Monday, October 19, 2015

Mini-Reviews Round 101

Not much to say about today's episode; it was what it was, which (in the context of "episodes of MLP") is a pretty good thing to be.  Better throw the obligatory Carrot Top screenshot out there, though:

She'd have been more concerned if Pinkie wasn't wearing a Groucho mask, frankly

Also, how do you make a "baby carrots" joke and then not use Carrot Top?  Come on, she was made for that joke.  Literally; she's got a bushel of carrots on her butt!  This was her moment!

Ah, well; no episode is perfect.  Anyway, let's do some fanfic reviews!  Get 'em below the break.

"I'm great fun at parties, I swear!" by Raugos

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Octavia drags Vinyl to a university lecture.  Vinyl frets that she'll lose her cool cred.

A few thoughts:  This story was pleasant enough in its own right, but it didn't seem to have much purpose.  There are two core ideas here: first, that Vinyl is worried about looking like a nerd, and second, that Vinyl is something of a nerd, and enjoys indulging that nerdiness (when she thinks it's safe to).  The problem is that, despite the obvious potential for conflict which those two provide (and which the title promises), they only intersect briefly, about two-thirds of the way through the story, and that intersection isn't so much "resolved" as it is "observed to pretty much go away on its own," leaving the remainder of the story to wander through some pleasant but aimless banter until it ends.  That said, the banter (and Vinyl's earlier reflections) are pleasant in their own right, which gives the story an amiably uncomplicated readability.

Recommendation:  Given that, I think this is a fine choice for fans of well-written, easy-flowing, "pure" slice-of-life fics.  It's definitely not for readers looking for anything more than that, though.

The Trouble With Fifth Graders, by ThatOneWriter

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Thunderlane beats up his little brother.  Turns out you're not supposed to do that.

A few thoughts:  I don't know why I read this, other than that, by the time I started it, it was less work to finish this barely-1k-word fic than to go find something else to read.  The joke here is that Thunderlane is a... teen, maybe?  Pony age analogues can be tough to identify in flashfics.  Regardless, the point is that he's old enough that he should know that beating the snot out of your kid brother isn't okay, but he doesn't.  That's... that's the whole story, really.

Recommendation:  If you think the idea is inherently amusing, go for it.  If not, this almost certainly isn't the fic for you--it's neither a serious exploration of the subject, nor does it build up to a brilliantly insane conclusion, nor anything else.  It's pretty much what it's described as.

Running Free Across the Plain, by The Hat Man

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Fifty thousand years ago, horses ran wild and free across what would one day become Equestria.  Then, something changed.

A few thoughts:  This story starts out from the perspective of a foal in one of those pre-civilization herds, and does some wonderful things in showing the ancestral roots of the ponies from the show, and especially juxtaposing what we think we know with the brutality of life in the wild--and all while doing a fairly good job of holding to the foal's limited perspective.  The story abruptly shifts gears once it gets to the part where it explains how we got from there to modern Equestria, however, in a way I found both jarring and disappointing.  The latter is more personal reaction than objective problem (without getting into spoilers, let's just say that this turns out to be a sci-fi story--as a reader, I think I'd have preferred to know that going in), but the sudden shift of perspective, coupled with some transparently for-the-sake-of-the-reader conversations, are an issue regardless.  It also marks a dramatic shift in storytelling purpose; while the first part of the fic centers around the foal, his herd, and the world he lives in, the rest of the story is more heavily focused on explaining why things become the way they are in Equestria's present.  I found the former more interesting than the latter, personally, but my point is that there's a marked change in what the story is, fundamentally, trying to do, and the result is to make the two halves of the story feel even more disconnected than the Equestria-changing event already made them.

Recommendation:  If you aren't bothered by dramatic changes in tone and structure, there's a lot to like here--with that caveat, I'd recommend it to readers who enjoy limited-perspective stories, and prehistoric worldbuilding generally.


  1. Running Free has a Beast Wars/At the Mountains of Madness twist, doesn't it? It's not a spoiler if it's that obvious

  2. On that Vinyl Scratch fic, I had an interesting conversation with The Slorg about it. He felt like it was a pretty directionless piece until the ending saved it by providing a meaning. I felt like it was a pleasant enough slice of life about fitting in until the ending didn't go anywhere.

    I think I'd be right there with you on the Running Free story. It sounds like a neat concept for the first part, but the second just doesn't grab me, through no fault of the author's. I can see how a writer would get enamored with making it into a sci-fi tale, but for one, that limits the appeal of what would be a pretty universal story, and for another, it doesn't augment the story's message or provide the key to make it possible. So, yeah, it sounds like what could have been "Here's a neat story about the evolution of ponies," it became "Here's a neat story about the evolution of ponies, if you like sci-fi." I've had several stories ruined for me because they had elements brought in like that which seemed rather extraneous, and that's just my personal taste coming in, but it seems like if that polarizing element doesn't enter into play until later in the story, the author might want to give more consideration to how that will affect readers and whether it's worth having that potentially muddle what would otherwise be a powerful message with broader appeal.

  3. Recently, I had a series of three dreams in one night centered around punching children in the face. Despite this, I do not think I shall read that story.

    However, your review of the last one intrigues me so much that I'm moving it up my list. That doesn't happen often.

  4. Well. I did not expect anyone to pick that story for review. It was just a dumb little scribbling that I wrote up after joking with one of my friends about... being a bad brother, I guess? I don't really remember. It was past 3am when I wrote it.

    Thank you for the review, though. And thank you for not saying I'm a terrible person/writer for that story! That was definitely the feedback I expected in any given review.

    P.S. I've never tried to comment on Blogspot, so I have no idea if I correctly signed in or anything. In case I failed miserably, I'm ThatOneWriter, the author of that stupid children-punching story.

    1. You're welcome! Rest assured, I don't think you're a terrible person OR a terrible writer.