Friday, December 4, 2015

Fandom Classics Part 137: A little loopy.

To read the story, click the image or follow this link

Does everyone else get as depressed as I do when they look through there "Tracking" list on FiMFic?  I've got dozens of stories on there that I'd love to read--a few I have read, as well--and most of them haven't updated in a year or more.  For a good chunk of those, the author's been gone for about as long, too.  It's like a personal list of stories I won't ever be able to fully enjoy.

But luckily for those of you who get all your fic recommendations from me (understandable, given the lack of other options when it comes to finding fanfic reviews), I only review complete stories for Fandom Classics posts.  So with your mind now at ease, go ahead and check out my review of A little loopy., by warewolves.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  The formatting of the title, with the sentence-style capitalization and period, don't create a great first impression, but the cover art is certainly eye-catching in a good way.  And the minimalist description ("Sweetie Belle gets stuck in a time loop") does a nice job of making a pitch succinctly and clearly.  Those are two things that can be in short supply in longer fanfics; I'm hoping it's a sign that the story itself will have as much focus and coherence.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Sweetie Belle starts reliving the same week, over and over again.  With no idea how the loop started or how to end it, she begins investigating the nature of the loop, possible ways out--and the increasing pain which a build-up of magic causes her with each successive repeat.

Thoughts after reading:  Unfortunately, the title was indeed a bellwether of the writing quality, at least in the early going; although spelling and the like are quite competent, there are a lot of basic construction issues.  This story is incredibly heavy on passive constructions, to the point where even I--someone who tends not to be bothered by passive voice, and who, if anything, overuses it in his own writing--found it distracting.  Sentences like "Sweetie snapped out of her muse as a question was asked of her by Cheerilee" are the norm.  As that example also shows, there are a fair number of misused words and near-homophone mixups.

As for the story itself, for much of its length it follows explores variations on its central theme (the repeated week), moving gradually away from "normal" as Sweetie's knowledge--and magic buildup--increase.  Direct plot advancement is spaced out, with quite a bit of personal exploration of the loops, comic asides, and the like filling the bulk of the story.  I didn't have any problem with this; indeed, one of the primary appeals of time loop stories is that they give one effectively infinite room to experiment and explore within a narratively sensible framework.  That said, the sometimes languorous pacing does tell me that this is best read serially; since its original publication consisted of more-or-less daily chapters over the course of the better part of a year, my reading experience was obviously different from someone reading it as it came out.  I don't consider that a story flaw, but I would advise a prospective reader that their reading experience is likely to be more enjoyable if they space it out.  And on the subject of "reading experience," it's worth noting that there are quite a few pieces of pony art and other images throughout this story.  While most of them aren't a necessary part of the reading experience, I'd still recommend reading this on-site, rather than downloading it to a device that won't show those images.

Even the proper reading experience, however, can't hide the aggressively expository dialogue and narration.  Characters constantly over-explain their thoughts and actions, often to the point of self-parody, and the narration freely dips into characters' minds for the purposes of showing us the exact thought processes by which they come to conclusions--often mundane and/or easily predictable ones, to boot.  At times, as near the end of the story when a character exposits to Sweetie why she was trapped in a loop in the first place, there's enough in-story logic to make this feel like an acceptable narrative choice.  But in many places, such as early on when Scootaloo tells her life story (apparently, for the first time!) via class presentation, it feels supremely lazy.

And even when the dialogue isn't being excessively tell-y,  it's still marred by wooden, stilted phrasing.  As I mentioned, I didn't have any problem with the character near the story's conclusion telling Sweetie his master plan, as it made sense in context.  But when the dialogue is full of lines like, "Now you are somewhat complacent, do you have any questions? I mean, beyond the very concept as to why I have truncated your week," it still makes for awkward reading.

And on that note, there's the matter of the ending proper, about which I'm of two minds.  On the one side, it builds to an appropriately epic climax, and the multiple epilogue-ish final chapters make for a nice letdown from that high.  On the other, the explanation toward which the entire 150,000-ish word fic had been building is rushed through in just a few thousand words, including time for explication, battle, outside interference, merit-debating, change of heart, and final result.  Compared to the placid pacing which is common to most of the fic, that's lightning fast, but more than that, it's unbelievable turnaround time for the character and is far too perfunctory to carry the weight it by rights ought to.

Star rating:

Although there were many stretches where I was interested by the bits and pieces of discovery which Sweetie made (and as an aside, they're a well-balanced mix of expected and unexpected, humorous and disturbing), the writing quality and unnatural dialogue kept me from feeling terribly engaged at any point, and the ultimate payoff is underwhelming.

Recommendation:  This would be a good choice for readers more interested in the concept than in the construction; as the description and plenitude of chapters promise, there are plenty of variations on and explorations of the time-loop theme within.  I wouldn't recommend it to anyone looking for strong direction, payoff, or writing, though, and I'd recommend that those who give it a try read it piecemeal, rather than tackling it all at once.

Next time:  I Look Into the Flames and See, by Tramper


  1. Well'p, that's one-fourth of a Fallout: Equestria I don't have to read now! :B

  2. I don't know why this particular word is a pet peeve of mine (and alas, Sessalisk isn't around to to say that use of "pet peeve" is a pet peeve of hers). But these kids of words that are pretty uncommon, yet have a close resemblance to other more common words, such that people assume they're spelled the same, always bug me when people spell them wrong more than other misspelled words do. It's "bellwether."

    Another one that bugs me is "minuscule." People like to spell it as "mini," which, for its meaning, actually makes logical sense, enough so that eventually, it also became an acceptable spelling.

    But not to me.

    1. And just where have you been, young lady? We've been up the past 2-1/2 years, worried sick! Do you realize how much Chris cried?

      Seriously, though, good to see you here again

    2. Agreed! :D Speak her name, and she shall be summoned!

    3. What is dead may never die, but rises again harder and stronger.

    4. It's nice to know you're... hard...

  3. What was the misused word/near homophone mixup in that sentence? "Muse" struck me as strange, but seems to be technically correct, unless there's further context indicating otherwise, even if it would seem more natural in the gerund/present participle form.

    1. I think he was using it as an example of misused words (muse), and just included homophone mixups without any example. :B

    2. Indeed, PP has it right; the only homophone mix-up I actually included in this post was "bellweather," and that's a homophone with a word that doesn't actually exist :P

      Also, it's gone now.

  4. Your points are fair, and concise. I respect your opinion.

  5. I never get depressed...mainly because by the time I think about it, I am too busy reading another fic to pay attention. Then again, i have over 1600 fics on my fave list...i think I have a problem