Friday, December 30, 2016

Mini-Reviews Round 165

My holiday continues apace!  Today, even as you read this, perhaps, I've got a friend's bachelor party to go to.  It's sure to be an exciting, scandalous affair; our big plans involve learning a new tactical battle boardgame that one of the other guys is bringing.  We're a bunch of wild and crazy guys, I tell you.  And right on the heels of that will be New Years, which I typically celebrate with... more games with friends.  Sometimes we don't even make it to midnight, anymore.

Man, I'm getting old.

Whatevs (see?  Youth-speak!  Still got it).  Mini-reviews, below the break.

Friendship is Optimal: The Law Offices of Artemis, Stella & Beat by Eakin

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  A young man, fresh out of law school, lands a job at one of the most famous--and controversial--firms there is: the firm tasked with defending CelestAI in court, and advancing her legal cause.

A few thoughts:  Although I didn't particularly dislike this story, I felt like it missed a lot of what makes FiO (side note: this story requires pretty close familiarity with the FiO premise; this isn't a good jumping-in point for the so-called Optimalverse) so terrifyingly gripping in the first place: it never seriously questions the idea that uploading might equal death. The only people who hold this view in the story are strawman bigots who can't even be bothered to quote scripture correctly, and as a result the story misses a lot of the thoughtful ambiguity of the best FiO fics, and instead feels like it's operating on the assumption that several unanswerable questions which vex philosophers to this day are objective, agreed-upon(-by-everyone-with-half-a-brain), provable facts. It's got some strong moments and a brilliant core concept, which carried me through, but a lot of the actual legal wrangling is glossed-over, frankly silly in its simplification, or both.  In fact, there are a lot of moments of unbelievable silliness; CelestAI giving a single three-minute speech full of vague generalities which instantly brings the entire country to her side is only the most egregious example.

Recommendation:  This is definitely not a fic to read unless you've read Friendship is Optimal.  For that crew, this might be enjoyable if you're looking for singularity boilerplate, but probably isn't worth reading if you want a more nuanced or thoughtful approach to either the core concept of the Optimalverse, or the legal morass which might surround it.

Universal Termination Primer, by Wodahseht

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Twilight discovers a strange book while cleaning out Celestia and Luna's old castle.

A few thoughts:  There's a very clever story device here, which I didn't entirely pick up on (that is to say, I only noticed at the very end of the story, and still missed the full significance), and which was explained in the author's note.  It was a bit too subtle for me, though seeing it (/having it pointed out) in hindsight didn't really hurt my appreciation for the way that device was used.  However, there's not really much of a story to surround it; this is more of an (well, the) event than a narrative, and I'd have appreciated some more buildup--things like where this book came from, why it exists in the first place, what's been done to suppress it, etc.  As-written, this is a dark, rather cleverly executed idea... and that's about it.

Recommendation:  If clever execution is your thing, give this a look!  The gimmick is probably much more obvious when you know there is one, but it's still well-structured.  If you're looking for something which will invest you in its characters or events, though, look elsewhere.

Wish Fulfilment, by adcoon

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Down on her luck--again--after the Alicorn Amulet incident, the Great and Powerful Trixie finds a genie in a bottle... and this one isn't even trying to screw her over on her wishes!

A few thoughts:  This has a nice comic tone in the early going, doing a good job of contrasting Trixie's (well-realized) grandiosity with her state and environs.  I was disappointed by where it went from there, however; it's tries to keep amping up, and while some bits (like Discord's appearance) deliver, it falls into the "I get it, already" trap well before the end comes along and, as it was obvious it was going to by the halfway point of the fic, restores the status quo in the laziest way possible.  But hey, at least it's a funny trip through a cliched arc--that's a lot better than a miserable slog to one, no bones about it.

Recommendation:  There aren't any surprises here, at the narrative level, so readers looking for something that will keep them on their toes can safely skip this fic.  But if you'd just like some safely predictable humor and a well-written Trixie, this fic delivers on both counts.

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