Monday, January 23, 2017

Reviewer Reviews: PresentPerfect

Something new today!  Also, something I've occasionally joked about doing, but suddenly thought "Hey, why don't I actually do it?" about.

That's right, I'm going to take a look at another ponyfic reviewer's reviews, and break them down a bit!  Depending on how much fun this is, it may end up being a one-off, or I may continue doing these posts on an irregular basis.  We'll play it by ear, m'kay?

And who better to start with than the inimitable PresentPerfect--the man who, according to the Big Master Review List, has done by far the most fanfic reviews of any of us.  Head down below the break as I break down what his reviews do, what they don't do, and whether you should devote some of your precious review-reading time to him.  Off we go!

The subject:  PresentPerfect's review series on FiMFic (link is to his aggregate spreadsheet)

Posts examined: Fic recs, January 19th!, Fic recs, January 16th!, Fic recs, January 13th!, and Fic recs, January 10th: Poopfic edition :V.  I'll try to grab 3-6 reviews or sets of reviews when I do these posts (assuming I keep doing them), and will try to take the most recent ones I can while still getting a representative sample of the kinds of stories and style of reviewing that the author uses.  Luckily, PP made it easy for me, and his four most recent posts cover that ground nicely!

Reviewer's schedule:  A review post every three days, though "editions" will occasionally disrupt this schedule.

Format:  Some news items/bloggy stuff to open the post, followed by 5+ reviews (almost always less than a dozen; the exceptions are basically all special editions of his reviews, e.g. "every story submitted to such-and-such contest").  Reviews consist of PP's opinion of the genre--rather than just quote the story tags, he'll use this space to deem something a "crackfic," "second person Anon-in-Equestria comedy," or what have you--a one-paragraph summary/commentary, and a rating.

Rating scale:  Five levels, all textually identified.  In order from best to worst:

-Highly Recommended
-Conditionally Recommended (e.g. "recommended for shippers," "recommended for griffon fans)
-Vaguely Recommended
-Not Recommended

The whole scale gets a workout (and it's probably not a coincidence that the poopfic edition skewed lower than the other three I examined).  The rationale for stories' ratings varies widely, but is almost always clearly explained in the paragraph proceeding it.

What's the goal, here?:  These reviews are pretty firmly in the "help you find a story to read/avoid a story you won't enjoy" category.  Ways to fix the fics reviewed usually aren't addressed, at least not in any depth, and lists of errors/corrections are totally absent.  The reviewer uses some comedy, but it's an accent to the reviews' true intentions, which are (as you might guess from the "Fic Recs!" title) to offer recommendations on whether or not to read stories.

Reviewer's style:  PP goes for a fairly chummy vibe with his reviews, peppering them with his personal reactions--often phrased in a deliberately laconic way.  These reactions are, however, tightly integrated with the actual content of the review, rather than being inserted as asides (in one review, he notes, "I zoned out a couple times during the reading and didn't miss much"--a characteristically self-depreciating phrasing that nonetheless communicates that there's a lot of fluff to the story in question).  PP doesn't make any particular effort to be comprehensive in his reviews, instead generally focusing on one or two things which he particularly did or didn't like about a fic while also communicating his summary impression and the general direction of the story itself.  As a result, many of his reviews will leave wide swaths of territory uncovered, in favor of pointing out what he considers the most relevant information while maintaining brevity.

He also uses lots of emoticons.  I have begun using more and more in my personal correspondence as a direct result of spending too much time in his e-presence.  It's like a virus.

What a strong review looks like:

(note that, here and in the next section, I won't necessarily quote the entire review (especially if I end up doing this with authors more verbiage-intensive than PP).  Instead, I'll share enough to make clear why it's a strong review, hopefully without making any eyes glaze over)
This gives us a good setup for conflict: Hartwin is a kind soul in a society of warriors, and, being the brother to the chief, has to at least put on a show of trying to be one, even if he has no taste for combat. It's used effectively, and definitely gives this story some heart. Even the fact that he undergoes a moment of sudden badassery at a crucial point isn't used poorly, since the story continues on and shows the fallout of how he deals with it. Unfortunately, this is let down by its writing. It starts with a severe lack of commas, moving into misplaced and missing words, and gradually just getting worse and worse proofread as it goes. The flat, dull and lengthy fable told in the final scene doesn't help, either. Still, this is a fair sight better than the last story about griffin culture I read, and it might be fun for folks who care more about setting than writing.
Here, PP gives us just enough summary to understand the gist of the story without spoiling anything important, clearly elucidates where the story's greatest strengths and weaknesses lie, and keeps the whole thing feeling personal both by using plenty of opinion adjectives (calling something "dull and boring," say) and relating his opinions to a relevant tangent about what else he's reviewed recently.  It's a very, for lack of a better word, "comfy" review, which is still informative to someone trying to decide whether they'd like to read the story themselves.

What a weaker review looks like:
This is a pretty standard clopfic, all things considered. I did notice, though, that it starts out like your standard sad Trixie fic, but then she "gets an idea" and suddenly, sex. The Romance tag gets more of a workout than the Comedy, which is kind of cute; though frankly, I didn't get the punchline. All in all, this is just okay.
This story makes it clear that the fic's audience is the clopfic crowd, and then completely fails to talk about the clop.  Instead, PP hones in on the setup and personal reactions, without delving into the things that are most likely to matter to the people who are interested in reading clopfics: fetishes involved, level of eroticism vs. mercenary-ism in descriptions, etc.

So, should I read this?:  If you want advice on what ponyfic to read, these are an easily-digestible, extensive, and just generally useful tool to start pointing you in the right directions.  If you're looking for great detail or comprehensive commentary, you'll probably find these a bit lacking.


  1. "He also uses lots of emoticons."

    Especially that bucktoothed one. He doesn't seem to use FiMFiction's, though. No clue why. They're ponies, which automatically makes them better

    I always feel a little bad whenever I remember Present does his own reviews. I've checked 'em out a couple times, and they seem good, but I don't follow them regularly (sorry, PP). It's just that I already get enough fic recs and don't really need more, and he does just so damn many! Seriously, he's like a machine. Even at TrotCon, he's either reading or writing something (or even both at the same time)

    1. Use the site's emoticons? What are you, some kind of brony? :V

      No but seriously, Twilight facehoofing is about all you need. I really only use them when they perfectly encapsulate my thoughts on something, which pretty much means that one, AJ being smug and, rarely, Rarity's "wa ha ha!" face.

    2. Ixnay on the onybray! I don't want anyone here to know my dark and terrible secret

      I find myself using the Pinkie ones quite a bit. Might have something to do with her being Best Horse

  2. Gosh, I'm blush. :O

    >Reviewer's schedule

    For the record, it's every three days, so long as I have five reviews done. Editions can break this schedule, but reset the three day counter.

    > I have begun using more and more in my personal correspondence as a direct result of spending too much time in his e-presence. It's like a virus.


    So this is a good thing and I look forward to further installments.

    1. I will update the review review to reflect your actual schedule. Wouldn't want to misrepresent ya ;)

      Dammit, I don't even know if that's the right emoticon. I keep using them, and every time, there's a little niggling voice in the back of my head saying "what if that's the one that means you're hitting on him?" WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO ME

      Also, glad you liked it!

    2. I think :V would be the best choice in this instance.

  3. I get a kick out of Present Perfect's reviews every time they go up. I'm that sort of guy that likes a bit of snark and PP has that covered.

    It's also amusing when he reviews stories I've read or heard about and match them up with the popular opinion from the fans. Plenty of back and forth in the comments then!

  4. He is a connoisseur of obscure horsewords and emoticons. No, really. I had to use Wikipedia to figure out what :-###.. meant.

  5. PP's reviews have probably got me to read more fics I otherwise wouldn't have read than anything else. They've also warned me off a lot of seriously weird fetish fics. On the downside, they were also a big factor in making me think I might try this reviewing lark for myself sometime, so you can blame PP for that! :D

  6. I'm pretty sure PresentPerfect is two reviewing machines taped together to make one ultra-reviewing machine. He's also one of the reasons I started the big master review list, so that's can be considered his fault too.

  7. I check in on PP's reviews semi-occasionally, but like Oats, I have the problem of already having too many recommendations, so I don't actively follow them either. That said, he had nice things to say about a bunch of my fics, which makes him the best reviewer by default.