Friday, April 21, 2017

Mini-Reviews Round 182

So, I've noticed that since April first, despite my thorough and definitive (and definitely not tongue-in-cheek) trashing of it, Cold in Gardez's The Carnivore's Prayer has gained a total of four upvotes and zero downvotes.  God, it's like you guys don't even listen to me when I tell you that something is terrible and nobody should like it.  You know, like I so often do.

On that note, here are some short reviews of things I recently read.  Make sure you vote appropriately on the following stories (actually reading them is optional); remember, the only purpose of those green and red thumbs is to allow you, the reader, to magnify whatever summary judgement Chris renders!  Do your duty, below the break.

The Broken and Desperate, by DEI Caboose

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  While laboring at the Pie's rock farm, a destitute Trixie faces a moral conundrum.

A few thoughts:  I'm not sure that I see much more in this than in your average Trixie pity fic, but that's not to say this story is bad for what it is: a look at a miserable pony, railing against the injustice of it all, meant to humanize a "villain" a little bit.  There are a lot of small touches around the edges (some light shipping, a little bit about gemstone economy, etc.), but while all of these are unobtrusive and intrinsically pleasant, none get very well fleshed out.  As a result, the central conundrum is really the only thing that can carry the story's weight, and this comes across as a bit more predictable than I was hoping.  But that said, it's definitely still not an unpleasant predictable--at least, for readers who are interested in extending Trixie some sympathy in the first place.

Recommendation:  If you're in the market for a fic about how terrible Trixie's life was after Boast Busters, this is a particularly well-written example of what you're expecting.  If that's not a thing that intrinsically appeals to you, though, there's probably not quite enough else here to appeal.

Bad Moon Setting, by BBJBS

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Unbeknownst to Twilight, Ponyvillians consider it an ill omen for the sun and the moon to be in the sky simultaneously.  A very bad omen.

A few thoughts:  Considering the cosmology of the show, the premise here probably oughtn't have tripped me up, but it did nevertheless.  On the other hand, no small part of my confusion was due to the story's description saying this would be about a lunar eclipse, which is a rather different thing from "the sun and moon are both visible," so maybe the problem's not just me.  Regardless, there's some rather weak sentence construction in this fic, despite it's being basically well-edited (the very first line is "The moon had never looked quite the same way before"), and although there are some strong individual moments of comedy, this never crystallized around a cohesive theme beyond "Ponyvillians are panicky."  One could argue that's enough to carry a mere 1500 words, but it still felt too slight to me.

Recommendation:  Although I can see a lot of readers finding this mildly amusing and basically unobjectionable, it's also fair to say that I can't see any particular class of readers finding this unusually, or even just greatly, satisfying to read.

Touch, by Thought Prism

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  A glimpse at a few interconnected moments in the lives of a number of Manehattanites.

A few thoughts:  I liked the idea of this story--flitting from character to character as they meet, interact, or pass by one another, to paint a larger picture of city life--but found that two issues stopped me from fully appreciating the execution.  The first was the lack of pony-ness; this story feels to me like it would be much stronger if it were simply set in real-world New York (at the very least, it would remove the frankly ridiculous image of a prostitute pony with a condom cutie mark from an otherwise non-ridiculous fic).  Second, the story never really commits to its PoV; sometimes, we see a character's inner thoughts and attitudes, but on other cases the narration remains strangely aloof, speculating on the focus character's motives or thoughts rather than simply showing them, as it does in other places.

Recommendation:  If you like setting-building through character vignettes, this is an interesting approach to the matter.  It's definitely not for people who don't like their ponies "too human," though.

Last-Minute Gifts, by _Undefined_

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Bon-Bon's Hearth's and Hooves day is busy, as always--confectioners do brisk business on a day that's all about buying chocolate for your sweetie.  And she's lucky enough to have good friends to help her, too.

A few thoughts:  This is an extremely SoL piece, enough so that I struggled a bit trying to come up with a summary because nothing really happens that isn't just a list of the story's events.  Given that this is written to be "an extremely SoL piece," though, I don't consider that a criticism.  The one complaint I did have was the gross overuse of proper nouns in this fic: "Bon Bon" is used a whopping 62 times in just 3500 words, "Lyra" another 45 despite her being absent from the middle scene of the fic, etc.  But other than a jarring lack of pronouns, I rather enjoyed the low-stakes, day-in-the-life tone of this story, and taking an explicitly non-romantic approach to Hearth's and Hooves day which also wasn't a dismissal or denunciation of romance was something I was glad to see.

Recommendation:  This is not for those of you who don't like true slice-of-life fiction.  For you who do, though, it'd be a good choice for... basically anyone who doesn't find names being repeated too frequently to be terribly jarring, basically.  Hopefully that's most of you.


  1. Condom cutie mark? The author realizes ponies get cutie marks as kids, right? What the hell would everyone in Cheerilee's class think if a student showed up with one of those? Would the kids even know what it was? How'd the kid even get that cutie mark?

    Ugh. Sometimes authors don't put enough thought into the ramifications of what they write.

    1. In fairness to the author, getting a cutie mark as a foal is just the norm, not an ironclad rule. Mister Greenhooves/Hayseed is a grown earth pony, but he's been consistently depicted as a blank-flank. Presumably, if one's special talent was something implicitly adult, then they simply wouldn't discover it until later.

    2. Hi, I'm the author, Thought Prism. When I saw Chris had put Touch in his review folder, I came running.

      To clarify, Touch was one of three stories I wrote for a creative writing class I took as an elective at my college. Originally, it WAS written about people in New York, I just converted it into a fanfic so I could publish it alongside my other works for my followers to enjoy. Compared to Below and Let's Try This Then, it didn't convert nearly as well, and was the worst of those three before that, according to my peers.

    3. Well, that makes sense then. Though, the point I made to Pascoite still stands.

  2. Thanks for the review of "Last-Minute Gifts." In a story where all of the lead characters are female, I get worried about using "her" and creating ambiguity, so I tend to default to their names (substitute descriptors like "the unicorn" always feel stilted to me).

    I reread the piece, though, and I can see where the barrage of "Bon Bon"s and "Lyra"s is overwhelming, especially at the beginning. As I continue to write, I'll work on preventing that from happening.

    Thanks again!