Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Mini-Reviews Round 178

As a heads-up: Friday's post will go up 24 hours late.  Why yes, that will put it on April 1st!  Make of that what you will.  

In all seriousness, though: here are some totally on-the-level mini-reviews.  Get them below the break.

How Hoofdini Really Did the Moonshot Manticore Mouth Dive, by Emperor

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  When Trixie's friends comment on how obvious it is that Hoofdini's most famous trick was obviously just a teleportation ruse, Trixie bites her tongue.  She alone knows that the truth is much more grisly.

A few thoughts:  Although this looks awfully similar to The Prestige on the surface, the author claims not to have been aping it, at least deliberately.  And there's enough difference in the reveal that I'm inclined to buy this as a case of convergent thinking.  But even if I'm a-okay with that aspect of the story, this is still a very telly, expository piece of writing, which somewhat undermines the horror aspect of its premise.  Where that telliness is really a problem, though, is when it turns toward high emotions; for a story trying to tell about Trixie resigning herself to a gruesome suicide, this is very detached and matter-of-fact.

Recommendation:  If you're looking for a gut-punch, the construction of this story will probably hold you back from properly enjoying it.  But if you're just interested in a dark semi-twist (even if name-dropping The Prestige isn't a spoiler for you, it's not too hard to figure out what's going on well in advance, and the story puts that reveal square in the middle of the fic) and a bit of headcanon-ing about Trixie's motives, the ideas presented here hold together well enough.

Hair of the Sister Who Bit You, by Rao the Red Sun

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  The CMC wake up from a hangover that's at least slightly Applejack's fault.

A few thoughts:  This seems like it ought to be a comedy on the surface, but the solo SoL tag doesn't lie: this is a low-stakes, relatively staid look at little kids accidentally getting drunk and suffering the consequences.  In a way, it was kind of refreshing to see the situation not be completely overblown for laughs, and Rainbow's gruff-yet-maternal instincts seemed perfectly in-character.  At the same time, it's hard to avoid the sense that there just isn't much of a story here; it's more of a morning-after scene, devoid of much in the way of stakes or drama.

Recommendation:  If I were using PresentPerfect's rating system, I'd give this a Conditionally Recommended "For Slice-of-Life fans only"--it's a pleasant enough meander, but it doesn't have any draw beyond the intrinsic appeal of said meander. 

Count Your Blessings, by Will-Owl-the-Wisp

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  A stallion in the newly-returned Crystal Empire tries to prepare to celebrate a holiday with his coltfriend.  Unfortunately, the Empire is 1000 years in arrears on social tolerance, and homosexuality is barely tolerated by many.

A few thoughts:  There are some really lovely parts to this story, all centering around Steel Shield's interactions with and low-key panic over his partner... but unfortunately, the nice bits are mostly overwhelmed by the message.  This is the kind of story that feels the need to make its bad guys fire-breathing hatemongers and to at every turn rachet intolerance to unbearable extremes, to the point where it's almost impossible to take seriously.  

Recommendation:  If you're not averse to extremely sledgehammer-y writing, there are some very nice bits of interaction between the non-strawponies in this fic.  But if you're turned off by bluntness at the expense of verisimilitude, this probably isn't a good fic for you.


  1. Okay, the premise of that last one is good. I've always said writing systematized or widespread homophobia into Equestria is a hard sell, but it's not too hard to imagine things were different a thousand years ago, and the Crystal Empire is a snapshot from another age. Cadence of course would be there to set things right, and Luna's role would doubtless be important to delivering any sort of nuance to the situation. But yeah, I can see that working if one gets off one's soapbox.

  2. I haven't read that last one, but what strikes me about it is that there isn't some kind of sudden change for the couple in question. They're still existing in the society they're used to, so it's not like they'd been put upon any more than normal. But of course, if normal is really bad, that changes things, which gets to Chris's point about really bad being an investment of hyperbole for no reward.