Friday, June 16, 2017

Reviewer Reviews: Loganberry

There's too many fanfics for any one person to read.  That's why you turn to fanfic reviewers: to help guide you away from fics that you wouldn't enjoy anyway, and towards ones that you'll love, and might have missed otherwise.

But there are also too many fanfic reviews for any one person to read.  Okay, that's probably not technically true... but the BIG MASTER REVIEW LIST has nearly 15,000 fanfic reviews in it as I type this, and who knows how many more are flying under its radar?  Point is, you don't have time to read every single review.  That's why you turn to fanfic reviewer reviews: to help you find the reviewers whose reviews will help you the most, and whose styles gel with your own review-reading desires!

So head on down below the break, and we'll take a look at what Loganberry (as he calls himself on FiMFic.  On his blog, simply Logan) has on tap for the discerning review reader.

The subject:  Logan's Ponyfic Roundups on his blog, Louder Yay.

Reviewer's Schedule:  Weekly posts; Logan consistently puts one PR out every Wednesday.

Format:  A title that, at least 80% of the time, references something I've got no familiarity with, followed by a brief update on Logan's reading plans and/or the content of the post, a quick listing of what he's reviewing this week, the reviews themselves, and finally a one- or two-line teaser for what's coming up next week.

The reviews consist of, in order: a story's title, author, key information (tags, length, etc.), the story summary, a (typically one-paragraph) review proper, and then the rating.

Rating Scale:  One to five stars.  Older reviews use a 1-10 point system, but the switch to stars has been on for a while.  These ratings generally seem to reflect his enjoyment of the story, and he gives the one-, two-, three-, and four-stars all plenty of use.  Fives... there are a few in his archives, but they don't see much (any) use anymore.

(P.S.  When I started working on this, Logan had just recently decided to ditch ratings entirely, but he restored them before I finished assembling this post.  Just wanted to throw this out there, that certain people are making my reviewer reviews slightly more inconvenient with their wishy-washiness.  And yet, I persevere!)

What's the goal, here?:  Logan's reviews are mostly big-picture, focusing on major plot elements, character choices, format, and tone to explain what he thought of the story.  He gives a lot of weight to how he reacted to the fic, though he's generally good about recognizing and pointing out where his opinions trend toward the idiosyncratic.  Expect a lot of emphasis on how the reviewer felt while reading ("It's weird and frequently disturbing but it does work, at least for me,"  "I can't say I fully enjoy it,"  etc.), with just enough context to give those feelings some meaning.

Reviewer's style:  In a lot of ways, similar to PresentPerfect's in tone--but with one key distinction.  Both of them are agreeable and on the laconic side, and both briefly focus on a few key elements rather than trying to discuss every element of every story.  But whereas PP uses a lot of humor and self-depreciation to make his point while still coming off as friendly, Logan's writing has more of a good-natured, self-aware earnestness to it.  

What a strong review looks like:  
In a nutshell, the story of what would have happened at the start of S1 had Twilight refused Celestia's mission to go out and make new friends, but instead hidden in a gigantic book fort with Spike. It was apparently written as a joke, and as such you have to roll with a few rather unlikely things, but as a jokefic it has its moments – Derpy's appearance, for example, or the occasional references to book genres you never knew you wanted to read. There's also a small Friendship is Witchcraft reference, which pleases me even if it doesn't please anyone else. :P It's obvious where this is going most of the time, but still.
Here, Logan gives us a pretty good idea of what we're in for with this fic--between explicitly saying it should be judged "as a jokefic" and informing us that it's got an FiW reference, the general thrust of the story is made clear--which places his further commentary and rating clearly within an easy-to-understand frame.  Framing a recommendation is important, and easy to forget; there's a big difference between a story that's "good," one that's "good for a jokefic" and one that is "a good jokefic."  In this review, Logan gives the reader a good sense both of what kind of story he read, and what he thought of it.

What a weaker review looks like:
Yes, this is pre-redemption DT, but it still doesn't simply show the plain ol' bully we used to think she was. Don't expect an "actually she's really nice!" fic either, though. It's hard to review this as everything leads up to the twist and the effect is spoilt if you know that. The clues are there as you read through, and I did suspect the truth a bit before the reveal. I'm not totally sure this really fits in canon Equestria (even pre-S5), and there are a few clunky word choices. But it's so short that it's worth it to see elements of Diamond Tiara's personality given an alternative explanation.
By contrast, in this review Logan misses a few key points for the review reader to reference.  Specifically, he tells us it's an alternate take on Diamond Tiara... but doesn't give us a sense of whether that take makes sense in its totality, or if it's just an explainfic for one or two specific scenes from the show.  Nor does he tell us anything about the efficacy of the twist itself; even without spoiling it, it'd be nice to know if he found it to be an organic and/or effective surprise, or if it came out of nowhere.  After reading this review, I still don't know if this is a good fic for me if I'm a fan of twists, or if it's aimed at DT apologists, or what.

So, should I read this?:  Logan's reviews are an excellent source if you're looking for a large quantity, a pretty decent variety, and brevity that doesn't sacrifice big-picture reviewer opinion.  You're not going to get a lot of detail here, nor much in the way of analysis, but he's worth following if you're more interested in a bunch of quick hits than a few deep dives.


  1. "Ponyfic Roundup 160: An Optimist who Carries a Raincoat; Ponyfic Roundup 159: It was Twenty Years Ago Today; Ponyfic Roundup 158: Run With Us; and Ponyfic Roundup 157: Throw Yourself at the Ground and Miss."

    What, no Carrot Top Edition?

    I must admit I like Loganberry's breezy and succinct style, even as it contrasts with your more thorough and methodical one. Of course, I could just be saying that because I discovered it after getting reviewed on there, but I still check the Louder Yay blog for a quick look, especially since it's more British-oriented (Shamefully didn't even know about the UK conventions until I found posts there!).

    1. Including the Carrot Top Edition might have been considered unfair influence of the assessor. :P

      Thanks for the comment! Even if I wanted to, I couldn't review like Chris -- it would simply end up being me trying to review like Chris, which would entirely miss the point.

  2. Cool. Just a sec.
    (One vanity search later)
    Ok, I am in serious need of ego deflation, AND nobody has done a review (that I can see) of Drifting Down the Lazy River yet.

    Can I find a volunteer in the studio audience to go savage it?

    1. It's on my list... but it's long, and I have so little time for longfics! Someday I'll get to it, I swear!

  3. My apologies for only catching up with this now. Hopefully you don't think I've been off in a sulk or anything! Just that I've been horribly disorganised of late. Just to make things absolutely clear: I think this is a very fair assessment, and one I'll try to bear in mind for the future. Thanks!

    1. Also, I usually remember to make sure my titles can be explained with a quick Google. I wonder sometimes whether I'm overdoing it, but several people seem to like them.

    2. Also also, five-star reviews are most definitely not dead. There's a fic high up my RiL list that I reckon has at least a 50/50 chance of getting a five. Watch this (well, that) space!