Friday, July 17, 2015

Mini-Reviews Round 90

One of my friends is moving to a no-pet apartment, and tried to get me to take her cat.  She probably thought I'd be open to it, since I already own one... but she didn't do a very good job selling it.  For reference, if you're ever trying to unload pets onto someone, you probably don't want to lead with "The only thing he really does wrong is that he likes to pee on people when they sleep."

...Yeah, I'll stick with my own, doesn't-pee-on-me-whether-I'm-asleep-or-not cat.

Mini-reviews below the break!

2+2=5, by plumander

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Celestia gives young Twilight a piece of paper with a simple equation on it.  Twilight tries to make sense of it.

A few thoughts:  I was hoping this story would go the "Princess Celestia teaches Twilight that even a wise mentor can be wrong sometimes," but the story went a more Orwellian direction instead.  That didn't really work for me, because although the reason for the Dark tag becomes clear at the end, the rest of this short fic is entirely about Twilight trying to accept what Celestia wrote as true... and not, seemingly, from a position of manipulation, but one of adoration and trust.  That part's well-written in and of itself, but as a result, this feels pretty slice-of-life until the end.  There, it pulls a tonal 180--not in the form of a twist ending, but more a "poor story/mood synergy" manner.

Recommendation:  The look at filly!Twi struggling with an unthinkable concept is pretty well-done, feeling very much in character; readers to whom that sounds interesting, and who don't mind bleak (psychologically bleak, that is) endings may want to check this out.

I, Paladin, by InquisitorM

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Luna's guards are more than guards, for they are tasked with a vital duty which no other pony in Equestria can or will do: never take Luna too seriously.  It's an important job, and one that Artemis takes seriously... within the context that one can take not taking somepony seriously seriously, anyway.

A few thoughts:  This is tagged a sequel to the author's first story, but as long as you're willing to take the premise I just outlined up above as a given, it can be read alone.  M mixes serious emotions with ridiculous situations very well, and although this feels a bit like it's setting up a larger work which doesn't exist (the author doesn't have specific plans for more, but has left open the possibility of this being "the first of a series of vignettes"), but as a short character introduction which doesn't just read like a copy-pasted bio, this is a success.

Recommendation:  Also, accounting weasels.  This story has accounting weasels.  Read it if you want to read about accounting weasels, which are the best thing ever, even though they're a one-off joke.

Sorry, but I love the idea.  Wait, no, I'm not sorry; accounting weasels are the best thing.

The Bonds of Immortals, by Subsolar Drift

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Now that Twilight is immortal, she and Celestia can get married.  Not "married" as mortals mean it--"married" in the original sense of the word.

A few thoughts:  This is one of those "excuse for headcanon" stories, to such an extent that I can't even get too worked up about the ethical problems with Twilestia--the story itself is so secondary to establishing where the tradition of marriage comes from, what its original form was, and how a "true" marriage is executed and officiated that that story is hardly worth worrying about.  The establishing/forming/officiating is all well-conceived, and I think it would make an excellent setting for a story... but here, the story is instead the setting for it.

Recommendation:  If you treat this as a 4000 word blogpost on wedding lore and exploration which happens to have a narrative attached to it (and if reading about how immortal weddings might look interests you in the first place, obviously), this is absolutely worth reading.  For Twilestia fans who are willing to pre-provide the emotional setup and context for a wedding, this could also be a good choice.  For readers looking for something with a narrative focus or self-contained arc, though, this is more setting/scene than story.


  1. In response to your last reader recommendation: Wwwwhat?!

    I feel like if you gathered the entire population of America in one place and asked them if they were interested in reading a 4000 word alternate reality wedding lore fanfic for which they would have to supply their own emotional setup and context, maybe 2% would raise their hand, purely out of curiosity. I would be with the other 98% who didn't understand the question in the first place.

    1. ...Actually I ended up reading it. I guess it just goes to show that internet statistics are unreliable! Don't trust them, people! They're all a bunch of HOOPLAH!

  2. I might have gone for accounting ferrets, since a group of ferrets is a business. It just works on multiple levels.

    1. I would have picked accounting crows because I will paint my picture! Paint myself in blue and red and black and gray! All of the beautiful colors are very, very meaningful. Gray is my favorite color. I felt so symbolic yesterday. If I knew Picasso, I would buy myself a gray guitar and play!

  3. Man, I just read 2+2=5 after taking a look at this review (it's 1k words, so I thought that eh I have nothing better to do) and the story really didn't work for me. The idea might be interesting, but it takes way too many cues from 1984 for me to work.

    And not enough, at the same time. 1984 made it work because the entire third arc of that book is about how they break the protagonist, and the equation makes sense because we see that they're trying to do---break him so he accepts something wrong as right, and believes it.

    However, this story just has Twilight freaking out for onethousand words, and unless you've read 1984 before I don't really think you can get it. Maybe the reference is famous enough to work on its own, but I believe that's a major fault. And on top of that, we don't really get any sense of Twilight being broken. The story is short and vague for the purposes of being short and vague -- there's literally nothing that explains what the hell is going on.

    So Twilight sees the equation, she knows it's wrong, but she's eager to please. So she starts writing equations and freaks out about numbers floating? I can buy Twilight being smart in some regards and dumb in others, because that's what smart kids do. But suddenly the numbers start floating and stuff?

    Like, I can see that working? But you need to give it more work. One thousand words make it feel rushed, and in my opinion, pretty pointless. Here, she's freaking out. Then Celestia wishes her goodnight. Creepy!

    I understand the concept behind this -- it's scarier when you don't know what is going on, and we're shown Celestia consciously messing up with filly Twilight for some purpose we don't know. Making sure Twilight adores her and always believes her, I guess? But Twilight is already in that state when the story starts. Hell, in 1984 it worked because it was against the protagonist's will, and you were shown the before and the after. Here Twilight starts believing that two plus two makes five, and ends the story believing two plus two equals five and also trippy shit going on.

    So what's the point?

    I don't know. The high concept can work, I guess, but the execution definitely doesn't pull it off. It also reads as really pretentious, but maybe that's necessary if you want to cram all this stuff in such a short story. Definitely didn't work for me.

  4. Something else that occurred to me: I read InquisitorM's short story (8/10 dwarf planets. Character voice was good, nice descriptions, Celestia getting emotionally destroyed by beauty within her artisanal realm that she could nary before have even hoped to imagine was top drawer, but odd innuendos seemed sudden and forced without any other context, making the main character feel "cheaper" overall, and the activities and attire of Luna during royal downtime seemed a little too plebeiesque for me to fully buy into), and I think it touched on the significant but rarely prominent moral that no matter your status in life, it's important to have friends who treat you as a trusted equal in order to keep hold of your sense of self, or humanity, or equineity in this case. "Trusted," being the key word there. You can't be yourself around someone if you don't actually trust them. If any of you out there have siblings, or children, or any other tantamount relation, then strive for that! You've got a natural advantage, and it's really important. It keeps people from going insane.

    We also learned the lesson that adding small furry rodents to a story will make Chris veto all other content and automatically give it 5 stars.

    1. Yeah, I can see the issue with some stuff seeming forced, and that's entirely down to the idea of what's actually going on and whether part two ever sees the light of day.

      When I originally had the idea, there was a small epilogue at the end of it that would have made more sense of it, but I pulled it out to make it a mini-event of its own.

    2. Removing an epilogue from a short story in order to create a mini-event that will make sense of the original short sounds kind of like pulling a stick out of a hat to balance a plate that's already spinning in the air on the end of it. Good luck if that's what you want to do though! Personally I thought it was fine just as a little writing blurb, but if you've got more story to tell, then tell it, son, and tell it well. I won't stop you.

  5. A psychologically bleak ending, you say. That sounds like the kind of thing that I would hate. I almost want to know how much I should hate it, and what I would rather have been done. And hate is a strong word; I should check that this is a situation deserving of it...

    Some time later.

    Huh. And here I was looking forward to writing "Why did I do this to myself?"
    First, let me say that I have not read 1984. Also, I'm not going for a dark interpretation just because of the dark tag. But for me, this story isn't necessarily bleak at all. We know that Celestia is not planning to keep Twilight in an (obviously) authoritarian semi-simulated reality dependant on collectively believed lies. Twilight will one day learn that 2+2=4, and not 5. This emotionally charged lesson will eventually teach Twilight that Celestia can not only be wrong, but can lie. And Celestia must be able to see that this will happen, so it seems like that's actually the lesson she's trying to teach in the long term. True, it's going to be taxing on Twilight's and Celestia's relationship, but it should help teach Twilight to think for herself, which is something this Twilight seems to need (yes, I know she's very young here, but we don't actually know how young, and it's a lesson she will have to learn sometime regardless). As someone who hasn't read 1984, I'd say this is just a harsh but well-intended lesson, and I would have liked to read about the aftermath when Twilight's trying to understand why Celestia lied to her.

    I really liked I, Paladin. (How do you italicise these posts?) The characters in it felt alive in a way that I'm not really used to seeing in fanfiction. I don't know if it's the stream of consciousness style, the way that characters are only really conveyed in terms of what they think and do, or that there weren't really any generic scenes or action that could have applied to just about any character ever, but I think it's great.

    And a "4000 word blogpost on wedding lore and exploration" where the reader is ideally "willing to pre-provide the emotional setup and context for a wedding" did not sound interesting, at all.