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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
8th
2018

Paul's Thursday Reviews CIV · 10:13pm Feb 8th, 2018

My bout of productivity continues. It's starting to feel 'normal' at this point. Which is great, because it means I can churn out material so much faster than I was before. Which makes me wonder if I shouldn't adjust my release schedule, which is currently shared among all my stories. At the moment it's set on a weekend basis, but that puts me a month ahead of schedule. Eh, nah. I think I'll keep it as is and just release early when I feel like it. The only story that's going to be releasing material regularly anyway is Life of Pie; everything else is waiting to be finished first.

Not much to say this week, folks. Competing in contests, getting the cover art for BPH set up, and trying to maintain a consistent wordcount are pretty much all I've got going on at the moment. Let's just jump straight to the reviews, shall we?

Stories for This Week:

Reach by ToixStory
Kilowatt Hour Builds an Industrial-Sized Pet Hairdryer by Pegasus Rescue Brigade
Feeling That Way and Anytime by Super Trampoline
I'll Love You Forever by The Wizard of Words
A Ruler's Regret Never Fades by Chapter 13

Total Word Count: 98,816

Rating System

Why Haven't You Read These Yet?: 0
Pretty Good: 0
Worth It: 4
Needs Work: 1
None: 0


Reach

75,254 Words
By ToixStory

Many authors reach for the epic story treatment. Not all of them pull it off, but I’ll never fault them for trying.

ToixStory, the same author who gave us the fun-but-flawed Feeze Frame, takes on an entirely different tune with this one. Set a hundred thousand years after the events of the show in a world where magic doesn’t exist and there is only one kind of pony, Reach puts us in the hooves of one Starlight. Starlight is a grumpy, snappy pony who, despite being in her 20’s, seems to be stuck in ‘angsty teenager’ mode. Her life gets thrown for a loop whenever Teton’s Internal Security starts rounding up her family for reasons she can’t fathom, and she soon finds herself thrown into a race to escape capture alongside her boss and family friend, Stetson. In the meantime, the Crystal Heart has been unearthed by an archeology team. Magic is suddenly reappearing, and is making itself known by bringing forth the first unicorns, pegasi and earth ponies in the history of ever (as far as these ponies are aware).

If that seems like a lot to take in, don’t worry; it’s not near as complicated as it sounds.

Reach is ToixStory’s attempt at creating a lasting epic. It involves a cross-country journey, frequent action featuring supposedly evil national organizations, and ultimate clashes of good vs. evil in potential world-shattering magical battles. Sounds like a ton of fun, right?

Well, yes. If you’re here for an action adventure, this may be right up your alley.

Buuut…

The story suffers from a number of issues. First and foremost is character development, or the lack thereof. Starlight starts off as an angsty teenager in an adult’s body. By the end, she’s not that anymore, but there’s no clear reason why she’s not. She just suddenly became the paragon of platonic pony affection because… the plot called for it, I suppose?

Then we have Sunny, who is supposed to be a major character but grows in no way whatsoever and doesn’t get enough screen time overall for us to understand or appreciate her. Or Red, who is the Han Solo of the team (literally, several of his lines are directly ripped off of Star Wars in about as unsubtle a way as possible), whose entire existence circles around ‘he’s a smuggler and he protects Starlight’. There’s Sunrise, the old and retired drug dealer who became a pegasus and is largely just along for the ride.

Even the things that should have been huge character building moments don’t amount to anything. Starlight’s father is found to be aiding the IS. Obviously, Starlight feels betrayed. Then they get a moment alone together without government goons hovering nearby and… nothing? No deep, meaningful conversation? No accusations, no attempt at justification, we’re just moving on to the next scene? Well, alright then.

ToixStory does win some points for the style of the story’s villain and, most interesting to me, the fact that the ponies who seem like the bad guys all along are really just as confused and trying to do the right thing as the heroes. It seems that one of the major themes of the story is that even ponies who do bad things aren’t necessarily bad themselves. I am perfectly okay with this, especially since it melds well with the final battle’s arguments over the inherent good or evil of the species.

But that’s also one of the failures of the story: the climax. ToixStory tried to create this epic moment where an entire city comes together in mutual love, tolerance, and understanding to defeat the villain. I find this a hard pill to swallow, especially since it relies on us trusting in the overarching goodwill and unity of every pony present. Since we don’t know a thing about any of them, I can only have my doubts. In ToixStory’s defense, there’s a clear effort made to introduce us to a number of lower-tier characters throughout Starlight’s journey who are helpful and good and so on, and this aspect is reflected in the moments where we see the head of the IS getting frustrated with her subordinates less-than-gentle methods.

But there’s still clearly the bad among the good, as the story so clearly shows us, and I don’t believe for even a moment that the city of Sundown is somehow going to be better than that. The fact that it’s an urban area automatically negates the idea in my mind.

And to culminate all of that, Starlight is only privy to some of these events. The end result of all this is that the big statement made by Starlight and the others during the final battle feels forced. Starlight doesn’t seem to have grown properly to make such statements, nor have her allies, because they really don’t seem to have grown much at all. When the whole thing was over, I was left with less a sense of epic and more a sense that ToixStory was trying too hard.

Ultimately, I give kudos to the author for attempting to create something big, but feel the story doesn’t quite match the reach it’s going for. Though well written, nicely paced, and certainly creative in conclusion, it suffers from uninteresting characters that don’t seem to grow half as much as they need to and a straining attempt at glory. I was less moved than I was disappointed.

If you’re here for an action adventure, read this and have fun. If you’re of a more critical mind, you might consider passing this up.

Bookshelf: Worth It

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
Freeze Frame — Worth It


Who in Equestria could possibly build an industrial-sized pet hairdryer, much less sell one to three fillies obviously too young to use an industrialized anything? The answer, or so Pegasus Rescue Brigade tells us, is the electrician in charge of the Ponyville Hydroelectric Dam when he’s desperate to prevent an overload of the town’s electrical grid and happens to need a ruby to solve the problem.

For a story created just for the sake of a little fun, this was entertaining. Maybe not fall-out-of-my-seat funny, but certainly good for a chuckle or two. The story follows Kilowatt Hour as he desperately works to build the hair dryer and get that ruby from the fillies, all in about 45 minutes. The guy couldn’t, y’know, explain to them the issue so they would understand why he needs that ruby pronto? I’m sure they would have given it up then and there if he had. Eh, who am I kidding? That would have made for a boring story.

It’s nothing amazing, but it is fun, with a comedic element that effectively emulates the manner of the show’s comedy. Read it for a bit of feel-good nonsense. Just don’t expect it to be anything beyond that.

Bookshelf: Worth It

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
Infallible — Pretty Good


I’m just gonna come out and admit it: I’m not fond of stories about depression. I’m a naturally optimistic person, and even though I am aware of depression (my mother suffers from it), it’s not something I can grasp and identify with. I have been depressed, but the clinical variant eludes my understanding.

And so we find ourselves with Feeling That Way and Anytime. The author suggested I make them into a single review due to their similarities and lengths, and I think that was a good call. The story centers on the ever-annoying ‘You’ character, who is rarely ever anything like ‘You’, living in a small town in rural Equestria. Equestria is in the middle of some undefined war, and You’s fiancee has voluntarily enlisted while You stay home. While waiting for the end and her return, You fall into a severe depression.

And… that’s it.

These stories are moody, slow, and filled with nonstop ennui. No, that’s not a critique, it’s the author’s intent. You are bored. Weary. Disinterested. The story feels less like a story and more like a study of depression in general. It may even be an attempt to show the reader what depression is really like for the depressed. The result is an unlovable You who is willing to let everything that was ever good in You's life slip away for no reason other than You's blatant lack of empathy.

If you’re interested in moody pieces of bitter self-reflection and disinterest, this may work for you. It’s clear that a lot of people find the tale to be evocative and interesting. I don’t even consider this to be a bad story, even as I hesitate to call it a story in the first place. But I do think it requires the audience to go in with an open mind and a willingness to face something a little unpleasant. I’m giving it my middle ground rating, because I can’t imagine this one being a big seller for everyone, but it is certainly a curious piece.

Bookshelf: Worth It

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author! (and this surprises me)


In this tale, Rainbow is going to a cemetery to visit the grave of her wife. If you’re seeing the same cover art I am, you know who said wife is and where this visit is going.

I was surprised when I took a glance at the author’s note and saw the author admitting to some of the story’s faults. They include an overabundance of subtlety, but also an in-your-face bit of demanding on the emotion. But I don’t think my subtlety issue is the one the Wizard is thinking of. For example, the cover art combined with Rainbow’s line about being ‘too tired on the way back anyway’ were both dead giveaways to me of what was coming and why. If anyone missed it, they need to learn to read more attentively. That’s on them, not the author.

No, the subtlety I’m referring to is the obvious facts that don’t require subtlety. Take, for example, the fact that Rainbow is visiting a graveyard and the name on the grave she is visiting is that of Twilight Sparkle. At no point does the Wizard specify a graveyard, instead spending ages and ages using silly misdirections like saying Rainbow is surrounded by ‘objects’ rather than graves. Because, somehow, we aren’t supposed to be aware this is a graveyard despite the vivid descriptions making it clear?

Throwing Twilight’s name on the grave was also a weak, gimmicky move to me, because there’s already been three or four flashbacks about Rainbow’s relationship with Twilight. So yeah, nobody’s surprised, author. It’s not dramatic and it doesn’t heighten the emotion. It just makes me annoyed at all the needless beating around the bush.

“But wait, how can the story be in-your-face if it’s too subtle?”

That would be because the author puts between every sentence of consequence at least two sentences that try to ram the emotion down our throats. It’s like the Wizard is saying “This is sad and you will feel sad because I am going to make sure you know this is sad so why aren’t you sad, damn it?!

Meanwhile, I’m yawning and skimming to the important stuff.

I’m not even going to go into how most of the flashbacks did nothing to improve the situation. I’ll just note that I think the author could have lost half of them or more and the story would have been much better for it.

I’ve seen a number of stories that try to paint the characters as too weak to handle the death of a loved one. I never bought into the theory, I’m afraid. But still, the concept could be worthwhile if approached correctly. I believe the Wizard might have pulled it off if they’d focused less on over-describing the emotion at every opportunity and centered the story on the present rather than the past. That said, I have to give props to the author for not resorting to being telly to get that emotion across. Their show is pretty solid.

Bookshelf: Needs Work

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
For Sonnets and Harmony — Needs Work


A Ruler’s Regret Never Fades was written for a contest by ocalhoun and takes places shortly after the prior story. In it, Celestia learns that there is only one confirmed changeling left alive after the failed invasion of Canterlot. She has that changeling brought to her private office so that she can give it a choice: freedom or revenge.

The story is curious in its manner. It stars Celestia, who behaves in such as a way as to suggest she feels guilt for what happened to Chrysalis and her hive. That’s all well and good, but it bothers me that she would take such a personal stake in it when she didn’t actually do anything. At worst, she let Chrysalis bitch slap her. So Celestia’s remorse felt just a little overdone to me. That being said, I totally understand her feelings of sadness for an entire race presumably lost.

It also strikes me as shocking that she would willingly let her subjects paint a picture of her as a vengeful monarch that willingly and happily murdered the last member of an intelligent species. What kind of message is that sending the ponies of Equestria? The act itself is noted in-story as being very un-Celestia, which only makes the potential impact worse.

But if you can get past these niggling issues, you may like this. The story is decently paced, well-written, and on the whole not a bad continuation of the previous story. I am now curious to see what else this author has done, so you can bet I’ll be reviewing another story of theirs in time.

Bookshelf: Worth It

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author!


Stories for Next Week:

Schrödinger's Pony by DemonBrightSpirit
Time by Regidar
The Longevity Theory by Venates
Seeking Beauty by Donnys Boy
Catching the Wind by D G D Davidson
The Unbearable Lightness of Being Sweetie Belle by Distaff Pope


Recent Review Map:

Paul's Thursday Reviews XCVIX
Paul's Thursday Reviews #100!
Paul's Thursday Reviews CI
Paul's Thursday Reviews CII
Paul's Thursday Reviews CIII
You Are Here
Paul's Thursday Reviews CV
Paul's Thursday Reviews CVI
Paul's Thursday Reviews CVII
Paul's Thursday Reviews CVIII
Paul's Thursday Reviews CIX

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Comments ( 13 )

It sounds like you weren’t quite the ideal reader for my stories but thank you for reviewing them!

Woot. (re-read some of those, and enjoyed as much or more)

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

Ah, that's one off my RIL. Thanks! :D Only 8000 to go!

Thanks for the review. I've always felt that story is, well, very much as you described it. Just a bit of fun that wasn't meant to be anything bigger. I'm glad you could get a little enjoyment out of it!

4792601
No prob. Perhaps I'll like some of your other material?

4792634
Truly, I am a model of reading list progress.

4793148
What are your favorite genres/characters?

4792710
I for one appreciated it it as probably one of the first hundred stories I read getting in the fandom

4793150
You're at a distinct disadvantage, because I'm typically unenthusiastic about crackfics (and I have been through your library). I already have These Are the Days of Our Lives in my RiL, so theoretically that should be the next one by you I'll be reading.

To the point, I like a wide variety, but I'm most fond of slice-of-life, romance, and horror (serious horror, not gorefests and camp). Those aside, there's not a single genre I would say I don't like, but I do prefer settings or topics that aren't commonly seen.

Regarding characters, I lean towards Rarity, Luna, and Scootaloo, but I'll read a story about pretty much any character, even OCs. I don't care much for HiE, though I'm perfectly willing to give them a chance and have read a number of good ones.

4793158
For Horror, try White Space, my very first big hit about 4 years ago: https://www.fimfiction.net/story/181359/-

You’ve already got Romance covered with These Are the Days of Our Lives, unless you want to see a shitty relationship, in which case try Necessary Evil

For slice of life with a little romance, definitely check out Don’t Look Back in Anger. You said you like unusual settings, and this is Sunset shimmer in England. https://www.fimfiction.net/story/383635/dont-look-back-in-anger

Especially if you like britpop.

4793244
I shall keep these in mind for my next selection. Thanks!

PresentPerfect
Author Interviewer

4793279
I'll second White Space. Not Trampo's best (but, well, you don't like stories about depression), but definitely the first of his fics that showed he could do something serious and worth reading when putting the effort in. :)

My heart just stopped. I can't believe I got a review, and it was positive! Thanks, and I hope I can create more works that can impress.

~ Chapter: 13

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