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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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Paul's Thursday Reviews LX · 12:15am Jan 13th, 2017

I don't care for charities. They always struck me as a means for wealthy people to throw their money at a bloated bureaucracy that will waste 90% of it so that they can tell themselves they're considerate and 'of the people' while sipping on champagne, downing caviar and sleeping on silk linens in their 100-room mansions. That's why when I can afford it I prefer to give my hard-earned money to individuals; at least then I know the funds are going directly to the person who needs it.

This reminds me that there's this man I see every day on my way home from work, rain or shine, hot or freezing, carrying fliers and smiling at cars passing by when you know he's miserable. I've been seeing that guy for three months now, and every time I do I wish I could give him a big tip just for trucking through such a crummy job. That's a person I can respect.

But alas, I can barely afford my own life, much less someone else's. Heck, I've been running on a financial deficit for the last 6 months or so. Which brings me to the now, where I'm doing something I normally don't do (and let this be evidence to those of you in my Skype feed: I do pay attention).

Foals Errand needs help. I can do nothing for her now, as much as I'd like to. Hopefully you can.

Alright, enough serious business. Reviews!

Stories for This Week:

An Apple for Ya Trouble by ellie_
Run for the Roses by 8686
If Only In My Dreams by TheSlorg
Twilight Sparkle: Night Shift by JawJoe
Colgate's Practice by StormLuna
Liquid Euphoria by Opium4TmassS
Total Word Count: 190,577

Rating System

Why Haven't You Read These Yet?: 1
Pretty Good: 2
Worth It: 2
Needs Work: 0
None: 1

A young Rarity, possibly a teenager but not yet out of bratty, self-confident youth, goes to the market for her weekend supply run with her mother. While there, she has a chance meeting with a girl who may actually make fashion seem unimportant. This is, in essence, a “how they met” story.

The first thing I should point out is that child (not foal, as this is humanized) Rarity is amusing to watch, from her constant struggling to maintain the appearance of a proper Canterlotian lady to her regular failures to do so. She seems at times like she’d be an outright pain to be around, but you can still see the quiet beginnings of the woman she’ll come to be. The narrative is playful in its depiction, which is made all the better when you realize that the story is being told by an older, more mature Rarity who is embellishing things for the fun of it.

Alas, the story is far too short to meet its full potential. I think the biggest problem I had is that this is supposed to be a tale of how AJ and Rarity met, and yet Applejack doesn’t show up until it’s practically over. If this is such an important event in Rarity’s life, shouldn’t that scene have been stretched out a little more and given its due focus? Then again, that probably wouldn’t have fit well in the context of how the story is being told, so it might be seen as only a minor gripe.

The story could have been longer and the purpose could have been better refined. Yet I think the manner of the story’s writing mostly makes up for those things, as it is playful and fun and gives us a nice little image of a mini-Rarity pursuing her original love (er, fashion, that is). Provided you can stomach that fact that it’s a non-EQG human story, which I know is a bug turn off for many people, I definitely think it was worth my time.

Bookshelf: Worth It

Run for the Roses

25,442 Words
By 8686
Recommended by paul

The first story I read by 8686 left a lot to be desired, but was decent overall. The second was just plain fun. Neither really left me inspired, though, or that I was reading a big talent. Enter Run for the Roses, which I can say with full honesty is the first story that really shows what this author is capable of when properly applying themselves.

Run for the Roses is one of only three dining establishments in Ponyville, and it is the primary haunt for those seeking to meet some spirits of the alcoholic variety. Single Measure is the bar’s proud owner, and he’s got a certain way of looking at how bar ponies should behave. So when Applejack shows up one night in a depressed state and doesn’t want to talk, he chooses not to pry. He does give her a room for free, though, seeing as of how she’s gotten herself more smashed than may be healthy.

Except come morning, Applejack is gone. Not just gone from the bar, but from Ponyville. Over the next several days, Single’s humble bar becomes the wildly active focal point of an entire town’s search for it’s most dependable and respectable citizen. This, then, is the story of Single as he watches the mystery unfold from behind his simple wood counter.

Before I say anything else, I just want to note my favorite part of this entire story:

If our respective experiences over this past week were to be written down in prose form, and I were asked to choose one to read, I know which story I’d pick.

This is the single best line in the entire story to me for a number of reasons. The most important of those reasons is that it highlights the fundamental issue of the story, thereby telling readers “Yes, I know what a lot of you are thinking.” It acknowledges the problem and shows, succinctly, that the author knows exactly what they’re doing. By extension, it makes the issue less important of a concern in my overall interpretation, because it shows the author consciously made the ‘error’, and in turn suggests a reasoning behind it.

But really, it was not necessary. This story is about as solid as can be, to such a degree that I think Applejack’s story would have been less worthwhile (although I’d still like to see it written as a spinoff). The writing style provides some vivid imagery in that small bar while also providing a bit of whimsy, the characters are all wonderfully portrayed, and even the OCs are shown in a light that makes them interesting and worth getting to know. It is at times fun, disheartening, uplifting, annoying, amusing, and all while rarely leaving the counter. For all the things that happen in this story, it all takes place in that cozy little bar.

And this is one of the things that makes the story so good. It demonstrates an ability to carry out an interesting, entertaining and endearing story using no more resources than solid character interpretation, body language, dialogue and some well placed extrapolation. I don’t know where this magic was in the other two stories I’ve read by this author, but I am glad to discover it at last.

This is a story worthy of your attention. Read it, and give it the credit it deserves.

Bookshelf: Why Haven’t You Read These Yet?

If Only In My Dreams

3,140 Words
By TheSlorg

First off, if you are aware of the inspiration behind this story, congratulations: you are aware of the best damn Christmas album that exists, bar none. TheSlorg doesn’t advertise that inspirational source in any way, but every time I read the story the song starts playing in my head and I start humming.

Rose Aphid is a female changeling, but not a queen, and that marks her as an outcast by default. Kicked out of her hive as soon as she was deemed of age to travel, she is now alone and starving. Knowing she has enough love energy for only one more day of survival, she makes a desperate move: infiltrate Canterlot, where changelings are reviled, in search of love. But it’s Hearth’s Warming Eve, and there’s nopony on the streets. Out of time, she settles down to die outside a well known donut shop.

The first time I read this story, I think I had stars in my eyes. Not due to the author, but because I quickly recognized what I was reading as a homage. Now I look at it and I’m not quite so enamored, but I am still quite pleased with the overall story. It’s short and sweet, with a bit of hope and a little heart. While I’m sure it’s better read during the holidays, it’s definitely worth it anytime of the year.

The story doesn't give you much time to learn about Rose, and he whole thing is left frustratingly open-ended. That's okay, though, for I think the story did what it set out to do, and did it well. And now that I know there is a group devoted to the little Rose Aphid, you can bet I’ll be exploring more of her life later.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good

Way back when I was first getting on my feet here on FimFiction, a friend of mine learned of my little love for the morbid, the dark and the creepy. Based on this, said friend pestered me relentlessly to read this story, insisting it to be right up my alley. I didn’t care for taking recommendations back then, largely because I didn’t trust them, but the badgering went on for so long and so continuously that I finally gave in.

Allow me to take this opportunity to say it: Danger Beans, I apologize for doubting you.

That’s not to say that I loved the story. On the contrary, back then I was far more nitpicky than I am now, and I outright butchered every chapter with harsh criticisms. But this behavior also caught JawJoe’s eye, which led me and him collaborating on a number of stories – Monsters in his case, and What is Missing, What is Lost in mine. I guess the point I’m trying to make is that this story is an important one concerning my development on the site as a writer and, to a degree, making friends. As such, I was all too eager to read it again.

Set four years after A Canterlot Wedding, we start off learning that Twilight’s parents died in a tragically violent event a few short months after Cadance’s and Shining Armor’s wedding. Torn with grief and determined to get to the bottom of things, Twilight followed the blood trail until she at last ended up with Luna, who offered to let her join the Night Guard: an elite, secret order dedicated to hunting down all manner of evils from vampires and werewolves to demons and Lovecraftian abominations. Thus Twilight has spent the last four years secretly hunting monsters.

Being one who thoroughly enjoys secret societies and mysteries, I loved this concept from the get go. It does come with the challenge of requiring you to accept a new, darker, less friendly Twilight from the start, but as long as you can accept the backstory I don’t see this being an issue. Since this was written to be a parody, you’ll also be bombarded with cultural references and in-jokes, some of which I enjoyed and others of which (“It is a silly place.”) annoyed.

The story starts off episodic, with the first two or three chapters not feeling related as they introduce the world and Twilight’s new mentality. Very swiftly, however, things coalesce into a single large mystery that moves at a rapid pace full of danger, darkness and copious monsters. The search for the truth – Twilight’s continuous purpose – keeps the story going with ease, and the conclusion is a horrifying romp of confusion, selfishness, heathenism and decadence. It’s all so very imaginative and fits along perfectly with what I’ve come to expect from JawJoe’s vivid imagination.

There are some things that need to be addressed, however. The story suffers from a regular disassociation with logic as Twilight leaps to incredible, entirely unbelievable conclusions with no evidence at all to support her suspicions. She goes so far as to suspect Celestia – Celestia – of having gone the way of Nightmare Moon without so much as a hint of the possibility. Her conclusions can only be considered the results of a confused and deluded mind… which, considering the things she’s seen, may not be so farfetched. But it still stretched my sense of disbelief beyond its limits, and the more silly or ignorant ideas that passed through her head, the less impressed I was with her sleuthing skills. So much for being an egghead.

Yet the thing that really bugs me is the ending. Now, I don’t intend to give anything away about the mystery or the ending. What I will say is that the Elements of Harmony get involved, and the way they do so makes no sense at all. Somehow, I’m expected to believe that the Elements will work perfectly without the presence of Generosity, Kindness, Joy, Honesty or Loyalty; as long as the physical Elements are within close proximity to one another, you can make them work and be damned if they care about who is behind the wheel. JawJoe treats the Elements as if they are mere objects rather than physical representations of concepts, and in so doing I argue he completely misses their purpose and reason for existing. Since this misinterpretation makes up the cornerstone of the story’s conclusion (and, I would argue, is readily disproved by The Return of Harmony), it makes the whole ending feel like bullshit.

There’s also the longstanding JawJoe problem that the author has only recently started getting over, and that is the emotional distance. JawJoe’s early stories have a lot of difficulty conveying emotion in characters, often from a complete lack of narrative assistance to the dialogue. In many cases it seems we are meant to gather all of our emotion from the actual events and no more. The dialogue is often written in a manner that seems downright droning, even though you know there’s probably supposed to be lots of emotion taking place in the given scene. The narrative itself is very direct, telling you only what happens without giving any sort of emotional input from those events.

This dry, ‘let the readers do it themselves’ approach doesn’t do the story any favors. It is most apparent in the climax, which is filled with horrors and damning consequences so great that it’s hard not to feel something in response to it all. I can’t imagine how strong my reaction would have been if JawJoe had actually tried to convey that reality that than simply saying “this is what it is.”

Despite the emotionally dull writing style, crummy ending and questionable sense of logic, I find this story to be immensely entertaining. From the battles against eldritch abominations to the regular jokes (I’m particularly fond of the constant Twixie denial at play), I had fun. Of course, I was also sometimes horrified by a few concepts (seriously, that climax scene, yo). To summarize, this is a story strong enough in its merits that the negatives are mostly overwhelmed, and so I am happy to recommend it. While it lacks the strength of some of JawJoe’s relatively recent stories like Monsters, it is definitely worth investigating for those of you interested in the dark and ominous.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good

Before I say anything at all, I need to get this out of my system:

There. Much better.

It seems like ages since I last reviewed one of these. I do have a thing for creepypasta, but the search for them is… frustrating. Fact is, most creepypastas fall into one of three categories: bad, and BAD, and “For the love of Equestria, someone take this guy’s writer’s license away.” Even the ones that are well known staples are typically terrible. So how does Colgate’s Practice fare against the competition?

This story is everything you’d expect: Colgate goes insane and decides it is her life mission to prevent cavities by torturing and killing anypony who shows up in her office with them, thereby removing the bad influences from Ponyville. Strangely, this little snap happens out of nowhere and yet she has the dungeon already pre-built with spiked, shackled chairs and torture equipment. Oh, and Lyra is her sister/hygienist who knows nothing about what’s going on in the basement.

Things get worse from there, and I don’t just mean in terms of the fates of ponies. This story is a constant stream of nonsense. This isn’t even B-horror – at least that’s supposed to be silly. Nobody in this story reacts to anything in a realistic manner. A good example is one victim getting holes drilled into his face only to casually ask later if he can sample some of the meat of past victims from Colgate’s stolen industrial meat grinder. Oh, and she stole that grinder from a butcher.

Why does Ponyville have a butcher’s shop in the first place?

And while we’re at it, let’s capture Rarity, completely neglecting the fact that Rarity has a horn and thus could almost certainly escape her confines given that no attempt whatsoever has been made to restrict her magic, which she conveniently forgets to use in a large room she’s left alone in for long periods of time filled with tools that could certainly break her free.

Let’s have the victims, who have regularly been tortured and lacking in food, have casual conversations in the meantime questioning Colgate’s sanity, in perfectly polite terms. Let’s have a victim inform Colgate that she had better feed this helpless, bound and broken captive “or else.” Let’s have Colgate go to the hospital in critical condition and somehow know more about unicorn physiology than the licensed doctors who are treating her (seriously, the hospital staff look completely brainless).

Let’s get Pinkie kidnapped, and then have her turn into Cupcakes-style Pinkamena for no reason at all, and add to that Colgate miraculously knowing a mind control spell to use on said Pinkamena so she can become her new receptionist and murderous assistant, quitting her job at Sugarcube Corner and moving in with Colgate and Lyra, all while not a soul in all of Ponyville finds this odd.

Bonus points! Celestia is Colgate’s patient because shut up. She has bad teeth and gets captured using anti-magic chains and a horn ring that Colgate just so happened to have lying around in her basement unmentioned until now. You know, for those unruly alicorn patients all dentists tend to have.

Let’s finish this off with Colgate blowing up her practice (and much of Ponyville’s commercial district) and deciding she’d quit her torturous lifestyle cold turkey, no guilt, no remorse, just “Yeap, I was a psychopathic nutbar, but that’s all behind me because… well, just because.”

In short, this is that third variety of creepypasta. A redundant, plain, and unimaginative writing style, terrible character recognition, no sense of emotional realism, zero attention to pacing or transition, and torture porn that’s uncreative even if I did have an interest in that kind of nonsense. The end result is an abysmal failure of a story. The only thing sadder is that this isn’t the worst of this genre I’ve tried.

Horrors are always hit-or-miss (usually the latter), and this one is definitely a miss. Frankly, I have no idea how anyone could be interested in reading the three sequels that follow it. I know I have no inclination to do so.

Bookshelf: None

Killer of Six was a grammatical mess, but it had an interesting premise and a fascinating version of Equestria brimming with atmosphere. Liquid Euphoria begins immediately where that story left off, clarifying a small number of things but leaving far more questions behind it than answers.

With the death of the Mane 6 and the destruction of the Elements of Harmony, Celestia has fallen into mourning and currently makes no attempt to control Equestria. Meanwhile, Luna goes to the funeral of a changeling priest, taking a moment to listen to his last words. He prophesies the coming of something new, a creature brought forth by the universe to “make Celestia listen.”

This story has its ups and downs. The biggest down is that the grammar hasn’t improved one iota. Really, it’s horrible, and I know a lot of people will read the first sentence and hit the back button. I wouldn’t blame them. It also has some curious circumstances, such as the suggestion that Celestia and Luna deeply respect the changelings and their religion, and yet they have apparently done nothing whatsoever to help them improve socially or economically, letting them live in slums and dumps.

Yet it also has that same looming, ominous atmosphere, which I was glad to see again. It makes the events of its predecessor a little more concrete in meaning, while also suggesting bigger, darker things to come. It delves a little more deeply into the faith of the changelings, which strikes me as a sort of Buddhism, although I could be way off the mark (I’m by no means a theologian).

And yet there is also a profound disappointment. The questions left behind, like [i[Killer of Six, are vast and numerous. Worse, the description page claims this story is a prequel, and yet the story that is meant to follow does not appear to exist. What’s that all about?

In the end, I’m not sure what to make of this. It has the rich atmosphere and worldbuilding, but leaves us wanting more without any indication that more will ever come. The author’s grammar hasn’t improved at all and yet the story is fascinating enough for me to at least attempt to ignore that. In the end, I don’t think I can go positive or negative with this one, but instead just leave it on the middle ground and be miffed.

Bookshelf: Worth It

Liked these reviews? Check out some others:

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
Paul's Thursday Reviews LVIII
Paul's Fashionably Late Reviews
Paul's Thursday Reviews LIX

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

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Comments ( 7 )
Author Interviewer

Man, never ever doubt Danger Beans. :B

Alas, a lesson I learned late.

I was incredibly tempted to read TS:NS a few years ago, back when Amy Clockwork and Amacita voted it as the winner of Amy's summer fanfic competition, stories back from the read. It looked like the sort of thing I would be right into.
I am now, however, in equal measures, sad and glad that I didn't read it, and probably won't. There's a multitude of reasons, some of which may be more valid than others, why I'll likely not touch it. It's complicated.

One thing I do hear a lot about it is that many readers refuse to believe the author when he tells them it's a parody. I do though, because I know he considers MLP itself, as a show, a parody.

But that's enough from me on that subject. I'm honestly glad that his more recent works allow for a bit more emotion in the plot, as opposed to cold hard facts and the way you described TS:NS as lacking a lot of that aspect. Power to any author who writes for the more "intelligent" as opposed to the "masses" but writing a story without emotion feels like a deliberate rejection of the "show don't tell" mentality we as writers have drummed into us. For good reason, mind.

Having read Monsters and loved it, I feel like TS:NS would be a downgrade from this point.

About An Apple For Ya Trouble: I won't read any of ellie_'s stories, and I'm glad I didn't. I was suspicuous of the way this brand new author seemed to explode onto the scene with nothing more than incredibly short, shippy pieces where the artwork seemed like the most appealing factor of the whole thing. Lo and behold, my suspicions were confirmed when Obselescence and Wanderer D discovered that she had created no fewer than forty-seven sock puppet accounts to upvote and fave her stories into the feature box. She tried to say they were all different family members' accounts, but Obs shot that down right away by asking how forty-seven people could all use the same I.P. address. Lol.

Finally, I'm glad that you liked If Only In My Dreams. TheSlorg is a good friend of mine, and a damn good writer at that. He's also one of Equestria Daily's hardest-to-please prereaders, and the only Aussie of the bunch. He isn't really around much these days, what with a family and managing multiple shoe stores across Sydney, but I'm sure he'll be happy to see this review.

4380946 I was happy to see this.

It was a good reminder that I really need to get that sequel off the ground. I've been wanting to write for ages now, but my schedule doesn't allow much time for writing, let alone editing what I've written.

It's nice to know there are still people who would like to see more, though.

p.s. I see Paul is going to be reviewing Half-Minute Horses. I remember I wrote that one after a few other stories had been given reviews, and it was a time where I put way too much thought into the results of those reviews. HMH was a story written without any thought for that; I just wanted to have some fun. As such, people either love it or hate it.

the conclusion is a horrifying romp of confusion, selfishness, heathenism and decadence.



I know he considers MLP itself, as a show, a parody

It's not that the show is a parody, but it had plenty of elements of harmony parody. Maybe "subversion" would be a better way to put it. I really ough to make that full show analysis video I've been meaning to do for like two years...

I hope you're doing well, by the way.

Oh my. Apparently I can be summoned.

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