Friday, July 21, 2017

Fandom Classics Part 222: Savage

To read the story, click the image or follow this link.

You know what kills me every time I try to get back into online poker?  People who go all-in on the first hand of a tournament.  And if nobody calls them, they just do it again next round, until eventually somebody's doubled (tripled, quadrupled...) up, and the rest of us finally get to play--with a massive chip disadvantage.  It's no fun, dangit!

What will hopefully be more fun?  My review of Ese Way's Savage.  Get it below!

Impressions before reading:  I've got low expectations going in; "mysterious badass human lives in Everfree" is a plot I've seen done before, but I don't think I've ever seen a really solid, high-engagement execution of it. Moreover, the description saying, "The story will tagged complete, since I don't have anything more to write. If I do get an idea for another chapter it will be published here" makes me suspect that I might be getting a (18,000 word!) pair of scenes, rather than a cohesive and satisfying story.  We'll see.

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  A lone human lives in the Everfree, far from the ponies he hates and fears.  But that doesn't mean he's escaped their notice.

Thoughts after reading:  This is not, in fact, a complete story.  It is the introduction to a story which the author will not be writing (in an A/N, he says he's opened it up for other authors to continue).  As such, it's hard to evaluate its themes and many of its establishing plot elements, since those lack any sort of payoff--or often, even explanation.

Nevertheless, this manages to be an unimpressive piece of writing even on its own modest grounds.  Editing is poor throughout, despite several credited helpers: commas are often missing or haphazardly placed, words are misused, things which look like sentences but lack subjects pop up from time to time... from the kind of mistakes, it looks like English isn't the author's first language, but be that as it may, this is a story with consistently weak construction, enough so to limit comprehension in places.

Besides that, the human has no explanation for why he's in Equestria, why he's afraid of ponies (other than a vague "tried to capture him countless times," but "he managed to outsmart them or scare them away," with no further context or reason for either their or his behavior forthcoming), how he's apparently managed to live in the Everfree for several years without encountering a single monstrous creature (a timberwolf attack in the second chapter is apparently the first time he's seen a "monster"), how he got to be such a hardcore survivalist who can start fires from nothing but downed wood, build his own tools and weapons, and so on.

But really, the big problem with this story is that it's impossible to suspend one's disbelief for it, and without that everything falls apart.  When editing is a pervasive issue and a character is written all-but-explicitly to be a "vague-backstoried badass," then it's not really reasonable for the author to expect the reader to give them the benefit of the doubt.  So when obvious research failures crop up, as they do again and again (e.g. the author apparently heard somewhere that ancient humans were persistence hunters, but didn't bother to do look into things like how persistence hunting actually works, or what another notable species capable of practicing persistence hunting might be), the reader is prepped to identify it as a flaw, rather than to gloss over it.  And when something that might or might not be a plot point emerges, like our human being immune to magic (I wonder what it says about humanity, that basically every person who's ever written fiction or played an RPG set in a universe with tangible magic has at some point thought "what if my guy was immune to magic?" was a clever and original idea), the reader is inclined to call it a flaw rather than to give it the benefit of the doubt and see if there's a logical explanation coming.  Of course, there's not a logical explanation coming for any of this, but the point is that with what we're presented, it's difficult to believe that there even could be.

Star rating:

With its mix of mangled English, humanwank, rule-of-cool-badass, and obligatory main six (okay, mostly just Twilight and Fluttershy) flanderization, this story is exactly what I think most people think of when they hear "HiE."

Recommendation:  There's nothing here to recommend; it's the beginning of a story that wouldn't be worth seeking out even if it were complete.

Next time:  Vanilla Twilight, by Quillery


  1. Jeez. How did this even come up for consideration? I guess it has a lot of upvotes, but man, that some scathing criticism.

    1. I don't know! I can't find the e-mail thread where this was recommended (granted not all my recommendations come in via e-mail), so I'm not even sure who recommended this, or why they thought it was a good choice. It's got plenty of attention, it's true... ah well.

  2. This review is pretty damn savage itself.

  3. I've never even heard of this story. How did it get so many views? And it has a disturbing number of deleted comments.

  4. Ouch. I know nothing about this story beyond what's in this review. I don't imagine that will change.

  5. Clicking through... and now to the author's Stories page...

    Wow, those descriptions:

    "[Stuff] ... These are the other encounter ideas that I had while developing Savage, not its sequel. Any continuation of it will be in the original story."

    "[Stuff] ... This story was made as an alternate ending for the Savage: Encounters chapter Close Call."

    I guess the first one is okay, but why not just throw the second into the first as another chapter? It's all already AU sidefic to the original incomplete mainfic.

  6. This sounds like a perfect candidate for zero stars, if such a rating were possible.