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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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Feb
10th
2017

Paul's Thursday Reviews LXIII · 1:40am Feb 10th, 2017

Most of the way through my extra-busy reading week, and I've proven more productive on the writing side than I expected. I might even be able to release some chapters to a few stories soon (and by "soon" I mean in a couple weeks). But for now I'm still stuck trying to get through as much reading as I can, and having to work late every day this week is not helping.

On the positive side, as of today I will be averaging 1.25 reviews written per day for at least the next four weeks. Hurray for productivity!

As for today... this was a strange week. For some reason, a whole bunch of incompleted stories all landed here. I'm not exactly pleased by that, but meh, they land where they land. At least I can say I got them behind me.

I'd love to stick around and rant some more, but I'm afraid I've still got some 25,000 words to read and not much time left in my day to read them. Have some reviews, along with a confident assurance that next week I'll probably have time to talk about more boring things in much more agonizing detail.

Stories for This Week:

Gateway Drug by bottled_up
The Princess and the Seamstress by PortalJumper
Wires by Dark Avenger
Beauty and her Spike by FlimFlamBros.
Green by Steel Resolve
Total Word Count: 349,510

Rating System

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


What if books could be addictive? bottled_up explores this concept in Gateway Drug, in which Rainbow Dash rapidly descends from reading cheap pop culture fics to adventure and classics and more. But she doesn’t have a problem, oh no. She can quit any time she wants.

Your preference in humor will heavily dictate the value of this one. The story demonstrates absurdity and is quite amusing in its slant of reading as a drug. At the same time, I can see people who understand the pain of drug abuse being outright offended by a perceived mockery. As long as you don’t take it too seriously, though, it’s not bad at all.

It seems clever to me, with its humor being more understated than overt. Being one for subtlety, that earns my approval. At the same time, I can’t help shaking the feeling that the writing style itself didn’t fit with the story. This was begging for a more colorful descriptive flourish, but is instead written about as normal as one might expect. Maybe the style is meant to be reflective of the type of the reality it is poking fun at? I can’t really say.

For what it is, I like it. There are some ways I think it could be better, but the concept is sound and the delivery capable. I’d love to have seen this expanded into something bigger, though.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good


The Princess and the Seamstress

14,744 Words
Incomplete
By PortalJumper
Recommended by Pascoite

Dang it, you stupid rock, this is just unfair!

In this story, Princess Luna comes to Rarity with what she considers a significant personal problem. To be specific, a pair of alicorns Luna highly respects will be coming to visit Canterlot soon and she is determined to make the best possible impression. But even after five years, she hasn’t completely caught up with modern customs, particularly in the social sphere. As Rarity might be considered an expert in such things, she calls upon the fashionista to teach her in the ways of acting as a modern, dignified figure of Equestrian aristocracy. Why this arrangement has to be a secret from the ponies most qualified to help – namely Celestia and Twilight – is a bit of a mystery to me.

There’s one thing that caught my attention immediately. I normally just cast a quick glance at the tags of a story, then move on and forget them entirely. In this case, however, I noticed a distinct lack of a romance tag. This struck me as peculiar, as a story with this setup is the kind that just screams ‘blooming romance’ to the shipper in me, and yet it seems PortalJumper has no intention of following such a path.

I am very happy to find this proved true. In a situation that your average writer would turn into blatant shipping, it’s nice to see a writer decide to take a more realistic approach and just keep things ‘normal.’

There are a number of other things to praise about this story, such as some solid show-accurate characterizations of everyone involved. By extension, the story has a very ‘show’-like feel, with humor and seriousness blended in a way such that neither side detracts from the other (a truly challenging balance to achieve in stories of this variety). The story advances at a nice pace, neither too slow or too fast, and it pulls facts and observations from past episodes that blend fairly well with the ongoing events. For a slice of life, this one is off to a promising start.

But as always, there are a few slips. Most of them are minor, such as the complete neglect of Sassy Saddles. These clandestine meetings are happening at the Canterlot Carousel, and Rarity is taking some steps to make them happen which would undoubtedly appear very odd to her assistant. Shouldn’t we be seeing how it is that Rarity is keeping her out of the loop?

There are also instances of the obvious, which can be annoying at times. Take, for example, Twilight bumping into Applejack at the market. Does Applejack really need to explain to Twilight why Apple Bloom, Big Mac and Granny Smith are never the ones out selling apples in town? Twilight’s been in town for five years (as stated in-story repeatedly) and is one of Applejack’s best friends; she should already know all of this. The act of one character telling another character something that should be common knowledge to both for the sake of reader awareness is something of a pet peeve of mine.

And no, the solution is not exposition.

But again, these are minor issues. The only moment that really struck me as a serious problem came in chapter two when Celestia, abruptly and with little clear reason, decides to have a heart to heart with Luna about her time alone. Let’s ignore the fact that after five years, this is a conversation they should have already had. No, what really bothers me is the execution: Celestia sits down, says a few things about her millennia as monarch, makes a connection between herself and Luna, and then Luna leaves. It happens so fast, and with such a minimal amount of bonding – apparent or expressly stated – that it felt less like the big emotional scene it was likely meant to be and more like a casual conversation to be forgotten by both parties thirty minutes afterwards. I seriously hope that the rest of the big emotional encounters in this story are given more time to affect the characters, otherwise the climax is going to be stale.

Despite that issue, this is a story that shows promise. I’d very much like to get through it to the end. Sadly, I’m not sure if that’s even going to happen considering it’s been nearly a year since the last update (which, of course, means no rating from me). It’s more than a little frustrating to know what this story may be and have to sit here waiting.

Ugh. Incompletes annoy me. Let’s just hope PortalJumper finds a way to pick this one back up.


Wires

76,043 Words
Incomplete
By Dark Avenger
Requested by Dark Avenger

You see this story? This story, my friends, demonstrates exactly why I don’t want to read incompletes. Come on, Dark Avenger, no updates since November? You’re killing me here!

Anyway, Wires is a story apparently inspired by a video game, one that I admit to having no knowledge of at all. Turns out, that’s okay, because this story functions perfectly fine on its own. I did take the time to read up on the game after reading the story, however, and I find myself a little worried. The stories appear to coincide a little too well, and while the hard truth has yet to be revealed, I do fear that Dark Avenger is doing nothing more than ponifying Spec Ops: The Line. There are some readers who will like that, I know, but if you ask me, it would be more akin to a lazy ripoff.

And that would be a huge shame, considering how good the story has been so far.

But here’s the gist for you: there is a continent inhabited and ruled by goats – or Capricorns – in the far north, farther even than the Crystal Empire. This frigid landscape has recently fallen into a state of anarchy and civil war. Seeking to put an end to the conflict quickly and save pony citizens, Equestria sends a small peacekeeping force to resolve the conflict, lead by Shining Armor. Things quickly go wrong, however; scouting units disappearing, mysterious orders from nowhere convincingly countermanding Shining’s own, criminal gangs and fanatical insurgents all work to ruin the mission before it can get off the ground. And through it all, a strange mystery lurks involving what may very well be a new, vicious entity the Equestrians weren’t at all prepared for.

The closest thing I can actively compare this story to is Black Hawk Down, specifically because the combat scenes throughout the story are very reminiscent of those of the show. It is, for the most part, urban warfare, and it is harsh. This is the first thing of praise, because Dark Avenger somehow managed to take a combination of magic, medieval technology and semi-modern weaponry and make it into a grueling and curiously believable slog of battle. The fighting is always intense and, at times, even a little confusing. Which is fine, because it felt realistic.

For the most part, I am enjoying the mystery behind the story. Clues are regularly thrown up in the form of subtle mentions in the narrative and, on one occasion, a journalist’s notes. While I feel as though I have a strong idea of what’s going on, there’s just enough uncertainty to keep you wondering if things aren’t as obvious as what’s been laid in front of your eyes. I’m still wondering if the journalist’s major clue was little more than a red herring. The current cliffhanger seems to suggest otherwise, but you never know.

A few things did bother me, however. For example, in one flashback (which seemed atrociously out of place, might I add), we learn that Shining had to appeal to a council in order to get the mission sanctioned. This struck me as absurd, especially when the mysteriously unseen council treats him like an ignorant subordinate. We’re talking about Shining Armor, co-ruler of the Crystal Empire; if anything, he should be the one looking down on them. The ruler of a nation doesn’t send out proposals for councils to determine his actions, he decides he wants something done and it happens.

Then there are the stupid mistakes. I don’t just mean like telling soldiers to go do something they obviously can’t do, either. Take, for instance, the time Shining’s on the radio trying to hail the missing scouting squadron. Signal’s crap, they can barely hear one another’s words, something really bad is obviously happening on the other side. And then, MAGIC! Signal’s clear and the squad’s fine, even if their radio operator suddenly sounds totally different. And Shining just rolls with it, ignoring all the blatant signs that his squad probably just got slaughtered. And he continues to ignore the problem as things get worse, even as similar situations occur and his own lieutenants are voicing concerns.

Okay, Shining’s got a crap-ton on his plate. That much is believable, and as the story goes on I get that he’d have to prioritize things. Even if everything is important, some just have to take a back seat. That’s fine. I get that, and to be frank I thought he did a great job under pressure. It’s the stuff military commanders are made of. But it doesn’t excuse the early mistakes or the constant insistence that the glaring problems and likely traps don’t exist.

With all that said, I still really liked this story. The combat is relentless, the action is well directed, the mystery interesting. It’s all largely well written, aside from occasions where the scene detail is a bit too strong. There’s a constant desire to know what’s going to happen next, and of all of this I thoroughly approve. So long as Dark Avenger doesn’t follow the game’s plot exactly (and the verdict’s still out on that), I think this will be one of the better stories on my bookshelves.

But that can’t happen until the story is finished. So get to it, Dark Avenger! Seriously, what the heck, leaving us on that accursed cliffhanger? Come on, man...


Beauty and her Spike

59,723 Words
By FlimFlamBros.
Re-Read

I know that the artwork is merely recreating the imagery of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, but frankly? If the cover art of your story specifically declares it to be “the greatest Sparity ever told,” you had better f-ing deliver. Lost points for overconfidence combined with an improperly capitalized title.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

This story is pretty much exactly what you’re probably thinking: a recreation of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast starring Rarity and Spike. It does its best to be faithful to the original, including the recreation of certain famous scenes and the insertion of many of the songs with new lyrics – including songs from the broadway musical (that I regret never having seen).

Normally I am opposed to direct rehashing of stories for parodies/crossovers. Fortunately, I feel that FlimFlamBros. approached the idea from the right direction. There are a number of distinct differences in arrangement, events and concepts, all designed with the specific intention of fitting the known story into an Equestrian setting. The reformatting keeps things just new enough to make the story interesting and different. This is an effort that I thoroughly appreciated.

The songs were largely hit or miss. Sometimes the new lyrics worked, and other times I was scratching my head trying to figure out what the author was thinking. I probably shouldn’t judge the story too harshly in this regard, however, as I would hardly consider myself an expert in lyrical modification. I’m also rather conflicted about how the author inserted links to youtube videos for each of the songs being re-worded. I admit, in a couple of cases it did help when the story brings up a broadway song I’d never heard before, but at the same time it struck me as a little too distracting. I always prefer to see such links in the author’s notes (which, might I add, the author abused way too much).

There were other mixed elements, such as the behavior of some of the characters. Poor Rainbow Dash in particular gets the short end of the stick thanks to her friends (and Applejack especially) treating her like a child (RD takes Chip’s role, btw) complete with bedtime curfews and constant baths. She’s understandably pissed off about this, and when they finally give her an excuse it is weak at best and shoehorned at worst. There’s also Prince Blueblood (this story’s version of Gaston), who is so ridiculously over-the-top childish as to be less the joke character he’s intended to be and more of a nuisance whose scenes one would rather skip as often as possible.

Still, the story does maintain a lighthearted air from beginning to end, which I believe is its best draw. It tries to emulate the playful mood of much of the movie, and I imagine that’ll be wonderful for a lot of people. It simply wasn’t my thing, however, mostly due to the humor being more on the nonsense side of things (government-controlled Timberwolf packs? Really?)

These were all largely minor nuisances. If it had just been them, I may have rated the story moderately higher. Two things severely hurt the story for me, however. The first is the use of the OP superunicorn Dues Ex Machina that is Ding-A-Ling. This guy tricks Spike into signing a contract and then makes all of Equestria – yes, that includes Celestia and Luna – forget Spike and all the Mane 6 sans Rarity ever existed while re-inventing history such that Blueblood is the sole bearer of the Elements. And bear in mind, this time period lasts for over a year. In short, six of Equesria’s greatest heroes have been instantly wiped off the map, and it is later shown that Blueblood couldn’t actually use the Elements this entire time.

So this jerk just put the entire kingdom at risk for the sake of a game. And when Celestia finally does find out, she apparently is willing to let him get away with it because he has, and I quote, “invaluable magic”. So this ass gets free reign to ruin the lives of anyone he wants anytime he wants just because his magic is powerful? Hell, if that’s the logic behind things then why was Discord ever trapped in stone? This guy is clearly powerful enough to end her on a whim and clearly isn’t willing to let logic dictate his actions. That’s not somepony you let roam around with zero controls!

The second issue is, sadly, the writing itself. Mistakes run rampant, from missing letters to mixed verb tenses. There are plenty of instances where verbs don’t actually fit the subject, such as Spike’s eyes apparently having the ability to sit down (there’s a specific term for this mistake and I can’t recall what it is). Other amateur-level mistake abound, from the narrative repeating what the dialogue already states to telly descriptions and LUS. The writing is just plain poor.

So yes, there are definitely issues, and enough of them to keep me from giving this story a high rating. However, I still see some hope in the author. As poorly written as the content is, the direction FlimFlamBros. took the story is much better than I expected. If the author can fine-tune that ability and get some real improvements done with the writing, it’s entirely possible we could see some gems out of them. This story was written waaaaay back in 2013, and FlimFlamBros. is still writing new material. I see no reason not to grab one of the more recent stories to see if there’s been any improvement over the last three years.

Bookshelf: Needs Work


Green

197,903 Words (Partial Reading)
By Steel Resolve

How would I describe this story? Oh, I know.

Seriously. This is a ship, written by a shipper, for shippers, about nothing but shipping in vast quantities. Truly, the ship is strong with this one. If it were any more shippy, we’d need a harbor. I could keep going for hundreds of pages and still would not have properly related to you the level of shipping that is this story.

But how about the basics first? It’s a fairly obvious concept: Rarity loves Fluttershy, but is too scared of ruining their friendship to say anything. Fluttershy, as it turns out, is in the exact same situation. That alone more or less sums up the primary point of the story, but it goes beyond that by introducing romances in every nook and cranny. If you are not into romance, turn away now because that is seriously the only thing you’ll find here.

Fortunately for me, I am indeed a shipper and have nothing against anything being done in this story. I’m even more pleased by the fact that all the given relationships feel realistic, i.e. not “love at first sight” junk. Practically every character in a relationship has some legitimate reason to be, and those who don’t are struggling to come to terms with what their relationship means and whether it can work.

From what I’m reading, I have the distinct feeling that Steel Resolve unintentionally created new conflicts and problems with the assorted characters and lacked the willpower to let those conflicts resolve in the background or, perhaps better, branch off into their own separate stories. The result is a continuous series of side events behind the main RariShy story that are certainly interesting in their own right, but also are the primary reason the story is so needlessly long. In fact, I’d argue that Steel might have even fished this story by now if he’d just let the other characters wait a bit. I don’t blame a writer for letting ideas run away with them, but I do blame them for not being able to pick and choose, and this strikes me as one of those times.

Despite that, there's no arguing with the results. I regretted reaching the end of my chosen section of the story to read (which was up to Chapter 27: Word of Power, by the way). The only thing that kept me from going further was the knowledge that, when Steel finally does finish the story, I’m going to want to start over from scratch, and I’ve used up enough of my time in light of that fact. But believe you me, I really wanted to see more.

Still, this wouldn’t be a fair review if I failed to mention the thing that might bother non-shippers, and that’s the driving force of the story: misunderstanding. For every couple, there is a series of events that seem outright ridiculous at the best of times, and they usually stem from both members of said couple completely misinterpreting obvious intentions. There are times when I wanted to slap a pony upside the head and ask “How could you possibly form such a stupid conclusion?” But that’s not the pony’s fault; it’s the writer’s for expecting me to believe the nonsense.

The other issue is that this story is completely single minded, and non-shipping-centric readers will consider this a fault. It is ridiculous when you realize that each of the Mane 6 has been put into a relationship with one of the other Mane 6 for no other reason that the author’s shipping indulgences, which may in time alternate into triangles as Princess Celestia and Princess Luna get in on the action. (I should note that I find Luna’s laid back view of the matter entertaining. Her referring to Rarity and Fluttershy as “accessories” amuses me to no end.) And Spike’s not left out of the loop, either! With things going the way they are, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if the big finale chapter was an orgy involving all eight characters and a few side characters thrown in for good measure.

The point is, this story is really little more than a shipper’s paradise, to the point of defying realism. If you’re into something like that while just skirting the top edge of the Teen rating, go for it because you won’t be disappointed. But for those of you looking for anything other than massive quantities of overlapping ships, you may want to head to safer shores.

Me? I will be finishing this.

As soon as Steel does, that is. I’m gonna estimate a conclusion’s coming in 2030 or so.


Liked these reviews? Check out some others:

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
Paul's Thursday Reviews LX
Paul's Thursday Reviews LXI
Paul's Thursday Reviews LXII

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

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Comments ( 11 )

Incomplete stories are the worst. Especially when they haven't been updated in years and probably never will again. It's the main reason why I always finish the story I'm working on before starting another one, even though I generate ideas at a more rapid pace.

Agreed on Green; I like it a lot, and I've read the whole thing three times, and am holding off on reading more of it because I know that I'm going to do so again when it is complete. Also, agreed on the uh... plot bunnies getting away with the author, and multiplying, and the straining of credulity when lesbians are pouring out the ears.

I mean, I love lesbian horses. But there's some point at which everyone is a lesbian (and there's no real explanation for it) at which point it feels kind of forced.

4416199 Heh, true enough, but I don't think any explanation for that particular convergence of events would really be plausible. It's not a world in which heterosexuality doesn't exist. Indeed, my two leads have both at certain times stated that they have found males attractive. It's simply a world in which ponies love who they love and form is not that much of an issue.

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

...Shiiiiit. I've been waiting on Green forever, and now I'm afraid I'm going to hate it. D:

4416232
So many ponies being lesbians isn't a big deal in my opinion, particularly considering my interpretation of Equestria's population distribution. To me the problem is that, out of all the ponies in Equestria, the Mane 6 ended up being in romantic pairs among themselves. That alone reeks of wish fulfillment and self indulgence. Don't get me wrong, I like the pairings and what you're doing with them, but to have them all happening at once in the same universe is a stretch of coincidence. Just Rarity and Fluttershy? Cool. Applejack and Rainbow Dash at the same time? Eh... pushing it. All six at once? I think Cadance might have gone a little overboard this Hearts and Hooves day. Throw in the princesses? I wanna know who brewed the mass-distributed love poison.

Wait, what's more dangerous? Cadance going all Cupid berserk or a love poison en masse?

But as I said in the review, I'm perfectly fine with it since I enjoy a good romance, even those that defy belief. It's the people who don't grin at the idea of shipping by default that I worry about.

4416252
What, don't have a thing for over the top romance?

4416138
We're on the same page there. I can't stand that I have so many stories incomplete right now.

Mm. It's disappointing that PortalJumper's story has gone so long without an update. When I originally read it, it had 3 chapters, so I haven't seen the other 2.

there’s a specific term for this mistake and I can’t recall what it is

Depending on the exact instance of it, it's either a misplaced modifier (Spike does appear in the sentence, but the sitting is in much closer proximity to the eyes, making it seem like they do it) or a dangling participle (Spike doesn't even appear in the clause as a noun, making his eyes the only grammatical option for the sitting action).

4416138
Yes, agree so much. I no longer publish chaptered stories until they're completely written, though I do still dole out the chapters one at a time. My first story was multiple chapters. I posted them as I wrote them, and and one point, I just lost interest in it, and I felt bad about leaving it hanging. I did eventually finish it, but I hated feeling that sense of obligation, plus it's easy to get discouraged by negative comments and not feel like working on it.

I like the pairings and what you're doing with them, but to have them all happening at once in the same universe is a stretch of coincidence. Just Rarity and Fluttershy? Cool. Applejack and Rainbow Dash at the same time? Eh... pushing it. All six at once? I think Cadance might have gone a little overboard this Hearts and Hooves day. Throw in the princesses? I wanna know who brewed the mass-distributed love poison.

I think of every story as its own personal slice of the many worlds theory. In one a chance comment, in another a childhood memory. It all leads to the history of that couple. However improbable, sure, you could have all six paired off perfectly in one, and in another, a love triangle develops. In still another, two pairs and two who find other mates. In still another, two pair off and the rest aren't even interested in romance.

Hey there, thanks for the review!

First of all, rest assured, the story is not dead. It just takes ages to write because I want to make sure what does come out is good quality, not to mention the sheer size of the chapters as of late (there are also IRL issues slowing things down).

I suppose I can address the primary issue and work on the rest from there. No, Wires is not a carbon copy of Spec Ops: The Line. There are a good number of obvious and intentional similarities, but the core of the story has some very clear deviations from the game. Unfortunately, I cannot go into details because those would be spoilers, so all I can ask is that you just hang in there.

The same applies to some of the events that seem "stupid". Once may just be me having a bad day, but notice how a lot of odd things are going on. I suppose I could have communicated things better through my writing, but very little in this story was done unintentionally.

Regarding the flashback sequence, there are some things to keep in mind:

1) We don't have specifics about Equestria's military leadership. So far the only time we've seen a single monarch issued executive orders was during a time of crisis. In peacetime, things may be a lot different, and for the sake of the background of this story, that's what we assumed.

2) This fic assumes Shining only has authority over crystal ponies, and as you may have noticed, their numbers among the troops was not that high. Shining was thus asking for soldiers from Equestria, which means he had to do business with whatever authority was in control of the Royal Guard. Again, there's lots of details that would be spoilers, but let's just look at the tone they employ with Shiny in there. They clearly don't want him to go, so they try to discourage him. When they realize how devoted he is, however, they instead put him through the wringer to see the limits of his resolve. There are also implications that Shining can do things to pressure them, but at the same time, he cannot avoid having to bargain on their terms. So it's not as one-sided as it seems, and there is a reason behind it all.

Yep, I feel you completely on Green, I love how he writes and each one of the relationships on their own is amazing, but with all of them in once fic it keeps things hard to remember. So many little pieces you need to keep in mind, I really wish he had made each one their own fic. I liked Flutters and Rarity, but if you are only interested in that particular ship, then the others just get in the way. I love all of them...well..until the princesses started making it even more convoluted. I am about 8 or 9 chapters behind and I will probably just sit down and re-read the entire thing when it has a 'complete' tag. It's an intense read and I don't want to keep re-reading it to understand what is going on every few months.

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