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May
22nd
2015

GaPJaxie Reviews · 4:31am

So, tonight's kind of boring. Not much to do. Don't really feel like writing.

Sigh. Fine. I guess if there's really nothing else to do.

Time to judge others.

Stories gets a score of Wretched, Poor, Average, Good, or Great, plus a quick summary and a detailed review. Reviews are not spoiler-free, but should not ruin any mystery or suspense.

*********

Story #1: The Iron Horse

Overall Score: Average

Summary:

A lack of nuance, subtly, or proper pacing sadly drags down what otherwise promises to be an interesting and intelligent character piece.

I once heard try to define the difference between a novice, a student, and a master. He said that a novice was someone who doesn't know what to do or how to do it, a student is someone who knows what to do but not how to do it, and a master is someone who knows what to do and how to do it. By that standard, The Hat Man is a student, because he clearly knows what to do to create a really interesting and engaging character exploration piece—but sadly, there are many points where he struggles to actually pull it off.

This story focuses around the titular Iron Horse and its development as a character, along with a small host of OCs created to round out the Mane 6's reactions to this strange new device. Invoking the memory of stories like I, Robot and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, the story attempts to address the question of if a robot could be taught friendship, with a side theme of the various pony characters reactions to the idea and the machine itself.

This core premise of a character and discovery driven narrative is where the story really shows its strengths. The OCs are entertaining, and posses unique and interesting powers without being Mary Sues.  The Mane 6's reactions are varied, but all feel reasonable and in-character. Celestia makes an appearance, and is used surprisingly effectively. Perhaps most importantly, the characters feelings and opinions evolve response to new evidence, the opinions of others, or just over time. Nopony feels like the designated idiot-ball holder or Token Luddite, and even the characters who are hostile to the idea have reasonable justifications for their actions, acting like people instead of cardboard antagonists.

Sadly, this is also where the story shows its weaknesses, because these reactions go by so quickly we hardly get to see them—much less develop any empathy for them. Characters express strong views only to change their minds five minutes later. Interesting OCs are given detailed introductions, and then (literally) put on a train and hustled out of the story. Everything that happens is reasonable, it just happens so fast there's no time to savor it, to see the subtly in their opinions, or even to take a breath. This story is full of clever scenes with interesting setup and implications, but they have basically no emotional impact on the reader because they're gone before we can appreciate them.

I'd be willing to bet good money that The Hat Man is a talented but inexperienced writer. His writing is very rough around the edges, but he clearly understands what themes make a story interesting, and what character interactions can drive it along. The Iron Horse is sadly only average, but The Hat Man got a follow from me just because I'm curious to see how he'll improve over time.

Story #2: The Changeling of the Guard

Overall Score: Good

Summary:

A simple character-driven plot serves as an excellent vehicle for showcasing the hilarious main character and his friends. Don't let the adventure tag fool you, this is slice-of-life comedy.

There's a character in this story. His name is Idol Hooves. He is a changeling, and he is hilarious. If you agree with that assessment, you'll love this story, because it gives poor Idol plenty of things to react to in ways that will have you giggling like an idiot. If you do not agree, you'll hate this story, because that's pretty much all there is to it. It's a one pony show. A one bug-horse town. The law firm of Idol, Idol, Idol, and Hooves.

That's not to say there aren't other good characters in the story. Idol's companions, friends, and co-workers are all well characterized and written. However, they're primarily there to give Idol something to bounce off of. They don't really have arcs of their own, or interact with the setting in any major way. They're pony he encounters along his comedic (and often painful) journey—the straight men for setting up his jokes.

Normally, that would earn a stern look from me, but The Changeling of the Guard gets away with it simply because those jokes are really funny. Idol is a great deadpan narrator, and his ability to seamlessly switch from being funny to being serious prevents the humor from overstaying its welcome. Vdrake clearly knows what makes a good comedy, applying the more zany moments in moderation so the humor has staying power.

In a lot of ways, this story reminded me of some of the early books in the Diskworld series that were still focused on Rincewind. Sadly, I can't put it in the same league as those books, because the Diskworld series also has excellent world development, while The Changeling of the Guard focuses on its characters to the exclusion of all else. Still, it's that sort of humor, and it remains as effective here as it was then.

Story #3: Fifty Shades of Brad

Overall Score: Good

Summary:

A wolf in sheep's clothing, this story draws you in with the promise of clean laughs and dirty jokes. Then once you're off guard, it punches you in the gut.

There's very little I can say about the details of this story that won't spoiler it, so this review will be brief. First, let me be clear: this is a horror story. It is mis-tagged in a way I can only assume is intentional, leaving the reader unawares of what is about to hit them. And oh boy, does it hit. If you're a fan of low-key horror, you will like this story.

Now, it does bear emphasizing that the horror is low-key. We never see it in the text, and the reader is left to infer a lot of what has occurred. This fits with the fact that Fifty Shades of Brad is a short story. It's not here to entice you, bedazzle you, or woo you with descriptions. It's here to say, "Hey, wanna see some cute Human/Pony shipping?" And then when you lean in to look, it smashes your face into the computer screen and leaves.

But, you know. In an enjoyable way. If you're into that.

Story #4: Life is a Lemon

Overall Score: Good

Summary:

The seemingly absurd premise of a pony who thinks she's a lemon allows the story to veil itself in metaphor, leaving nothing quite clear until the final dramatic conclusion. An effective twist on a classic slice-of-life story.

Calling all the way back to the start of this review, Life is a Lemon is basically the anti-Iron Horse. Where Iron Horse has interesting ideas it struggles to do anything with, Life is a Lemon is based around simple and often-trod Slice of Life ideas—but it executes on them so well that it easily slides into my upper tier of stories. With a brilliant framing device, strong pacing, and memorable characters, Life is a Lemon was easily my first pick when I decided I wanted to give a positive review to a slice of life fic.

Now that's not to say it's without its flaws. As I said, while the execution is brilliant (including framing, setup, pacing, characters, etc), the core idea of the story is nothing we haven't seen before. The premise will likely also give some readers trouble, as the story requires you to just bear with it for some time before the bit climatic resolution. Finally, the supporting characters are sometimes used a bit brusquely—telling instead of showing However, none of the flaws are really significant. The concealment of what's going on until the end of the story prevents the core narrative from feeling old, it's engaging enough it's not hard to stick with it to the end, and the supporting cast does the job they're there to do in a story that is heavily focused on its protagonist.

There's not much more I can say about the story without spoiling it, so I'll just encourage you to go read it. However, I will add one final note that this story was quite difficult for me to rank. I kept wanting to give it a final score of "Great," but then wondered if it really ranked up with the select few in that category. Then I wanted to give it a final score of "Good," but I couldn't really find many flaws I wanted to critique. While you can see what decision I made in the end, I think it's best to say that this story is great at being what it is. I can't think of a better example of the archtype, and I'd encourage anyone who enjoys Slice of Life to give this a read.

Disclosure: I'm a huge Blueshift fan. Full disclosure: I am, at this moment, holding Blueshift hostage in my secluded mountain cabin after breaking both his legs, forcing him to write additional horsewords.

GaPJaxie · 201 views · Report

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  • Viewing 124 - 128 of 128
#128 · 1w, 14h ago · · ·

>>1827039 I wouldn't dream of rushing you. Feel free to leave a review if and when you choose. :twilightsmile:

#127 · 1w, 16h ago · · ·

>>1826881

I'm enjoying it! I was going to leave feedback when I was done, but if you like I'd be happy to give you a longer review now.

#126 · 1w, 23h ago · · ·

Hey, thanks for the fave for "The Iron Horse!" I genuinely appreciate the honor. I hope you continue to enjoy the story!

#125 · 2w, 3d ago · · ·

>>1808760

Same but I'm interested in D&D 5e.  Numenera is fun too though I've only tried it one time.

#124 · 2w, 4d ago · · ·

>>1808676

Pathfinder.

  • Viewing 124 - 128 of 128
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