Monday, January 18, 2016

Mini-Reviews Round 116

I spent the weekend at Leadership Academy--a barbershop officer's convention--and had a great time.  There was one small source of awkwardness, though: the event was in Wisconsin, and I'm an Arizona Cardinals fan.  Let me tell you, my red jersey stuck out just a liiiiitle bit in the sea of green that was the other attendees.  But as some of you may have seen, I got the last laugh.  Go Cards!

But enough about music and/or football; on to fanfic reviews!  Head below the break for my thoughts on some stuff I recently read.

Cadance in Eb Aeolian, by Super Trampoline

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  A bored Discord pesters Cadence late one night.

A few thoughts:  With a title like that, I pretty much had to read this.  Unfortunately, despite the solo SoL tag, this is really (what I would consider) an archetypal "random" fic.  Full of meme-ery, fourth-wall gags, and seemingly purposeless developments (the author uses the fact that the story is set several years in the future to do things like ship Discord and Twilight... which would be fine, if it was in any way relevant to the story), the story may take the outward form of a low-stakes, late night conversation, but its content is mostly lowest-common-denominator humor with little purpose or direction.

Recommendation:  For fans of "wacky" random, this is a perfectly serviceable--if rather poorly edited--vehicle for the kind of unforshadowed leaps of (il)logic for which you're looking.  Anyone who's going to be put off by stuff like Discord declaring "'Princess, I'm shocked! That's like saying chocolate rain is disgusting or Super Trampoline is a good author!,'" however, should stay far away.

The Equestria Games: Flight of the Pegasi, by Cerulean Voice

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, and Bulk Biceps compete in the aerial relay at the Equestria games.  However, between a conspiracy in the works, and the machinations of those in charge of the event, there's more to this race than meets the eye.

A few thoughts:  I've had this on my to-read list for... oh, at least a year and a half, but somehow, I didn't get around to reading it until just recently.  Anyway, if you don't remember any of the stuff in the second sentence of the summary, it's because this story was written during season four, before the Equestria Games episode actually aired--set your expectations for canonicity accordingly.  In any case, this story has a pleasantly episode-like feel to much of it (conflicts are simple and straightforward, but engaging; the emphasis is less on the mechanics of the athletic events than on the characters), but unfortunately, a lot of that good work is undone by the portrayal of the princesses.  Their "contributions" to the contest are painted as tests of character, but if anything they have the opposite effect; at one point, they conjure up an (illusory) dragon so that the racers will have a chance to prove their merit by helping one another escape it, but the actual effect is (and it's impossible to imagine what else anyone could have expected) to let the "selfish" racers make ground while those of less dubious morality waste time saving one another from an imaginary threat.  Assuming the "morally dubious" moniker is deserved in the first place; I personally prefer to think that that racer simply realized that illusory magic is rather more common than giant dragons in Equestria, and that the latter are rather less likely to spring up out of nowhere than the former.  The effect of this and other such moments is to make the actual race so arbitrary that it becomes a farce; a twist reveal about the race near the end is intended to feel affirming, but instead becomes just one more in a line of seemingly arbitrary changes/discoveries about how the race is adjudicated.

Recommendation:  I wouldn't recommend this to readers who are easily put off by Celestia and Luna acting more like Discord than like benevolent rulers.  However, folks willing to forgive that, and who enjoy straightforward, relatively low-stakes action might enjoy this.  Also, I'm contractually obligated to mention that Carrot Top has a minor role, which is obviously a selling point.

Applejack's Little Tree, by Lise Eclaire

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  One day, when Applejack is out harvesting, one of her trees objects to being kicked.

A few thoughts:  At the beginning, this story finds a good balance between strangeness on one hand, and not overselling its central oddity on the other--Applejack's incredulousness and confusion, coupled with her instinct not to make too much of a fuss, sell the early going pretty well.  And the ending is deliciously tragic, in an unexpected way.  A lot of the actual character development, however, feels somewhat glossed over, in part because "little tree" is so emotionally volatile (albeit, for perfectly valid reasons) that it's difficult for the reader to get much of a fix on her as a character.  The story does also get a bit maudlin in places; several times, Applejack ends up narrating her feelings when I would have preferred a lighter touch, writing-wise.

Recommendation:  Although this isn't really a shipping story (Romance tag notwithstanding), I think it would appeal most to readers who go into it with a shipper's mindset: if you're willing to accept the way the characters act without always having a solid or obvious Watsonian explanation, this story is worth checking out simply to find out what's going on--and how it ends.


  1. Super Trampoline here. Thanks for the review Chris. As xjuggernaughtx and I have discussed, it's stories that play it safe rather than be controversial that often have the highest ratings, which explains how this paragon of mediocre fluff I wrote 2/3s of at 2 in the morning sitting in my car half-asleep in between Lyft ride requests is now my 5th-highest rated story. I'm not saying my work isn't mediocre in general (a fact I've come to terms with and even embraced), but this one is particularly. I'd point you towards some of my stories I actually consider good, but I have none. (though I am working on a few, VERY VERY slowly.) Have a great day!

    1. I certainly don't disagree with you or Mr. (x)J regarding what makes for a (typical) high-rated story; I've observed before that inoffensiveness is the best way to avoid downvotes.

      Glad you liked the review, and if you ever complete one of those stories you "actually consider good," be sure to let me know!

  2. >Cadance in Eb Aeolian
    I always wonder why anyone uses this mode, as it's just a slightly longer-hand and less-understandable way to say "Eb minor."

    >Also, I'm contractually obligated to mention that Carrot Top has a minor role, which is obviously a selling point.
    Tfw when I've slipped Carrot Top references into 3 or 4 stories in the past year just to see if Chris noticed. He didn't. ;_;

    I remember liking that third story, but it had some odd and unnecessary swings in perspective, fairly blunt relation of characters' emotions, and the ending felt a little too contrived. It made it sound so inevitable that this particular tree was the inevitable choice, but it's a very common kind of tree, so it's unreasonable that it was the only option.

  3. It's a play on "Cadence in A Minor", a really good story you should read.

    1. Although I believe that the last few chapters, roughly speaking after the nine-month-long gap without updates, fell short of the earlier, CiAM might make for a reasonable foray into erotica-that-is-definitely-a-story for Fandom Classics, should Chris decide to make one.

    2. Despite how much I dislike that fic, it would be interesting to see Chris' take on it.

    3. Will she get arrested for that?

    4. There are definitely aspects of the story that could make it hard to enjoy. The (late?) inclusion of a world building element that is hard to execute well as the resolution to a major plot point is one for me. And although it's not purely so, there is a fair amount of cynicism there, beyond the general unpleasantness that's unavoidable given the story told. What drove your reception of it?

    5. Sorry, that was a brain-fart. Looks like my mind went in the same direction as InquisitorM's, and mixed up this one with "My Princess Alluring".

    6. I'm currently reading Cadence in A Minor. So far, I'd say my one-word opinion would be "mixed".

    7. Oh snap I still need to read the last two chapters of CiAM. Should I steel myself for disappointment? ~Super

  4. Cheers for the review, Chris!
    The whole dragon thing was, in hindsight, a very dumb idea. I thought it would show the level of sportsmanship each competitor possessed, but instead it just made Celestia and Luna look like dicks. This has been the most common complaint about Flight to date, and rightly so. Now that it's been two years since I wrote it, I realise what makes for a good plot point and what doesn't.

    I am pleased you liked the rest of it though, especially with regards to Carrot Top's role. It was my first time using a background character with any sort of made-up personality on my part.

    1. Glad you liked the review! Goodness knows, I've had more than my share of "learning experience" stories... even when they've got some nice elements, all I can do when I look at my older stuff, even my older pony stuff, is grimace.

      Getting back to FotP, though, there ARE plenty of "nice elements" here, so in my humble opinion, you're right to be pleased!