• Member Since 8th Nov, 2011
  • offline last seen Tuesday

Soge


I post reviews with astounding irregularity, and a story once in a blue moon. Message me if you need some prereading or the like.

More Blog Posts67

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    Bronycon: A Tragicomedy in 5 Acts — Introduction

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  • 11 weeks
    Life updates, plus Bronycon!

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    Bronycon: Lessons learned

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    8 comments · 352 views
Jul
25th
2014

The Most Dangerous Reviews · 4:24am Jul 25th, 2014

Topicality? In this blog? Nothing short of madness, I say! Still, all the cool kids are doing it, so why not? Below are reviews for the 5 contest finalists of The Most Dangerous Game, ranked at the bottom.

By the way, I should note that I wrote these in a manner very distinct from my usual style of read-it-and-post-1-month-later, so expect some additional rambling. Below you will find:

To Love the Sun
In the Place the Wild Horses Sleep
The Young Filly and the Sea
For Whom We Are Hungry
Far From The Tree

As a reminder, fics are ranked from 0 to 10, with 3 indicating a truly mediocre fic.


Magello – To Love the Sun – Tragic Romance

A descent into madness through love.

This is a story that could certainly do with a fair bit of additional editing. Mistakes are very noticeable, and most are of the variety that would disappear with a handful of additional passes. And I’m not talking about the occasional misspelling, forgotten comma, or even the single instance of writing “it’s” instead of “its”, but more about how many of the sentences feel clunky. For this type of stream of conscience story pacing is crucial, and the construction issues really hamper the whole thing. It is made even more noticeable by the Second Person perspective, which is completely superfluous in this fic. There is never a sense that “you” is the reader, and more like you are listening to someone talk to himself. This could have easily been written as first person, and I bet that many of the passive voice issues, as well as the emotional disconnection, would be reduced.

Technical issues aside, this story is interesting, but fails in just how cruelly it portrays Celestia, and while much of it can be explained away by her youth and inexperience, she says a key sentence at one point which simply can’t, one that reveals a very cruel being – and much of the fic hangs on her saying that. There is a certain lingering sense that the actions come from his mistaken perceptions, but the fics does nothing to confirm or deny this, making it fall as little more than idle speculation. Again, that isn’t helped by the second person, since there is never any reason to doubt that the narrator is anything but truthful. The seventh element angle is also there, and while I appreciate the metaphor of Celestia crushing his heart, there is little point to those proceedings – and that also falls back to the issues with characterization.

However, I should say that I enjoyed the story much more than my review would indicate, and I have no clear idea why, only that it is more than the sum of its parts. All I can say is that I genuinely enjoyed the atmosphere it created, and the subtle details of characterization and his interactions with Luna. The ending is also good, despite lacking proper support from the preceding story. In the end, while this story is extremely loyal to the spirit of the contest, and I appreciate the ambition here, the lack of a certain degree of polishing brings it down hard.

Why it should be read: The tragic romance aspect, as well as the stylistic choices that make it unique.
Stand out moment: The idea of Luna taking the whole situation as a lesson about Celestia, even if I found her OOC, was very neat and well set-up.

6/10


Lucky Dreams – In the Place the Wild Horses Sleep

Little Mia and her dreams of horses.

Coming into this fic, my expectations were sky high, since everyone seem to be in love with this story. While I certainly don’t like it as much as a lot of people seem to, it is certainly one of those stories that gets a handful of things absolutely perfectly. It is absolutely precious, full of adorable little moments, and has a real grasp on how a child’s mind works. The writing is flawless, with a great narrative flow, and that most certainly would sound great on a reading, to the point I might even give it a shot. It also has a certain indescribable magic to it, in that way unique to children stories, where fantasy and reality mix up.

Sadly, it is precisely in this narrative mix that the story gets away from me. After a certain point, all the sudden perspective changes, and the surreality of the whole situation, starts conflicting with the more down to earth aspects of the fic, and specially with the fact it is a FiM fanfic, to the point that the show start feeling like an intrusion rather than an addition. It gets very well how the horses in MLP are perfectly civilized, and contrasts very well with how children can be wild, but still want stability, but the whole aspect of the 7th element, or Mia being surrounded by the mane 6 at one point, feel superfluous and intrusive. Much of that helps in the child story department, but its is still noticeable and immersion breaking.

In the end, I love how thematically consistent it is, how compact the writing is, but these little moments where the fic stops to do its own thing bothered me enough for me to put it down a notch. Still, it is unique and well written, besides following well the spirit of the show, children stories, as well as the contest, and I really can’t ask for much more out of a story.

Why it should be read: For an absolutely precious children’s tale, that still feels relatable to more mature readers.
Stand out moment: The scene where Mia finally becomes a Wild Horse, but soon misses the comforts of home.

9/10


Georg – The Young Filly and the Sea – Shipping

Twilight meets a young colt in the beach

I feel very conflicted. On one hand, this story is cute, and is full of little descriptive moments that are just lovely. There is a real knack shown here for describing interactions between children, even particularly smart ones as the main characters. The attention to detail in their body language is commendable, and the author really gets the innocence, awkwardness, and discovery involved in the whole situation. However, and there is really no other way to say this, the dialogue in this fic sucks. It is just plain bad, full of direct statements, needless exposition, in a way that essentially destroyed the fic for me.

I am talking about sentences like Twilight saying “I’ve been studying for my entrance exam to Princess Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns, and I don’t remember seeing that spell in any of the Standard Grade One spellbooks, or the Grade Two through Six ones either.” No child speaks like that. No adult speaks like that. It doesn’t build character. It doesn’t build atmosphere. In fact, it is closer to the dialogue in a Transformers movie more than anything, like it’d rather ignore those parts yet feel they are needed, and I just don’t get what the author was going for with this. And the fic is chock full of those things, to the point where it would be decidedly better without any dialogue at all.

Worst thing is, Georg has a much better story with an OC x Mane 6 shipping pair, The Traveling Tutor and the Librarian. It gets what is important in developing a character that will romance another character, and does that with a great mixture of heart and humor. This fic, however, decides to eventually skip over everything that makes a relationship, which just felt cheap and contrived. A concept betrayed by its execution.

Why it should be read:The parts where there are no dialogue are great.
Stand out moment: The small interactions that build their relationship up.

4,5/10


Cold in Gardez – For Whom we are Hungry

A Changeling learns to love.

I just want to hug this fic so damn much. It is heart warming in just the best possible way, emotive in just the right places, all in a way that feels very genuine. This is extremely natural drama, slow burning and leading to great things, but never feeling contrived or anything like that.

Interestingly enough, this story is very cliche, essentially the Changeling Journey (Changeling starts off hating and fearing ponies, startled by how different they are from Ponies, but learns to live with freely given love after being found). It also features an orphan foe that melts a stone heart, for a two-cliches-in-one sale. How it uses these elements, however, make a world of difference, and as predictable as the whole thing is, it feels incredibly natural, without any manner of forced melodrama. To focus on the orphan aspect, this isn’t a story that forces a big tearful scene where the adult will say to the child “Yes! I will be your Father!”, and the orphan will answer “Oh yes! I always wanted a family!” or some silly thing like that, instead preferring small moments, a gradual build of trust from which a true relationship based on mutual reliance appears. The big moment of the orphan, Saw Dust, moving in is him crashing in the couch, and the changeling understanding what Saw Dust represents. It reminds me a lot of the Penny Worth scenes in Tangled up in Blues, as high praise as I can give.

The two things that contribute to make this whole thing work are the great characterization on both main characters, both feeling deep and life like, as well as he sense of flowing time. It is shifting, and works well in marking the big moments, and the progression between chapters, from the slow slog of the first two ones, to the quick panic of the third, to the slow passing of the seasons in the last two ones, in a way that mirrors the character’s journey and them getting to know each other. Interestingly enough, while the Second Person kinda becomes background noise after a few paragraphs, I still think it adds something beyond what first person would do, being able to be less telling and more reflexive in nature. It makes sense for a creature for whom emotions are things to be sensed rather than felt.

Also noteworthy are the great tidbits of world building involving the Changelings, like in how they can see a wider range of colors, and that their carapaces are iridescent in Ultra-Violet and Infra Red, making Chrysalis glow in “A million invisible colors”. Or how their hivemind means that they remember things from previous generations, and are essentially reincarnated. It works very well in context, is used to great effect, serving to reinforce some of the themes, such as their relationship to pony society and hunger, a common point in both main characters.

Before I start straight up gushing, I will just finish saying that this story hits all the right points for me, while being just perfect for the contest itself. It is humane and sincere, and all the more powerful for that. And it shows that with proper care, forced drama is just a roadblock to genuine emotion.

Why it should be read: It is powerful and precious. Also, uses Second Person for great effect.
Stand out moment: Their exploration of the Everfree Forest, allowing for mutual growth, trust, and interesting world building.

10/10


Aquaman – Far From The Tree – Character Study

Applejack finds teenaged Apple Bloom at home with her first coltfriend.

There are no two ways about it: I loved this story. It hits all the right notes, at the right times, in the right ways, and then some. As a disclaimer, I should say that I identify very strongly with the whole situation, having been through something similar myself, and that it hits me personally. And I should say that it manages to get perfectly all that it tries to talk about.

To me, the most interesting aspect of the whole thing is just how Apple Bloom isn’t a character in a fic ostensibly about her relationship. Her presence is noted, and she acts as the catalyst for the whole thing, but she just isn’t a character here. This choice, certainly deliberate, allows not only the relationship between Applejack and Chip Shot (the coltfriend) to develop, but also for a more honest exploration of the emotions between both, as well as their relationship to Apple Bloom herself. Through this, it allows AJ free reign to explore her own emotions, and understand her sister’s growth, and their very relationship, without any of the baggage from the sibling relationship to intrude.

However, Chip Shot isn’t a mirror that is there just to reflect off Apple Bloom, he is a complete character in his own right, with his own dramatic arc. The fact that he is also an orphan really fits the narrative, gives him some necessary complexity, and does so without feeling cheap or contrived. Even better, he is established as a character as he is formed in front of AJ. In this, it manages to work in characterization work as well as plot development in a single breath, interwoven through all the fic.

And the themes! This is a story about growing up, accepting change, and being a grown-up. It is focused and compact, and just about everything reinforces this, from the old straps hanging in the door during the first few sentences, to the invitation to “add more chairs and have dinner”, and always, always reinforced by the setting sun, which inexorably leads to the rising of the moon. So much metaphoric language, worked in explicitly and implicitly, and mostly interwoven with the other aspects of the story. Through this, it manages to create a lot of suspense, with the status-quo rather than the characters in danger. After all, this is a story about change, and evolution. I should also note good use of alcohol, and family. Everything ties back to everything else, and quite frankly, it straight out spoils me in what I should expect from stories.

Not to say it is perfect. For one, the first few paragraphs are simply too descriptive and draggy. It works hard to paint a very detailed picture of Applejack’s life, but in much more detail than is explicitly needed. Also, and this is particularly damning in this instance, it completely fails to capture what I would interpret as the spirit of the contest, in only presenting a sliver of romance. Fact is, this could effectively be a conversation about some other aspect of Apple Bloom’s grown up life, even if losing something in the process, but in this, it isn’t really a history about romance between a main character and an OC. However, this isn’t a slight against a story itself, just in the context of the contest, and this is certainly one of my top favourite pieces of Fanfiction.

Why it should be read: For a masterful exploration of Applejack’s character, her relationship to Apple Bloom, siblings in general, change, and the list goes on.
Stand out moment: The subtle effects on the characters of the topics being discussed, like how Chip Shot loses himself when talking about Apple Bloom.

10/10


Overall, I’d rank them as:

5-) The Young Filly and the Sea
4-) To Love the Sun
3-) In the Place the Wild Horses Sleep
2-) Far from the Tree
1-) For Whom we are Hungry

It should be noted that, while I believe Far from the Tree is the superior story here, I believe For Whom we are Hungry was far more worthy of “The Most Dangerous Game”.

I will probably hit some of the other stories eventually. Quite frankly, the quality here was surprising, with many gems being written for the contest. Personally, I believe that it gave free reign to repressed ideas from authors, in a “can’t fail” kind of way. I am just glad that it happened, and I hope for something similar in the future.

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Comments ( 4 )

Yea! I placed! :derpytongue2:
I had so many really good competitors, I was afraid I'd place sixth out of five. My main concern with writing this was that the *last* romance I wrote hit 100k words and has spawned two sequels, so what I wanted to do was to frame this story only in terms of pivotal decisions, those points in time when your parents tell you about their memories about how they met and fell in love. Heck, even Shining Armor and Cadence took two very good comics to cover that section of their story.

Traveling Tutor had a different goal, to follow a whole relationship arc without the typical "Hi, glad to meet you, let's bang" that seems to permeate the normal shipping fic.

Thanks for the vote of confidence, Soge. There's some tough competition here and I'm not sure how it's going to end up.

You did remember to actually vote, right?

2314167 To be fair, most of my problems were with the dialog. I can see the pivotal decisions part, but the beach scene took up a lot of the fic, to the point the rest felt like an after thought.

2317623 Yeah, cast my vote before posting. Good luck on the contest!

2322024 I can see that. Dialog is tough. I have a hard enough time speaking, let alone writing what others are supposed to be speaking. :derpytongue2:
2317623 I voted for you too. I have to be honest, at best out of the five, I'd do pretty good to take third.

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