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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 Posts432

Sep
22nd
2017

Paul's, uh, Friday Reviews? · 10:23pm Sep 22nd, 2017

Well, that's a big fat "oops". It's rather annoying when you spend so much time making damn sure all the necessary stories have been read and reviewed before they're due only to miss the due date because you were distracted. Silly Paul, get your head in the game!

So anyway, I finished the rough draft of Bulletproof Heart Chapter 10, and now I'm on a BPH hiatus while I get some other things done. The hiatus may not last as long as I originally thought, as the editing for the BPH chapters is going faster than I anticipated, but I can't complain about that, now can I? In the meantime, I've finally been convinced by a friend to fork over the dough for a decent interactive timeline creator. I've spent the last week building up a massive Trixie vs. Equestria/No Heroes/Fleur-verse/Bulletproof Heart timeline, which I will later divide into its individual parts. At last, I'll have something concrete and easily navigable to make my stories sync. I should be able to share them with you folks, too! Looking forward to that, but there's still a ways to go before it's ready for prime time.

In other news, The Fourth Season got an honorable mention in Oroboro's contest! I honestly didn't expect it to get anything at all, so I am pleasantly surprised. My endless thanks to Novel-Idea for considering the story worth it.

Last but not least, I've decided to try something out. For the next few weeks (at least), I'm going to be adding a section under each review pointing to other stories by the author that I have reviewed and their ratings. I don't know how useful this will be to my readers. The main reason I'm doing it is as a way to make sure I'm accessing the Author's Scoring spreadsheet with every review. I'll admit I got pretty lazy about it these last few months, and so I fell behind with the scores and all. I'm currently in the process of auditing the spreadsheet, but since I'm only auditing one review blog per day and starting waaaay back when I still did these things on Mondays, it'll probably be a while before the spreadsheet is fully up-to-date. By forcing myself to go back to get data from the spreadsheet with every review, I am constantly reminding myself to keep it updated. Once it's up-to-date again, I might start adding updated author scores/rankings to these reviews as well, but we'll see.

Alright, let's get to the fun stuff: reviews!

Stories for This Week:

VIS_016.evi by JLB
The Order by Bad_Seed_72
A Mother's Love Never Dies by ocalhoun
The New Crop by xjuggernaughtx
The Little Pink Pony by AbsoluteAnonymous
The Mare Who Once Lived on the Moon by MrNumbers
Total Word Count: 192,788

Rating System

Why Haven't You Read These Yet?: 3
Pretty Good: 2
Worth It: 1
Needs Work: 0
None: 0


VIS_016.evi

3,474 Words
JLB failed to provide cover art.

This was… interesting. VIS_16.evi is a first person story in which an unnamed individual spends his time watching all of Equestria with hidden cameras, searching for some creature he can turn into the next great evil. This fiend has a network beyond comprehension, capable even of getting his cameras into secure places like the Everfree Forest, top secret griffon military bases, and Princess Luna’s bedroom. The villain seems to believe that he is part of some higher purpose, or perhaps even possessing a supernatural existence. It’s impossible to tell whether this belief is accurate or merely a product of madness.

VIS_016.evi is frightening in concept, but not in content. Imagine it, a psychopath able to see you no matter where you go in the entire world, even your most private sanctuary, and able to murder you with the push of a button. And the only reason he hasn’t is because he wants to get someone else to do it for him. Given time to really think on the implications, it’s pretty scary stuff.

But JLB approaches the subject with blinders on our emotional senses, never bothering to let us get into the atmosphere of the scene. It can be argued that this is to be expected from a creature that may not understand emotions as we do, except that the villain is actually shown to lose his temper at one point.

Wait, he did? How? When did this start? You have no way of knowing, because the moment you learn about it is the moment he bangs on his keyboard and tells us – yes, tells us – he’s upset.

And that’s why there’s nothing scary within the writing of this story. If your character has to tell us his emotional state for us to recognize it, you’re doing it wrong.

Again, I’m thinking this manner is intentional on JLB’s part. It’s shown, clearly, that JLB knows how to give a character some emotion with the appearance of a few characters that are being watched. The rare bits of dialogue are good, even without much in the way of external physical description. This tells me that JLB probably knows what he’s doing.

But I felt as though the caveat of creating an alien narrator unable to present emotions to us is too great. I suppose it can be said that making the entire story be told in an unorthodox way heightens the confusion and anxiety. Like the narrator’s targets, however, most people will look at what is being presented to them and react in all the wrong ways from what is desired.

Kudos where it’s due. JLB tried something different. Perhaps this was meant to be an experiment. It could be that I’m simply not the proper audience, because it’s clear that people like it. Heck, I’m not even saying this is a bad story. I just can’t help thinking the choice of delivery method is flawed.

Bookshelf: Worth It

Preview stories reviewed for this author:

Amnesia: To Err — WHYRTY?


The Order

11,693 Words
By Bad_Seed_72

Welcome to an Equestria at peace, but without Harmony. A world that clearly has no wendigoes, as it is a world where racism, bigotry and hatred not only run rampant, but are happily legalized by the crown in the form of a corrupt caste system. And, as is so often the case in the real world, not a soul in power is aware of the inherent wrongness of their culture.

Flash Sentry grew up in this world. The stallions in his family have always served as Royal Guards, and so that is what he must be, regardless of his own desires. Any deviation from this is not just frowned upon, it’s illegal. And Flash has put up with that, stoically, as he is expected to. In fact, he’s done such a good job that the presiding captain of the Royal Guard has rewarded him with a new assignment: he will be the guard stationed in the newly crowned Princess of Magic’s royal court.

The problem? Flash Sentry secretly loves Princess Twilight Sparkle. It’s not legal. It is above his station. Celestia would tell him he is confused by something that isn’t real love, and no doubt Cadance and Luna would agree. But it is there nonetheless. And now he has to spend eight hours a day alone with her in the throne room.

The first thing you have to do with this story is forget everything you know about pony culture as given to us by the show. In fact, it is abundantly clear to me that none of the events of the show are canon to this AU, as a great many of the things we know from it are impossible under the foul system that this AU utilizes. I think it’s reasonable to assume none or most of the Mane 6 have even met in this version. Only if you can totally disassociate yourself from everything you know and love about the show that makes this universe a horrible abomination can you succeed in appreciating what the author is attempting to do here. That will be a tough pill to swallow for some of you.

It was for me.

But once you’ve come to accept the foulness that is this AU, you can take part in a lovely tragedy. We have no choice but to watch as Flash Sentry goes about his first day in his new position, fighting with everything he’s got not to let his feelings be known to anypony around him. Putting up with the scheming bigot who will probably end up marrying Twilight in the near future by virtue of race and station. Listening to Celestia openly refer to interracial love as abhorrent in the eyes of Equestria. He observes all this evil around him…

And puts up with it. Because that is all he can do.

It is heart wrenching, but it is lovely by being so. This is a story that requires the reader to have be able to accept and even appreciate the pain (that or just hate Flash Sentry, which I’ve heard is an easy thing for a lot of people). Happy ending and feel good crusaders need not apply.

I suppose I should conclude this with a note that, while I absolutely consider this to be an evil system, a lot of people will disagree with me. Heck, I can think of a few reasonable arguments on my own that I would begrudgingly acknowledge as a half-justification for what Celestia and Luna have created. So take that as you will. “It’s just their culture.”; “They’re trying to keep Discord at bay.”; “It’s all they’ve known for a millennia.”

However one chooses to interpret this AU, it doesn’t put a dent in the fact that this is a pleasantly agonizing story of unattainable love.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good

Preview stories reviewed for this author:

Between the Lines — Pretty Good
Elegy of Emptiness — Pretty Good
Just Like Her — Pretty Good


There have been many stories attempting to specify what happened to Chrysalis and the changelings immediately after their defeat in A Canterlot Wedding, but this is the first I’ve read that treats the subject with the seriousness it deserves. In it, we find Chrysalis coming to in a dark, lifeless valley. Her body is broken and the dying remains of her hive are scattered beyond salvation. Upon realizing that some of her children are nearby, she begins the arduous task of trying to save them.

I think nothing is quite so troubling in this story as the thought that as Chrysalis watches everything she loves crumble to dust, there are ponies in Canterlot celebrating. Keeping that in mind really turns the screws and ratchets up the sympathy for Best Bad Pony (Best Bad Bug?).

The story is well written and paints a delightfully tragic scene of a once great queen driven to desperation. There’s not much I can say about it other than that it is a wonderful bit of sadfic. There’s only one problem: where’s the sequel, ocalhoun? Seriously, you’ve had three years to do what obviously needs to be done, and nothing? For shame. Guess we’ll have to explore what – ughother writers did.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good!

Preview stories reviewed for this author:

A Rose for Luna — Pretty Good
The Unfortunate Stabbing of Nurse Redheart — Worth It
Unicorn Horns are Made of Candy — Pretty Good


The New Crop

15,885 Words
By xjuggernaughtx
Recommended by Titanium Dragon

Ponies boxing? Seems kinda silly to me. But then, Titanium Dragon recommended it, and that’s not someone whose recommendations should be ignored. So…

In this AU, the Apple Family never founded ponyville, but instead tried to make their living in Appleloosa. This proved to be a colossal mistake, with one bad thing happening after the other. The only ones smart enough to keep the farm afloat were Big Mac’s father and his sister Applejack, but they’re gone, taken away by a disease that passed through the town years ago. With the farm unable to support itself, Big McIntosh turns to something else for the family’s survival.

Big Mac repeatedly lets us know that he shares my feelings regarding the nonsense of two ponies standing upright to fight one another, so that eases the disbelief a bit. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that xjuggernaughtx pulled off the concept to the best one can expect, even to the point of it factoring into the nature of the fight. I know as much about boxing as I do about astrophysics – not much at all – but even I can see the effort taken by the author to make this concept feel as legitimate as possible.

And with that hurdle out of the way, we are left with a story that is one part breathless action and all heartbreaking. Big Mac’s battle against Blueblood is hard on him, and not just physically. We are forced to watch as a good stallion, a pony who never wanted to hurt anyone for any reason, finds himself doing exactly that for a living. Every round is a detailed showcase of pain, determination, strategy and even a bit of brute force. It’s far more riveting than I expected, because this is as much about Big Mac and the world he’s grown up in as it is the fight.

And it’s made all the more tragic at the end, when you get to see just how badly this new life is hurting the Apples.

xjuggernaughtx has painted a vivid picture with this one, folks. It deserves to be observed and studied. There’s no small amount of skill on display, from vivid depictions, pitch-perfect pacing, an enviable sense of realism, and the heavy blow of emotions. This is easily the best I’ve read by this author.

Bookshelf: Why Haven’t You Read These yet?

Preview stories reviewed for this author:

Indigo Hooves — Pretty Good
Awaken, Scootaloo — Pretty Good


Written before the arrival of Maud Pie or the official naming of Pinkie’s family members, this story takes a serious look at how Pinkie went from a miserable foal on a rock farm to Ponyville’s premier party pony. It’s not half as happy as you’ve been led to believe.

As far as Pinkie origin stories centered around Pinkabuse are concerned, this is easily the best I’ve ever read. It tells of a Pinkie who feels as if she doesn’t belong and isn’t wanted in her own home. It focuses heavily on her mother Sue, but it’s hard to tell if she legitimately hates Pinkie. It’s possible she does care for her child but simply has no idea how to show it. I do think her siblings care for her given what we see, but the attempt made to reach out comes too late to make a difference.

And so we end up watching as filly Pinkie descends into a madness of self-loathing, desperate for any sign that she is loved and belongs. It’s heart wrenching, especially when you see the (unwitting) extremes she goes to to fix her ‘pink problem.’ And worst of all, every bit of it is perfectly believable.

Traumatic, but also engrossing, this is easily the best AbsoluteAnonymous story I’ve read so far. Provided you’re okay with reading about a Pinkie succumbing to isolation and loneliness, it’s a solid sadfic. It even comes up with a great reasoning for the “Pinkamena” alternate personality that the fandom is so fond of, and that’s no small feat.

Bookshelf: Why Haven’t You Read These Yet?

Preview stories reviewed for this author:
A Million Things to Do — Pretty Good
Diamond in the Rough — Needs Work
Pinkie Watches Paint Dry — WHYRTY?
Shipping Goggles — Pretty Good


The Mare Who Once Lived on the Moon

149,195 Words
By MrNumbers
Completed Story

After the betrayal of Nightmare Moon, Princess Celestia became the Princess of Mourning. Equestria is an empire of conquest, control and misery as its ruler seeks to eliminate all threats under the view that all creatures are inherently selfish and cruel – a view that the princess demonstrates almost daily.

Enter Twilight Sparkle, Celestia’s former student and arch-nemesis, but also the Royal Philosopher. In other words, the only pony in Equestria allowed to openly criticize every move Celestia makes and get away with it. Even paid for it. Apparently Celestia enjoys the anger Twilight induces in her.

Always ahead of her time, Twilight elects to do something nopony has ever done before: turn her library into the first ever astronomical observatory. With the massive undertaking complete, she and Spike decide the first test will be to look at the moon. Simple enough. What neither of them expect is to find a pony already living up there. Awkward thing, that.

MrNumbers has crafted something special here, demonstrating a worldbuilding prowess that would make many authors jealous. We are greeted by an entirely new Equestria set within a steampunk world of rapid technological advancement. All our favorite characters have had their places reimagined even as they maintain all the things that keep them familiar, from an Applejack struggling to keep her farm from succumbing to modern expectations, to a cynical and untrusting Fluttershy willing and even eager to break the law if it means others can live better. My personal favorite is the witty socialite Rarity, whose endless verbal stings and scandalously flirty disposition kept me smiling with every scene she appeared in, especially if that scene included Applejack.

Smoothly paced and well written (poor comma use aside), The Mare Who Once Lived on the Moon is a fun ride about technological ingenuity, political sneakery, and an epic journey to the stars using slightly more recognizable means than a rainbow road. It is also a love story. While the romance itself is more than a little farfetched, for once that only adds to the charm. Combine that with an effective use of the cliffhanger and you’ve got a story that’s hard to put down.

Throw into all of this a slew of cultural and historical references, some of which I am sure passed right over my head. Most notable to me is the battle to protect an unwitting Nikola Tesla (Pinkie) from a ponified Thomas Edison. A stroke of genius, that bit. On a related note, I fully expect there to be a sequel in which Rainbow and Pinkie, with an army of Scootaclones, get lost in some jungle hunting a giant bird and fighting back the do-gooder meddling of an old stallion and his grandcolt in a floating house. Bonus points if the real Scootaloo betrays them.

The one thing that stuck with me in a negative way is the final confrontation with Celestia. The solution that came up felt like an unimaginative rush job, and all I could think the entire time was how? All the rest of the things that happened managed at least enough explanation to keep my disbelief well in check, but not that time. It almost feels like MrNumbers realized he’d not left room for a chance to make sense of the situation and decided not to bother going back to the last chapter to fix it. But that’s just speculation.

I’d also love to know why it is nobody in the status quo is saying anything about how things turned out. It seems like a change this drastic would come with some rioting, furious accusations and perhaps an attempted coup. To see it happen with society taking it peaceably in a world that is anything but peaceful seems to be stretching it.

Still, it’s a couple road bumps in almost 150,000 words of awesome, so I’ll let them slide. Well written, smart, nicely paced and fascinating from a worldbuilding standpoint, this is not a story to ignore.

Bookshelf: Why Haven’t You Read These Yet?


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

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Comments ( 18 )

Which interactive timeline creator did you decide on?

Last but not least, I've decided to try something out. For the next few weeks (at least), I'm going to be adding a section under each review pointing to other stories by the author that I have reviewed and their ratings. I don't know how useful this will be to my readers. 

I, for one, think this is a great idea. It'll give an immediate stepping stone of "Oh, that sounds go—Hey! Look at those!"

This is easily the best I’ve read by this author.

It's certainly the best one that I've written thus far, though a few chapters of Cheerilee's Thousand have been pretty good, as well.

I'm glad that you liked this one. It's my favorite by a mile.

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

I like that listing of other stories you've reviewed by the author. :D For your own sake, if nothing else, I'd suggest you make it no more than three apiece.

Wait, it isn’t Friday? Darn timezones.

4675648
4675687
And the epic fail that comes when I realize I transposed "preview" in every instance instead of "previous". :facehoof:

Three apiece? I was thinking five. Guess it depends upon how much extra time I want to use up with the process.

4675705
No, it's definitely Friday. That's the problem. :ajbemused:

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

4675727
Also, do you want it to be the most recently reviewed, picked randomly for authors you've reviewed a lot of...

4675751
Actually, I'm thinking of doing the ones with the highest ratings from me. Randomized if there's a whole bunch with my higher ratings.

Alternatively, I could go for a balanced approach, a means of showing the highs and the lows. Could be an encouragement to the lesser knowns out there: "Hey, this guy wrote terrible stories once, and look at him now!"

4675727
Then I'm afraid I have literally no clue what you're griping about.

4675849
Well, head down to the bottom of the blog at the list of prior review blogs. Follow a few of the links.

On what day do the vast majority of the blogs appear? I'll give you a hint: it ain't Friday.

4675858
:facehoof::facehoof::facehoof::facehoof:

I feel like an idiot now

Burnout got to me yeah. That and a lot of things that were very obvious inside my head that weren't so obvious outside of it

The "also reviewed" thing is cool, though yeah, a fair amount of extra work. If you're determined to have it be an ongoing thing, you might want to have another column of the spreadsheet that stores the pre-assembled "also reviewed" entries/bbcode so that you can copy-and-paste next time you review that author?

4677598
Hmm...

Actually, I can do one better. GDocs doesn't have all the same functionality as Excel, but if it has the right commands available then I might be able to create an automated system where I need only enter an author's name and the spreadsheet spits out the necessary coding for me. I used to do the same thing in Excel when I needed to produce extremely long and repetitive lines of code to be copied into a text file. Trick would be getting the VLOOKUP to function correctly, but I've got a few tricks to get around that already...

And now you've got me puzzling out Excel code, one of my old addictions. Still, it's a great idea.

4677598
That proved even easier than I expected. I now have an automated system in the Author Scoring spreadsheet where I need only input a name and it will give me a list of all stories by that author I've reviewed, what the ratings were, links to the reviews, and a final readout of how it should appear in the blog. Now all I have to do is copy-paste the readout and manually apply the review link.

Great idea, horizon! I knew I kept you around for a reason. :trollestia:

4677643
Man, if I'd known it was going to be that easy, I would have suggested something cooler -- like "use Markov chaining and predictive text algorithms to automatically add a review of a Horizon story to each new review set." :trollestia:

Glad to be of service, though!

Little late to the show, but... hey! You liked Little Pink Pony! Yanno, I was afraid you’d roll your eyes at it being another Pinkabuse story or something. As I understand, or think I understand, AA was writing mostly to get through a hard time in her life, and was as such only active for about a year or two at the very beginning of the fandom. Her works are very much all over the place.

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