Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Mini-Reviews Round 91

Two mini-reviews (almost) in a row!  Truth is, though, that I've got plenty of stories on my "read, but not reviewed" list at any given time, so I might as well cut into that list before I have to refresh myself on those stories just to be able to comment on them.  Stuff, below the break!

A Couple of Tossers, by PresentPerfect

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  At Twilight's behest, Pinkie Pie and Shining Armor compete in a pony-throwing competition.

A few thoughts:  I think one of my favorite flavors of comedic fanfic is "take a minor canon event (or events), draw a ridiculous but not tonally inappropriate conclusion about how the setting and characters from that one event, then take that conclusion completely seriously."  That's exactly what PP does here, so he gets off to a good start in my book.  The story has some rather significant pacing issues, unfortunately; in a (not misguided) attempt to keep the fic short and punchy, the author resorts to a lot of awkward summing-up in between (and sometimes, during) comic setpieces.  On the other hand, the "safety zone" joke is probably worth the price of admission by itself for an under-2k-word piece like this.  On the other other hand, the story doesn't so much "conclude" as it does "stop," and it's ultimately not much more than a single jokey idea.

Recommendation:  This is one of those "if the premise amuses you, give it a try" stories.  Readers looking for any sort of depth or character-building needn't bother, but those seeking a quick joke that mines some character humor along the way won't be disappointed.

Roots, by LittleSallyDigsby

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  When young Big Mac's father fails to return home from a trip, Mac discovers that he's next in line to play an important, hereditary role for Celestia.  But he doesn't have to do it alone; he has the help of a simple-looking farmer's yoke which holds a few secrets...

A few thoughts:  There's a pretty neat premise here, and the way the story skips from (accounts of the) present to (accounts of the) past gives the piece a nice drive from a structural point of view.  Big Mac's diary entries, however, were a letdown from a conceit standpoint; he basically acts as a fount of exposition for the reader, helpfully filling in exactly what information an outside party would want, regardless of whether or not it's something that it makes sense for him to think to/want to/bother to elucidate for his own benefit.  Also, the story falls into the "try to explain how every detail from the show got there" trap--that bane of all prequels--more than once.  Still, the story itself stays grounded despite the plot giving it every opportunity to wander off into inappropriate-for-this-kind-of-story action and visceral punch, and as a result, the ending feels delightfully satisfying despite its predictability.

Recommendation:  Although not a good choice for readers who are easily jarred from a story by contrivance (in structure, rather than plot) or predictability, this would probably be enjoyed by those who like expansive "fill in the blanks" prequels.

The Pit, by CptBrony

Zer0-ish spoiler summary:  A pony travels to griffon lands to fight a champion--with his own freedom the price of failure.

A few thoughts:  Although well-edited, the phrasing of this story is often unintuitive, and (especially in the combat at the beginning) tends to make the action feel more dragged out than it really is.  As with the story above, there's also a lot of narrative/structural contrivance--I've never been a fan of using a character's mind wandering as an excuse to exposit their life story to the audience--and the reason the protagonist is seeking out these fights (or rather, the fact that that reason exists on a systemic level over an extended period) is one I can't quite mesh with the show's world.  To be fair, the story is tagged AU... but this still never felt like a particularly "pony" story.

Recommendation:  Although I think there are relatively few readers who would actively dislike this story, I'm equally at a loss to think of people who would be likely to particularly enjoy it.  If an action-based "character piece"--I use quotes only because that character is awfully single-note--sounds up your alley, this probably won't offend.


  1. Am I the only one imagining Big Mac in that infamous whipping scene? That'd explain all the ponies whose names were relevant to their talents. "Your name is Toffee!"

  2. I burnt myself out like, three times in the last couple of days, so I will happily admit that I'm not going to read any of these. Instead I'm going to eat clam chowder topped with Cheez-Its and mindlessly watch reruns of Malcolm in the Middle. Now that was a show with some good writing.