Friday, October 13, 2017

Mini-Reviews Round 205

There was a quote in the leaked show bible that made me sad.  Since it's not really a spoiler for anything, I'll go ahead and quote it:
[...]every aspect of their lives has something “pony-esque” about it. Their houses are homes with elements of a stable thrown in. Their yards are lawns, but are also reminiscent of a corral. There are elements of their towns and villages that are like equestrian centers, or ranches. Even their food markets seem a little like feed stores. Their clothing (when they choose to wear it, for their colorful pony coats keeps them plenty warm and covered) are half fashion wear, half tack. Though they live and act like people, everything they have and everything they do has some sort of pony “theme” to it.
 Remember back when the show had a consistently horse-y theme?  I mean, it was never perfect, but I miss how the show moved away from that, to the point where the fact that the ponies aren't actually people is a total afterthought in many episodes.  That quote up there highlighted one of the things that really caught my eye about FiM, but let's be honest, it's been a while since that's been more than occasionally true.

Ah, well.  Things change, I guess.  But one thing that doesn't change is that Friday brings with it a new OMPR post, and today it's a set of mini-reviews!  Click down below the break for my thoughts on some stories I've recently read.

An Offer She Can't Excuse, by psychicscubadiver

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  A series of letters from Chrysalis to Celestia, detailing the former's various plans to put the whole "tried to invade Equestria" thing behind them and to work together.  Well, "work" "together," anyway.

A few thoughts:  It took me a while to figure out the setting; though not tagged AU, this is a fic that uses stuff the S6 finale's presentation of the changeling hive, but is set sometime roughly S4-ish, and is totally incapable of fitting into S6+ canon.  If you can buy into that, though, there's a lot here to like on the comedy front.  Chrysalis's letters are oblivious to the point of idiocy--which is the point, here, as the story revels in her idiocy.  Throw in the princessly character-destruction and the reveal of the actual purpose behind those letters that comes at the end of the fic (one that I was pleased to see didn't unconvincingly try to reframe Chryssi as a master manipulator, nor Celestia as a long-game-playing chessmaster, those being the two most disappointing-in-this-context yet seemingly most likely directions for a finale reveal to go), and the many running gags that give the fic a bit more cohesiveness than your average absurdity comedy, and there's a lot to like here.

Recommendation:  If you're looking for a comedy, this has some great character destruction and has malicious yet uncomprehending idiocy in spades.

Bedtime Story, by Abramus5250

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  An evening in the life of a happily married Spike and Applejack, and their ever-growing bevy of children.

A few thoughts:  This story, for reasons I'm not exactly clear on, played coy with the fact that Spike and AJ were married and had kids in its description, when that's literally what the story is about and is revealed more or less immediately.  Anyway, with that as framing, this is the definition of slice-of-life: a story in which nothing much happens.  Unfortunately, while the best SoL fics are intrinsically interesting, this one mostly fills itself with cliche children's bedtime dialogue (e.g. "'But… I’m not tired,' the little orange colt muttered, even as he closed his eyes and let out a great big yawn") and never even tries to explain... anything about it's chosen ship, instead passing it off with "Spike eventually realized Rarity was too flighty," nevermind the whole bevy of questions a dragon/pony relationship brings with it by definition.  If the rest of the story weren't so trite, that might be easier to gloss over, but that just isn't the case.

A few thoughts:  For readers who enjoy generic tucking-in cutesiness and similar saccharinity, this might appeal.  It's not going to win over anyone who's got questions based on my description, though, and it's not going to have much appeal outside of the SoL crowd.

Promises, by Alexandrite Ward

Zero-ish spoiler summary:  Discord tries to abandon Fluttershy, but she's having none of it.

A few thoughts:  This is apparently a) intended as a "what if?" of the author's Phantom of the Opera crossover/homage/thing (having not read it, I don't claim to know exactly what it is), and b) a story with humanized Fluttershy and Discord still a Draconequus.  Both of those things would have been handy to know going in, seeing as Discord and Fluttershy's dialogue, and I'm referring specifically to word choice, is painfully out of character when one assumes that they're their show equivalents.  As such, despite the author's suggestions, I don't think this stands alone very well.  There's some nice emotion on display, but it's also full of lines like Fluttershy's "Promises, [...] contracts, deals—they're the very foundation of all civilized existence. We can no more break our accord than we can reorder time."

Recommendation:  If you've read the author's Phantom story and are looking for an AU scenelet therefrom, this is for you.  Beyond that, it might appeal to readers looking solely for dramatic metaphors, but probably isn't a good fit for general readers.


  1. "An Offer She Can't Excuse" was just plain wonderful. I bought it hook, line, and sinker, but can't complain at all.

    "Bedtime Story" playing coy with just what it is kind of makes sense. It's literally the first time I've ever heard of an AJ/Spike ship, so it probably doesn't have a ready audience while likely turning away many who have preferences regarding either. Sometimes one click matters, and finding out after rather than before makes that difference.

  2. Re: the pony theme. It is a lovely little touch of world-building, and it would have been nice to see it more often, but I find it easy to see why it dropped off. In fanfiction especially, it's hard to care about it when there are other details to fuss over. Cold in Gardez's quote about ponies being people comes to mind. The fact that these people have hooves, tails, and the skin tones of a paint catalogue is usually a minor detail.

    For me, it certainly wasn't a major draw. A cute and thoughtful bonus, perhaps, but still just a bonus.

    1. I know this is basically unfalsifiable, and maybe making excuses for myself, but...

      I wonder if I would find certain things in the show's more adventure-oriented episodes easier to swallow if more were still done on the horse-themeing. Because yes, stories about ponies are stories about people, but especially in the show (and perhaps more so earlier on) they're stories about people who don't act quite like (or where the distribution of how they act is different from that of) Earth's people. And yeah, them being horses helps remind of that, but them being horses that sometimes act a bit like horses might help more.

    2. I will say this much: it's off-putting when they act too human-like. I remember Sleepless in Ponyville being a big offender here, as not only did the ponies sit in uncomfortably human-like positions, but Scootaloo at one point made a beckoning gesture like her hoof was a hand in a mitten. Urgh, was that off-putting...

  3. Not only did I read Promises, I apparently liked it in spite of its godawful ship. <.<

  4. I absolutely adore it when the ponies make horse noises when they're startled or upset. Their pony-ness is a big part of what made them so charming in the first place. Simply slapping horseshoes everywhere doesn't really do it.