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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!"

More Blog Posts469

  • Monday
    On the Bulletproof Heart

    No, no, wait! Put away those torches and pitchforks, I promise BPH is still in production.

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    35 comments · 394 views
  • 1 week
    Paul's Thursday Reviews CCXX

    Wanting to be a “good son”, I elected to stay at my parents’ place for the Labor Day weekend to help them clean up the damage from Hurricane Laura. Luckily, Dad had prepared for these kinds of events ages ago; they had a gas-powered generator strong enough to keep the water flowing, keep the lights on, the refrigerator humming, and run two window-unit air conditioners in place of the central

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    14 comments · 368 views
  • 2 weeks
    Paul's Thursday Reviews CCXIX

    You know what my greatest weakness is? It’s video games. When I was a kid my parents bought me and my sister an NES, and I was all over that thing. In my teenage years it wasn’t uncommon for me to spend 18-20 hours a day playing games. My parents found the best way to punish me for anything was to just hide them. It was certainly an unhealthy obsession. The things I considered achievements

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    20 comments · 393 views
  • 3 weeks
    Paul's Thursday Reviews CCXVIII

    Before anyone asks, no, I’m unaffected by Hurricane Laura. I’d call it “dry as a bone”, but the humidity in the area would make me eat those words.

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    18 comments · 349 views
  • 4 weeks
    Paul's Thursday Reviews CCXVII

    Hello again, all you horsefans. It seems I’ve been losing a lot of time this month, with reasons ranging from burnout to vacations to a sudden onset of Starbound Obsession, but as of this week I’m finally starting to turn the ol’ grindstone again. My top priority remains BPH, but I’m also working on a few other projects. After much indecision and uncertainty, I’ve set my sights on finishing that

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    23 comments · 353 views
Sep
14th
2017

Paul's Thursday Reviews LXXXVII · 10:49pm Sep 14th, 2017

Sometimes, progress calls for sacrifices. In this case, that sacrifice is my writing schedule.

In the last few weeks, it has become clear to me that side projects will never be completed so long as I am devoting every writing moment to my three ongoing stories. As such, the only way I can actually finish said side projects is to stop writing those stories completely, at least for a little while. This I have elected to do.

Once I finish Chapter 10 of Bulletproof Heart, all three of my main projects will come to a halt. During that time I'll finally work on the edits for Derp, will write my second contest entry for the Barcast's "Make Rarity Not Garbage" contest (because I can do that), take the time to go over the first ten chapters of Bulletproof Heart with my advisors, and do some edits for a friend I've been falling behind on. I expect these things to keep me busy for a few weeks, after which work will resume as normal.

Alas, this means no updates for Order of Shadows past this weekend, but it does mean two new stories. Eventually.

In the meantime, I'm considering branching into a different area of the fandom I've yet to explore. Specifically, I'm considering commissioning a video. Problem is, I have no idea if that's financially feasible. Worse, I have zero experience with this medium, so I don't even know who I might turn to to ask.

So I'm turning to you guys. Anyone out there know of some video makers in the fandom who do quality work and take commissions? I need to do some window shopping. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

Now, let's get to what you're all here for.

Stories for This Week:

A Different Breed by LightningBass94
Discordant by ezra09
Being Neighborly by JMac
Daring Do and the Secret of the Sunken City by 8686
The Cloudsdale Report by Novel-Idea
Total Word Count: 196,772

Rating System

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


Former general Glistening Spear gets caught in a storm in the Badlands and crashes. Luckily for her, a couple of well-meaning dragons happen to have witnessed it and are willing to help her out. Unfortunately, by rescuing her they have also sealed her doom.

A Different Breed is little more than a Spike origin story. It might be considered AU, but that depends upon your perspective. Its concept is pretty basic, being neither imaginative or original. That being said, the author handles the tale decently enough. The plot makes sense for the most part, save that I can’t believe Glistening Spear’s actions didn’t result in the deaths of everypony in Canterlot.

No, the only serious complaint I have is the exposition, as there is a lot of it. The opening scene is the worst about this. It sets us right in the middle of a death-defying flight in the middle of a hurricane. Should be exciting, thrilling and fast-paced, right?

Apparently not; LightningBass94 chooses now to go on a lengthy spiel about who Glistening Spear is, what she’s done in her life, and why she is where she is. Talk about kill the mood. It’s also pointless, seeing as everything the narrative explains to us could have easily been delivered in at least two different and vastly superior ways, such as when Celestia discusses her with Spike at the end of the story.

I’m willing to forgive the story’s lack of originality, but the exposition killed it for me. Without that we might have had a strong story on our hands, but as it is?

Bookshelf: Worth It


Discordant

43,404 Words
By ezra09

Few stories have challenged my fairness quite like this one. It’s got a lot of unpleasantness that doesn’t fit with cannon today, but since the story was released between seasons 2 and 3 one must accept the facts as they were known at the time. This is… not easy.

In Discordant, Discord discovers that the Elements of Harmony were imperfect when wielded by Twilight and her friends because they had yet to perfect friendship themselves. This gave him just enough wiggle room to manipulate the world around him in subtle ways, and so he plans his escape. To this end, he starts communicating with Scootaloo, who in this story is homeless. Abusing her loneliness and foal-like fears, he convinces her that he is her friend and, in time, to help free him. Thus he begins creating his own Elements of Disharmony with Scootaloo at the helm.

To be fair, the Elements chosen to represent disharmony make perfect sense. Does anyone doubt that pre-Season 5 Gilda or Chrysalis would be willing to join this insidious little group? Back then nobody ever expected Diamond Tiara to straighten up, and why should they? I’m even willing to accept that this incarnation of Scootaloo, being only a filly and under very difficult circumstances, could be manipulated into helping Discord.

Spike? Yeah, that’s pretty sketchy to me, especially considering we’d already gone through Owl’s Well That Ends Well by this time.

Still, all in all ezra09 did a decent job. The corruption of the chosen characters didn’t happen overnight but took several months, which adds to the overall believability. The effect all of this had on the Mane 6 and the princesses is also fairly believable overall. As much as I don’t like certain aspects, based on the knowledge of the time the author did an okay job.

With one notable exception.

Alright, so Luna was tricked into doing some bad things because of nightmares. I kept having to remind myself that there was no evidence of her mastery of dreams until Season 3, and so this was reasonable for ezra09 to do at the time. I hate it, but I must acknowledge it as acceptable and move on. So no, this isn’t what really ruffles my feathers.

Am I really expected to believe that Luna, sister of Celestia and co-ruler of Equestria, would willingly and intentionally sabotage the one thing keeping Discord and Chrysalis from conquering Equestria because she thought they weren’t actually going to do that? There is no excuse for this, except perhaps in this universe Luna is dumber than a sack of bricks. This insults my intelligence, and hers. I don’t care that they had something to hold over her head that played to her fears, Luna’s not going to betray Equestria and her sister over it, and she’s not stupid enough to think that the worst bad guys in the at-the-time history of Equestria weren’t going jump at the opportunity.

Everything else in the story? Don’t like it, but they aren’t wrong given everything established in-story. Luna’s mistake is the one area where no excuses may be offered in the author’s defense. And since I was already frustrated with this from the beginning, it just lit the fire of my smoldering mood.

But is Discordant a bad story?

No. Actually, it’s pretty good from beginning to end. ezra09 handled the material well, dancing around unpleasant character decisions with a certain contextual believability that is hard to deny. Most of the events that occur make sense, the writing is decent save for a few paragraphs of needless explaining (yes, Scootaloo, we get why you’re mad at Rainbow, you don’t have to explain it to us for a fourth time), and there’s a distinct twist in the gut as one watches everything falling apart. Ignoring Luna’s not-Luna-at-all mistake, the only real issue I have is the ending, which fumbled the pacing by being a bit too fast.

After all, I think we all want to know what really happens to Scootaloo. There’s a confrontation that should have been had, and its blatant non-existence is frustrating.

So yes, Discordant is a good story. It has a few bumps and one glaring slipup in the form of Luna. You have to keep in mind when it was written, but so long as you can do that, it’s worth the read.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good


Being Neighborly

5,003 Words
JMac's cover art is broken! Might wanna fix that, bro.
Recommended by Pascoite

I’m willing to bet the vast majority of you young whippersnappers have no idea what Mayberry is, or understand why I feel it’s a shame JMac has as much respect for Mr. Fife as Hasbro apparently does for Mr. The Dragon. But that’s okay, this is still an entertaining little story.

How many of you are aware of Night Vale?

In Being Neighborly, we are introduced to Sheriff May Berry of Eutaw County, a quiet little locale situated on the rail line to Appleloosa and the rest of Equestria. Nothing important ever happens in Eutaw County, of course. Just ignore the ‘super secret military base’ atop the butte and the strange visitors that sometimes show up like Mr. Counter. Sheriff Berry keeps an eye on things, and does her best to be neighborly.

This is both an endearing little throwback to a show time forgot, complete with a pleasant smoke screen for darker dealings under nondescript tables (possibly involving lots of cacti). May makes for a great Andy, and I applaud JMac for getting the tone and mentality of the ol’ sheriff just right. Not to mention Aunt Bee. Sadly, I think a lot of that charm will probably be lost to those younger than, say, 25, and that’s stretching it.

But fear not, you energetic youths with your eye-phones and your global bedwarmer hypothewhatevers! This here’s a story that doesn’t require an understanding of the source material to have fun. Sheriff Berry’s casual attitude towards the Sisterhood of the Sharp Tongue, Barney’s loyal nose and the casual banter of villain regarding pony culture keep this story warm and lighthearted. The regular hints of not-so-neighborly goings-on in Eutaw County provide a tongue-in-cheek background noise to keep it all running and make you wonder after the credits have metaphorically rolled (much like Night Vale).

With smooth pacing, entertaining banter both small town and jocularly serious, and enough throwback to keep those in the know chuckling for a good while, Being Neighborly is a pitch perfect tale. It’s easily the best JMac story I’ve read so far.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good!


8686 has come a very long way since the SHITopening of Eclipse.

Several years ago, Daring Do/A.K. Yearling came upon a mysterious underground ruin. Not only did it nearly kill her (like so many), but this one actually thwarted her by refusing to give up its secrets. Now, Yearling learns that arch-nemesis Dr. Caballeron has also found this ruin and intends to go on an expedition. She can’t let him steal her find, but she also can’t best the ruins on her own. The situation leaves her with only one choice, an option that scares her more than anything she’s ever had to face before:

Asking for help.

This author has at this point more than redeemed themselves from the horrid opener of that first story with such gems as Run for the Roses and The Great Ponyville Snowball Fight. Here 8686 returns to the epic adventure story and demonstrates a skill worth paying attention to. It features great Twilight Sparkle and Rainbow Dash characterizations, clear and interesting character building for our adventurous protagonist, a skilled hand at worldbuilding without the extrapolation, and an endearing tongue-in-cheek style of self-criticism and self-awareness. Add to that the regular use of details and description that not only grows the world we are uncovering, but which consistently proves useful down the line.

In summation, this is some expertly crafted escapism.

I did note a few curiosities. For example, a major part of the story focuses on a lengthy trial/trap that cannot be beaten – indeed, one cannot even give up and turn back – except as a team. Except… someone did. Very clearly, someone did. It’s right there, staring all of them in the face: someone escaped this trial by breaking the rules. And nobody – not even Twilight or Daring Do – noticed. I kept waiting for the sudden “Hey, waitaminute!”, but it never came.

That’s pretty much the only serious issue I had with the story. Everything else? Solid gold.

Oh, but wait, there is one niggling little issue that is not story-related, but with the writing. To quote:

“Doc? What are you doing?” “I admit, I was slow on the uptake. I simply could not figure it out.

What you are seeing is two lines of dialogue in the same paragraph. Epic no-no if ever I saw one, and it happens with surprising frequency.

In 8686’s defense, I don’t think this is their fault. After the latest major FIMFiction update, I’ve been noticing a number of formatting irregularities. This is probably just another one of them. At this point I’m strongly considering going through my own stories and seeing if it’s happening in any of them, because it looks like crap.

But ignoring those two issues? 8686 has crafted an awesome adventure story that deserves only my highest rating. I am greatly looking forward to their next outing in the MLP universe and lament that this author has so few viewers. I also aim to read the side-story(ies?) of this AU as soon as I can, because that epilogue sparks my curiosity.

Bookshelf: Why Haven’t You Read These Yet?


And so we return to the AU in which Sunset never left Equestria and is in a steady recovery to becoming what Twilight Sparkle is in the show. We left off with Sunset introducing her new friend Twilight Sparkle of the Royal Archives to Princess Celestia.

In The Cloudsdale Report, we learn that this is not the first time Celestia has seen Twilight Sparkle. The last time was eight years ago, in a presumed hoax from Cloudsdale. Supposedly, a new alicorn and a flying unicorn cast some kind of temporal spell beyond comprehension. Suddenly, Celestia isn’t so sure it was a hoax…

Obviously, we now know for sure that this is one of the alternate timelines created by Starlight at the end of Season 5. And if you’re paying any attention whatsoever, you’ll read between the lines and realize exactly which timeline this is. Which brings about a sudden, fresh horror: nothing we’re reading matters, because Equestria is already doomed. Or if not Equestria, at least Celestia.

But probably Equestria.

If Novel-Idea continues to expand upon this universe to its inevitable conclusion, we could end up with something not only extremely tragic, but also with the potential to be an awesome multi-story epic. Now it’s just a matter of seeing if the author’s ambition matches the possibilities. Looking at the other stories set in this universe, I’m not encouraged that Novel-Idea intends to go this potentially awesome route, but one can hope.

Ah, but I’ve misspoke (misswritten?). If the author does get to the inevitable conclusion of this universe, then perhaps what we are seeing matters more than ever. After all, there’s nothing saying the characters we’re used to seeing as heroes will be so in this timeline. In fact, the author has given us every reason to believe otherwise, and not without good reason given what we know about the timeline from the show. The bad news? At some point in this AU things are going to get way worse, and there's no guarantee things will ever get better.

But this is all hypotheses, and I’m getting ahead of myself regardless. The Cloudsdale Report is well written (as expected of this author) and gets to the point much more quickly than its two predecessors. As you can see from my above speculation, it also brings forth a lot more to think about in regards to this universe. It completes the picture set by the prior two stories, and thus is absolutely necessary for anyone who has read them.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this so far. Continued worldbuilding, a look at the inner workings of Celestia, a complementary view of her relationship with her trusted associate Raven, a brief glance at the potentially darker inner machinations of Equestrian security, all tied into a timeline that makes one realize just how terrible things are destined to become – even as Celestia herself has no clue (which only makes it scarier).

This is one of those stories that makes you wish you could teleport straight into Celestia’s room and tell her “Hey, you know that thing you’re completely ignoring because it’s ‘no big deal?’ Yeah, better take a closer look, ‘cause you’re about to get bitch slapped so hard.”

In conclusion, The Cloudsdale Report is a great final to an introductory story arc that is on the whole fascinating, thought-provoking, and more than a little frightening. It takes what has been introduced in the other two and puts it all together in a way that suddenly makes everything so very clear. More than anything, I want to read the rest of the stories set in this universe and see if Novel-Idea has any intention at all of taking it where we all know it’s going. If so, it may end up being one of the best franchises this site has to offer.

I await The Alchemy of Chemistry with great anticipation.

Bookshelf: Why Haven’t You Read These Yet?


Paul's Thursday Reviews LXXXIII
Paul's Thursday Reviews LXXXIV
New Groups, The Barcast, and Hurricanes (Oh, and Reviews)
Paul's Thursday Reviews LXXXV
Paul's Thursday Reviews LXXXVI
You Are Here
Paul's, uh, Friday Reviews?
Paul's Thursday Reviews LXXXVIII
Paul's Thursday Reviews LXXXIX
Paul's Thursday Reviews XC
Paul's Thursday Reviews XCI

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Comments ( 5 )

Interesting that you didn't like "Eclipse." Or at least the beginning of it. It's one of those rare beasts that's in the Royal Canterlot Library but not on Equestria Daily, so there's at least one other significant example of divided opinions.

Ah, and "Discordant." I haven't read it. But what I wanted to point out is that you're recommending a story you didn't like. Not many reviewers can do that. Not many even grasp the concept. I know, because I've asked them directly, and they responded that this is essentially a paradox. But to me, it's a very subtle yet fundamental thing a good reviewer must be able to do. And there are my two cents deposited in a corner of the fandom far from the reviewing kerfuffle that's apparently been going on lately. Keep up the good work.

4668572
Eclipse isn't a bad story on the whole. In fact, it's pretty good. But I've long singled out that SHITopening premise as the single worst I've ever seen. The sheer badness of it defies my capacity for comprehension.

But yeah, you ignore that part and the rest of it is great.

Oh, I definitely didn't like Discordant, but I also realized that almost all my reasons to do so are subjective. I've been struggling lately to find a better balance in how I review and rate stories as criticisms occasionally pop up, and this one was an example of that inner battle. It's good to know that my ongoing efforts to be as fair as possible are being recognized. So thanks for that.

4668572
I agree: being able to recommend something you don't like because you recognise your misgivings are likely in the minority takes more developed self-awareness than most people have.

Also, I might just have to read some of Novel's work...

Ever since you put Cloudsdale on that Bookshelf, I have been eagerly awaiting this moment (I may have squealed at a very high volume when I got that notification). Heck, even back when you started Applications, I couldn't wait to see your reaction. I'm delighted (and not the least surprised) that you connected the dots!

Hopefully, it should encourage you that I presently have 111K words into the grand finale of the Wavelengths Timeline dealing with the outcome of all of this. With the Origins Arc finally wrapping up, I can move past the events in Cloudsdale and show what happens next! It'll take me a while to get to the finish line, but the ambition's there!

Sometimes I need help with motivation though. Stuff like this? It does wonders for that. :pinkiehappy:

THANK YOU! :heart:

4669010

Hopefully, it should encourage you that I presently have 111K words into the grand finale of the Wavelengths Timeline dealing with the outcome of all of this.

:pinkiecrazy:

Is it weird that I'm looking forward to a painful experience? At least at the start of this. By the Sisters, I really do have Rainbow's tendency for self-flagellation. :applejackunsure:

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