :V

  3. I actually read one of these!

    I have exactly the same opinion of "Remember Me." It's a good idea for a story, and it was nice to see how it dealt with Spike's place in the world as an often-overlooked footnote, but the development from "he's curious about her" to "he's in love with her" was very rushed, and the resolution was needlessly maudlin. I also never understood why Rose kept that kind of secret from someone she loved that much when she should have known how big an effect it would have on him, and their dates seemed awfully low-key for scenes that should have been convincing me they were really in love. Avox isn't a bad writer; this is the kind of thing I wouldn't mind seeing him take another swing at once he's got more experience with the genre.

  4. Moose Mage is one of those people who seems to be quite well known (at least among reviewers) but nevertheless has a remarkably small following. I rather liked Mr. Brannigan's Ghosts, though I don't really like the author's pony-naming conventions. (I've read their explanation; it's just a personal preference.)

    As for "quite", I (British) would place it slightly above "fairly" in terms of intensity. "I quite liked this story" is usually intended as moderate praise, more so than "I thought this story was fairly good", but well short of "I thought this story was very good".

  5. I bet none of you even swear loyalty to the Queen, you godless heathens.

    1. I swear at the Queen, if it helps. Bloody institutional scroungers.

    2. I swear loyalty to Queen. Does that count? Even have an 18" Freddie Mercury figurine!

    3. I swear the Queen to loyalty.