Monday, January 30, 2017

Mini-Reviews Round 169

Seattle's Angels made me sad over the weekend.  Not that they did anything wrong (that I know of...)!  No, they're great, but they are nevertheless the proximate cause of my sadness.

See, one of the stories they recommended in their most recent post was The Doctor, the Designer, and the Horn of the Damned.  Well, that title looked familiar to me, so I clicked over to it, and discovered that I had it on my read-it-later list.  Where it had languished for more than two years.

Now, that wouldn't have made me too sad by itself, but what really bummed me out is that the author hasn't been on FiMFic in about five months.  In other words, I had well over a year and a half to get a review out when it might have done some good for the guy who wrote it... and I didn't.  Granted, my reviews aren't targeted at authors, particularly, but most people still like to read reviews of things they've written.  And I dawdled too long.

So today, I'm going to grab the three short stories that are farthest back on my RiL--the ones that have sat the longest, all of which I added more than three(!) years ago.  Well, now let's blow off the dust and see what we've got, shall we?  My reviews, below the break.

Never so Far Away, by PoweredByTea

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  On a whim, Twilight decides to check out a park in Canterlot which she'd never been to.  There, she encounters a private place, and familiar princess engaging in unfamiliar relaxation.

A few thoughts:  I really enjoyed reading this (which only makes me feel worse about not getting to it until literally 2017).  It's a low-key, low-stakes story which effortlessly invests itself with just enough of a message to keep it from feeling wholly insubstantial, and which manages to be unfailingly pleasant at all turns with being cloying or cutesy.  It's a very dated fic in many ways--and I'm talking about more than just Twilight's lack of wings when I say that--but the quality of the prose still holds up well today.  I found Celestia's voicing to be a particular highlight, but both dialogue and Twilight-centric narration are executed at a high level.

Recommendation:  This is SoL done right--the kind that feels "comfortable" without sacrificing meaning in search of that comfort.  Anyone looking for good SoL should absolutely read this, and anyone laboring under the impression that SoL means "meaningless fluff" should read this to help disabuse themselves of the notion.

The Library Club, by Inky Swirl

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Ever since Twilight got her computer, Spike hasn't seen hide nor hair of her--nor have Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom seen much of their sisters, for that matter.  And although Twilight's specifically forbidden Spike from going into the basement (both the location of the computer, and the source of many a strange noise in recent nights), Spike is determined to figure out what's going on.

A few thoughts:  Although the story goes some very strange places with the premise, this fic at its core is just a "children not understanding adult sexuality" tale.  There's nothing really wrong with that premise (there's a reason it's such a popular one for comedies, after all!), but over 10,000 words is much too long, and this story feels very stretched out in places.  That's without getting into the question of the internet-expy and its setting-appropriateness in the first place, nor whether the very direct, unambiguous parallels to the fandom which the ending draws are more than a lazy attempt to add interest via meta-awareness.  With that said, this story does have its moments.  Whenever I started to get too down on the story, I'd come across a passage like this:
     Celestia, he prayed, I don’t know if you really can hear prayers, because I’ve been too embarrassed to ask you about that old pony myth. I’ve also been afraid to send you a letter, because I don’t want to make a big deal out of something that’s probably nothing, but I’m really nervous, now. It’s Twilight, you see. Twilight, and Rarity, and Applejack, and Fluttershy, and even Rainbow Dash. They’re all acting really weird and not talking to anypony – or anydragon. I’m worried about them and just… I was just wondering if you could help, that’s all. Love, Spike.     Spike spent the next few minutes [wondering] if ending it with “love” was somehow crossing a line.
And with that, I'd be grinning again, missing word and all.  There's not a particularly good ratio of humor to words (unless you find "Spike doesn't realize ponies are having sex" intrinsically funny), but at least there is some good humor in there.

Recommendation:  If you know yourself to be a fan of the genre and think that things like (Hands Are Magic) are amusing rather than cringeworthy, this is the fic for you.  Otherwise, it's probably safe to give it a pass.

Another Day, by wYvern

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  An elderly Applejack, the last of the mortal main six--and of her family--remaining, lives in a retirement home.

A few thoughts:  In a lot of ways, this is a pretty typical "old" fic.  You know the kind: focused entirely on the age of its main character, as they reminisce about the way things used to be and about friends long past and come to terms with their failing bodies and lack of purpose.  It does at least have the courtesy to end on an uplifting note, though.  An actual uplifting note, even, not just one of acceptance or resignation!  But beyond that, there isn't a lot here to distinguish this fic from the many others of its general type.  Well, except for the fact that the narration is written in AJ's accent for the first half or so, before switching to just using her vocabulary.  Certainly not the most distracting inconsistency ever, but one I found rather strange.

Recommendation:  If you're in the market for an old fic, this is a perfectly adequate one, with a better-than-average ending.  But it isn't likely to appeal outside of its target demographic.


  1. The three oldest (according to date I added them) fics in my RIL are length epics by JohnPerry, ToixStory and the Descendant that I will likely never read. :B

    1. I miss the Descendant especially... was reminded of that yesterday catching up on some EQD from the last month, and seeing he was something like 20% of the highlighted Spike fics. :-(

  2. I'm starting to sympathize with Old Applejack a little bit more every day.....

  3. I'm not sure if there's a way to find out exactly how long ago I added them, but a little to my surprise it turns out that three of my longest-standing RiL stories are by well known authors: Winston, 8686 and Inquisitor M. There's also the rather longer Children of the Sun by Vanner: I know nothing about either the fic or the author, and I can't even remember why I added it!