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PaulAsaran


Technical Writer from the U.S.A.'s Deep South. Writes horsewords, and reviews both independently and for Seattle's Angels. New reviews posted every Thursday! Writing Motto: "Go Big or Go Home!"

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Dec
9th
2016

Paul's Thursday Reviews LVIII · 12:19am Dec 9th, 2016

Y'know what's frustrating? GDocs. Right now. My old method was to write my posts there ahead of time, then just copy/paste the final product here. Worked fine for years. But now, inexplicably, this method has started inserting double spaces between every paragraph. I suppose it shouldn't bother me, because in the actual post those double-spaces go away completely. But it bothers me anyway, and I don't know what to do about it. Grumblesnarlsnap.

In other news: no reviews next week. I'm finally at that point where I just can't keep up. I believe I have one other week scheduled to do this in the ensuing month, and depending upon how my scheduling works out on Saturday, I may get another. Fortunately, I'm almost past the scheduled period in which I read The Night is Passing, and once I get past that then I should have a much easier time keeping up.

But this? This was an easy week. Which is great, 'cause I was overdue for one. Shall we?

Stories for This Week:

Alone by Rinnaul
Ego Sum Aequalitas by Craine
Flowers for Chrysalis by Foxy Kimchi
You Could Feel the Sky by NorrisThePony
Pull Me Through by Feather Gem
Total Word Count: 20,694

Rating System

Why Haven't You Read These Yet?: 1
Pretty Good: 3
Worth It: 1
Needs Work: 0
None: 0


Alone

4,267 Words
By Rinnaul
Re-Read

Dinky is a grown up now! Why, she’s so grown up that Mommy is finally letting her stay home alone. Sure, it can be a little lonely, and there’s a big nasty storm outside, but Mommy will be home soon and everything will be all better!

It doesn’t take long to realize that the cutesy manner of writing in this story is no barrier against what’s coming.

This story hit me hard the first time I read it, largely because I’d just finished writing a chapter in one of my own stories that explored this very concept and the wound was still fresh. With this re-read I found it no less effective. Dinky is an adorable filly – I’m sure her small army of fans will attest to it – and the writing fits her age very well, right up to the moment she goes from thinking ‘Mommy will be home soon’ to ‘something’s wrong.’ In a big way, the manner of writing is the story’s greatest tool, because it hammers home Dinky’s age and just how tragic these events really are.

And yet some issues did arise. The biggest, at least for me, is that at times Dinky seemed too smart. The writing style suggests a filly too young to really grasp more complex topics quite yet, but then Dinky seems to understand things most foals her presumed age would struggle with. The result is a dichotomy between the writing style and her perceptions. Is she five or is she twelve? This is the one thing that kept pulling me out of the moment, and I can see it being a dealbreaker for some people. While I would consider it only a minor nuisance, it was still enough to keep from from feeling the full force of the story.

Despite that, I still really like this story on the whole. At times entertaining and cute, at others heartbreaking, I think it’s more than worth your time. If you can deal with sad things, that is. Might want to keep a tissue handy.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good


Ego Sum Aequalitas

8,207 Words
By Craine
Recommended by cleverpun

Equality didn’t quite provide the utopia Starlight was after. Maybe she just didn’t have time to develop her town properly, or perhaps she used the wrong methods for convincing Twilight and her friends. But the problem isn’t equality itself, of that Starlight is confident. Her life philosophy is perfect. Others just don’t see it that way.

After hiding in the mountains for weeks, a feeble and famished Starlight finally makes a mistake. Now sitting at death’s door, she is visited by a stranger who agrees with her way of thinking. He promises her a chance… if she can only answer his riddle.

This concept works wonderfully, so much so that I regret not thinking of it myself. It’s hard to explain why without spoiling things, and this is one story where I think it’s better to make the revelations on your own (provided the title hasn’t already given it away). That said, Ego Sum Aequalitas is a worthwhile look at Starlight’s perspective and the one great equalizer in existence.

The pacing is rock-solid, never letting up in the heat of events but pulling back when the time calls for it. The atmosphere is well developed, especially in the opening chapter when you can practically feel Starlight’s fear. The writing is excellent and both Starlight and her mysterious visitor are interesting to watch. In summation, the author did a great job.

There are two ‘buts’ to this. First is the riddle itself, which was… underwhelming. I knew the answer by the first line, but somehow Starlight fails to understand it time and time again. I suppose I’m alright with this given that she openly admits that riddles ‘aren’t her thing,’ but when the stranger confesses that wize, intelligent individuals of antiquity have failed to answer, I call shenanigans. Do you really expect me to believe that Starswirl the Bearded couldn’t figure this out? Really? If I’m smarter than the conjurer who invented amniomorphic spells, I want to know how he conned everypony into thinking he was a genius.

On the other hand, it’s apparent that all those who are given this riddle are… shall we say under extreme duress? I suppose some consideration can be made under such circumstances, but it still seems a stretch to me.

As a result of this hammering in of a point established very early on, the big reveal fell flat to me. Not only did it fall falt, but the ongoing effort at the end to make the reveal a big, dramatic, climactic moment struck me as little more than needless puffery and melodrama. I’ll grant that it’s a big deal for Starlight, but it still left me rolling my eyes.

The other issue is that it can be easy for one to assign politics to this story. To be honest, I don’t think that’s what Craine was going for, but it can be interpreted that way. I don’t consider this a to be something to be held against the story in this instance, but I do feel the urge to impress upon future readers that the politics is only an illusion – a necessary connection between the stranger and Starlight that powers the narrative. So yeah, try not to be fooled, this isn’t a pro-socialism story.

Ignoring those two elements, Ego Sum Aequalitas is a rock-solid story worth investigating. Great concept, strong delivery (riddle notwithstanding), creative development. The only reason this story isn’t in the Round Robins is due to the ongoing chokepoint my review schedule has set upon me, but make no mistake, this deserves more attention.

Bookshelf: Why Haven’t You Read These Yet?


In this story, we learn that Chrysalis has personally infiltrated Celestia’s inner circle, having risen through the ranks to become the princess’s personal assistant. Once she sees her opportunity, Chrysalis attacks, but her ‘foolproof’ plan turns out to not be half as good as she thought. Now Celestia has decided her fate: Chrysalis will become her friend, regardless of whether she’s willing.

This story has two things that may trigger people for entirely different reasons. The first is brainwashing, and that’s clearly one of my triggers. But unlike most stories involving the subject, I wasn’t horrified by this story. On the contrary, I was too busy contemplating the consequences of Celestia’s actions for that.

Which brings up the second trigger: Tyrantlestia. Celestia shows that she’s willing to perform terrible, completely unethical acts to deal with her foes, and the manner of the story suggests that this isn’t the first time. Her behavior feels almost mocking for a while, and in that aspect I feel particularly sorry for Chrysalis. But you know who else I feel for?

Twilight. If Silver Skip just became Celestia’s student, what does this say about how Twilight attained that status? But not only Twilight: Luna too could be affected by this. After all, the argument can be and has been made that the Elements of Harmony are little more than a tool for brainwashing anyone who doesn’t ‘agree’ with Celestia’s way of thinking, and we have no way to legitimately confirm or deny this idea.

If Tyrantlestia isn’t your thing, you may not like this. If brainwashing terrifies you? Ditto. But for me, this is a story that invites a whole realm of scary possibilities, and that’s a realm that I would like to see explored a bit more. What can I say? I like darkfics.

My only complaint is that I feel as if the story could have done more with the concept. It’s very direct in its manner, essentially throwing the idea in your face before trotting off to let you think about the consequences. Some people will like that about it, but I can’t help thinking there might have been more to see. Perhaps a more in-depth perspective of how Chrysalis’s mind was changing, I dunno.

But for what it is, I quite liked it.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good


Oh, immortality, why do you suck so much that people have to keep writing about the concept? Well, at least this one feels original.

In this story, we find that Equus is dead, crumbling into the spacial abyss as the planet falls to pieces via natural forces. Ponykind is presumably extinct and both Luna and Cadance have departed for places unknown. But Celestia remains in Canterlot castle, using her powers in a desperate, futile bid to keep her home in one piece. Twilight is ready to go, but she decides to try one last time to convince her former mentor to come with her.

Okay, good bit: I really, really like this concept. There’s a ton you could do with it and lots of opportunities for character and history exploration. At the same time, Norris actively avoided any attempts whatsoever to milk that potential, and I can’t blame them at all; the very idea of not looking back fits in with Twilight’s mindset for the story perfectly. As a direct the result, the pacing is solid for the minimal word count and we get a strong story.

There’s just one niggling issue that holds this story back, and that issue is Celestia. She’s so desperate, so traumatized by the idea of losing Equestria that she’ll sit there for who knows how long struggling to keep it together, using every ounce of power she has. And yet, when Twilight finally forces her hoof…

“Oh, fine, if that’s the way it must be. So, where are we going next?”

Her calm, almost eager manner upon finally giving up is such a complete reversal as to be unbelievable. This is not the behavior of someone who just surrendered the ‘baby’ she’s nursed and coddled and raised over thousands of years. Yes, they are immortal, and yes, they will find a new world, but that doesn’t excuse her going from desperate and begging to “ho-hum, it’s no big deal.” Maybe if time had been taken to show that Celestia was faking it, but we don’t even get that bit of reassurance.

Overall, the story is great in concept and delivery. If the end hadn't been so… awkward, this might have even landed among my favorites. As it is?

Bookshelf: Pretty Good


Pull Me Through

4,259 Words
By Feather Gem
Re-Read

Yes, we get it, immortality sucks. But there are worse things.

In this story, we find ourselves in the distant future – exactly how far is not specified. Everypony we know is dead save for those who can’t die, and Discord has wandered Equestria trying to be ‘good’ ever since Fluttershy’s death. She told him that she’d give him a sign when his good deeds had earned him the path to paradise, and now he believes that message has been sent. The only thing left to do is settle his affairs, speak to a few friends and get ready to go.

This story operates under the curious – but not unheard of – premise that the immortals of Equestria can simply ‘choose’ when to die. It can be as simple as lying down and letting go of life. I like this concept in the overall.

What I don’t like is Discord’s motivations. Oh, yes, he wants to see Fluttershy again and go to heaven, and I’m sure most people find that to be a lofty goal for a spirit of chaos. The problem I have is that his manner strikes me as selfish; he’s not helping others and spreading good cheer because he wants to, but because if he doesn’t he’ll go to hell. This is most emphasized to me by his constant fretting over whether he’s ‘done enough’ to be worthy, a focal point of the entire story. If you’re trying to be good just because you don’t want to burn, you’re not being good for the right reasons.

Even so, I imagine most of you won’t be too swayed by this interpretation, and I suppose I’m fine with that.

What I’m not fine with is the repetitive, in-your-face writing style of the story. Take this little segment, for example:

In response to her question, Discord produced a small cage. He held it out to Princess Twilight. She hesitated and then took it in her magic. She peered through the thin bars at a tiny butterfly with bubblegum pink wings and a turquoise body. It fluttered away from her when she leaned towards it.
“It’s very shy, isn’t it?” Twilight said quietly.
Discord nodded.
“It…oh,” Twilight realized.

And now, because you’re probably too stupid to realize the implications, the author immediately adds this:

Not only did the butterfly resemble Fluttershy’s cutie mark exactly, but it also seemed very shy, the way that Fluttershy had been.

This was the primary problem with the entire story: it reads as if the author expects you to not be capable of grasping even the simplest of concepts. Every time something is inferred, the author repeats it more directly. Over and over again, we see this. If I would advise the author on nothing else, I’d tell them to stop repeating themselves and let the reader try to grasp things on their own.

Despite these issues, Pull Me Through is still a pleasantly emotional tale. I enjoy the topic, despite it being fairly common (I think this is the third I’ve read on it), and I feel the characters were largely well represented. The portrayal of the afterlife was also interesting, and not one I was expecting. But I think that, out of everything, I most enjoyed Discord’s brief conversation with Celestia.

The writing could definitely use some work and the overarching message of seeking salvation purely for the sake of salvation itself doesn’t sit well with me, but even so, this isn’t a bad story by any means.

Bookshelf: Worth It


Liked these reviews? Check out some others:

Paul's Thursday Reviews XLVIII
Paul's Thursday Reviews XLIX
Paul's Thursday Reviews L
Paul's Thursday Reviews LI
Paul's Thursday Reviews LII
Paul's Thursday Reviews LIII
Paul's Thursday Reviews LIV
Paul's Thursday Reviews LV
Paul's Thursday Reviews LVI
Paul's Thursday Reviews LVII

Want me to review your story? Send me a request! Check my profile page for rules.

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Comments ( 12 )
PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

Dude, I have that same problem with GDocs and it drives me crazy. D: But you say the double-spaces go away when you post? I'll have to try that out next time I go to make a blog.

4333261
Well, I say it does. If you leave the double spacing (or triple-spacing, in this case?) in and check the preview, it's like they don't exist. But I haven't bothered to test this with an actual post, so I could be wrong.

But I've experienced this with my stories too in the past. There was a time when I was going for a specific amount of spacing between the first and last words of two scenes and the page break between. I found that no matter how much space I applied in GDocs – spaces that do appear in the written text behind FIMFiction – all the spacing would go away in favor of a single double space. I came to learn with some experimentation that FIMFiction is essentially ignoring all the spaces you inputted into GDocs in favor of this. . It's like all those spaces from GDocs don't exist. You can override this automated spacing in FIMFiction by manually deleting the spaces after the paste job and re-typing them in, in which case they appear just fine.

But copying extra spacing directly from GDocs? Yeah, FIMFiction don't like that.

Anyway, glad I'm not the only one with this new problem. Can't even tell if it's a FIMFiction or a GDocs thing.

I haven't read that Norris story, but I like his work in general, so I should probably check it out. Hell, it's only 1k words. I have read "Ego Sum Aequalitas," and I liked the concept, but something about Starlight's emotional arc felt off, like she'd so quickly snap from one extreme mindset to another that I couldn't follow her reasoning to do so. That said, I read this well over a year ago, and I communicated my impression of it to the author, who said he saw my point and would take a crack at it. It's quite possible he's done so, which would make the current version substantially different from the one I read.

I've submitted a bug report to Google on their web site about this, but don't know if anything is going to happen. I had the same problem with Firefox at one time using Google Docs, but switching to Chrome fixed it. Now it's started again.

Yeah, FimFiction smartly swallows up all those extra (cr) symbols, but the Writeoff.me site doesn't yet. I may have to do some fancy footwork with this weekend's writing thingie, provided I can get one done.

4333297
Eh, I'm still waiting to see what the prompt is. But I'm already reading extra every day for my reviews so that I can enjoy the Christmas and New years vacations without having reading get in the way of my family time (or, if I want to be more accurate, vice versa). With that in mind, I'm not sure I want to add 8-10 short stories to my daily reading requirements over the next two weeks...

Thank you very much for the review, Paul. I don't have much in way of defense to the point you made, it's pretty valid, however I should say that in writing that ending, it was sorta my intention to show that, as much as Celestia has trouble letting go of something like Equus, at her core she would still take the love a pony provides over that of Equus. Also, with this story set in what I'd intended to be the far future, I was hoping to implicitly suggest that Twilight had become an extremely close companion to Celestia, so that parting ways was an earthshattering concept to Celestia. I suppose I could have more clearly highlighted such a thing.

Anyways, thanks again for taking the time to read and review it! :twilightsmile:

4333346 Yeah, I can see how reading ahead could be a priority during family holiday time

Uncle Ernie: So, Paul. How have things been? What are you reading?
Paul: It's a story about how Twilight Sparkle and her five friends all give birth at the same time. It's somewhat like the one where Queen Chrysalis mails them all a husband, but with more characters and fewer bugs.
Ernie: (long pause) Interesting. Well, I need to go check the kitchen. Later.

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

4333278
Just tested it, FImfic does strip them out so the final posting is as it should be. :3 This is great news!

4333261 4333278 Update: Google apparently has a thread dealing with this issue which boils down to "Why can't you guys just put whatever you did back to October?" and Google saying "If only we had more information about why you strange people are having this issue and absolutely nobody else is complaining about it." (despite the fact we are)

https://productforums.google.com/forum/?utm_medium=email&utm_source=footer#!topic/docs/aETEdA9QXDs

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

4333822
I'd post, but I can't think of a way to start it that isn't "Hey, you dumb buttheads". :B

4334481 I really can't unload on Google too much because it's *possible* Microsoft changed the clipboard with a patch or something around that time. It never hurts to be prepared to blame MS.

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

4334519
Point taken. :O

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