Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Mini-Reviews Round 136

This didn't occur to me until well after I saw Saddle Row and Rec, but there's a really sad story hiding on the sidelines: the tale of how Coco Pommel's promising career nose-dived to the point where she's now stuck in a "sales associate" position for an off-brand boutique.  What happened to her dreams of fashion design, to her costuming work?  How did she fall so far, forced to take a job which will eternally torment her with reminders of what she loves, and what she has utterly failed to do, as she tries to hock another pony's wares to make her weekly quota?  There's a [sad]fic for ya!

Speaking of [sad]fics, here are some sad fics!  Check out my reviews, below the break.

Chapter's End, by Bluegrass Bloke

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Discord and Twilight reflect, as they look out over a barren and dead Equestria, on what the future will hold for the ponies who escape to the stars... on a mission which they will not see the end of.

A few thoughts:  More a vignette than a story proper, this is a classic "here are two characters being sad, here's why, the end" piece of writing.  Of course, you can make anything sound pithy like that if you want, but my point is that, between the description and the tags, you already know what this fic is going to do; all that's left is to fill in a few details around the edges.

Recommendation:  This is best treated as a bit of mood writing: if you want a sad scene and don't require a lot of setup or context, this will scratch that itch perfectly well (and the writing is solid, to boot).  It doesn't do anything beyond that, though, so if you aren't looking specifically for that, then there's probably not a lot here for you.

Life is Precious, by BronyDad

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Rainbow Dash brings an injured bird to Fluttershy, hoping she can help him get better.

A few thoughts:  This story is heavy on emotional descriptors and other tellyness ("As she followed her two friends back into town, Rainbow's thoughts unexpectedly turned to the blue jay. Was it her fault that the bird was injured? She had followed all of the precautions that she always did before bringing in a strong storm, but maybe she hadn't taken enough consideration for the animals. She'd never really worried about them before; she had always figured that they could take care of themselves. Had she been neglectful? Could she have done something to prevent him from being hurt?"), which can make it feel slow and ploddy in places.  Where the story makes up for that, though, is in its portrayal of the central tragedy: it does a nice job of portraying it in the same terms Dash would see it in, while simultaneously not over-selling it or needlessly milking drama.  This is a very serious, surprisingly mature look at dealing with death, all presented in a style and vocabulary that make it well-suited to younger readers.

Recommendation:  This might be a bit too straightforward and hyperexplained for experienced readers, but it would be an excellent choice for both young readers, and for people who like a sad story that can handle death without dipping into credulity-straining maudlinity.

Cream and Sugar, by OnionPie

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Applejack and Apple Bloom argue about what family means and what you need to do about it... while trapped in an old well, in a rainstorm, with the water level rising.

A few thoughts:  This story does get a little too contrived for its own good in places, and Bloom's dialogue sometimes loses her vernacular, for example:
     "Sometimes an apple falls down a hill and splashes into a river and is taken far, far away to a place where there ain’t no apple trees."
     Applejack gives me a look. “You obviously don’t know anythin’ about apples and trees.”
     “I know I have to explore and taste new things so I can find what’s important to me, what truly matters to me. That’s what a cutie mark is all about.”
For all that, though, the story does a good job of balancing tension with explosion in their conversation, finding a nice balance between "nothing but yelling" and "not enough drama."  Also, the ending is a delicious bit of dark irony, which I very much appreciated.

Recommendation:  For readers who find mood and tone more important than voicing and lack of credulity-straining, this would be a very good choice.  For the opposite group, this is still a very competent piece of writing, but the cons probably outweigh the pros.

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