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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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Apr
12th
2018

Paul's Thursday Reviews CXII · 10:03pm Apr 12th, 2018

No reviews next week, folks. Break time!

It occurs to me that my numbers for my little announcement this past weekend were significantly off. I said Bulletproof Heart was 250,000 words long so far. That number came from my Word file, which is where I wrote the rough draft chapters. That is, most of them. Another look reveals the file is missing five chapters, which I’d been forced to write elsewhere. Since the chapters are ~11,000 words on average, that means the actual size right now is almost certainly over 300,000.

Which brings me to a realization. It took me a year just to get this far and have the story almost ready for editing and review. Given my intentions for the next two books, they won’t be any shorter. In the last year, BPH has been my top priority, with a goal of finishing a chapter at least once every two weeks. My other two ongoing projects, Fortune and No Heroes: Life of Pie, are scheduled to update every four weeks, just by comparison.

My original plan was to bump the BPH sequel to a lower priority while I got my other two stories out faster. But it took a year to get this far. I realize I don’t want the sequel to take two years because it’s lower on the priority totem pole. Yet if I don’t lower it, all my other big franchises – No Heroes, Trixie vs. Equestria, and The Silence, just to name a few – are going to have to take that hit. I’m at the point where I have to pick and choose my priorities again, and every direction available to me leaves a lot of other things hanging.

It’s more than a little frustrating.

At this point I’m leaning towards keeping BPH2 my primary priority, if only because I don’t want the fandom to die before it finishes. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. It’s times like this I hate my brain for giving me too many large-scale ideas.

Alright, enough whining. Reviews!

Stories for This Week:

Petriculture by Kwakerjak
Fermentation by Orbiting Kettle
The Light Goes Out by AbsoluteAnonymous
Crusader's End by CalebH
Nine Days Down by JoeShogun

Total Word Count: 153,588

Rating System

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


Petriculture

6,716 Words
By Kwakerjak

Petriculture has on occasion been described to me as one of the very first ‘great’ stories of FiMFiction, and there was universal agreement that I absolutely had to read it. So here I am, finally completing this so-called obligation.

In the story, Twilight is preparing for a visit from her parents on her birthday. Unfortunately, this has put her into full-on neurosis mode, and she’s freaking out so much that even her closest friends are starting to get aggravated. To alleviate the pressure on everyone involved, Spike suggests Twilight distract herself until the party tomorrow. She does so by looking through a checklist of challenging conundrums that she has yet to crack. Her attention settles on Pinkie Pie’s claim that her parents run a rock farm. How does that work, exactly?

Alright, I’ll admit it: this is a great concept. With every answer Twilight receives in her quest to understand rock farming, she receives far more questions that lead her down more winding paths. But all paths lead to Pinkie Pie, the single most impossible individual to understand. The big reveal, when it finally comes, is both creative, original, and feels fresh despite being over five years old now. Best of all, it makes a lot of sense. Well, except for why Pinkie shows up near Ponyville of all places, but I’ll leave that one alone.

The story is well written, decently paced, and uses its premise to great effect. I can see why it’s so popular. As much as I hate going with the flow, I have to acknowledge that sometimes the flow knows where to go. If you somehow haven’t been pressured into reading this yet by one of the apparently 50k+ people who have already, I encourage you to give it a try. It has certainly aged well.

Bookshelf: Why Haven’t You Read These Yet?

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author!


Fermentation

3,319 Words
By Orbiting Kettle
Recommended by Pascoite

Looking at that image, you’d think this would be some amusing anecdote involving lots of alcohol. Reading the description, you might think it’s yet another ‘immortality sucks’ story. You’d be only partially right on both counts.

Fermentation takes place in the distant future, after all fauna on the planet has been extinguished. Well, not all. There’s still four alicorns to consider, and they are very much alive. Twilight summons Luna to have a little chat, just for the sake of it. Turns out being immortal in a world devoid of life allows you to plan things with extreme accuracy.

This ended up a fascinating look at how beings seemingly incapable of death would continue on when all they have are one another. It touches upon the sadness of loss, the constant cycle of acceptance and depression, and the many coping mechanisms of mandatory survival. Or, to put it bluntly, it explores what gods do with their time when they don’t have any peon mortals to interact with.

The story isn’t cheerful, but neither does it offer a continuous sense of depression and defeat. And that may be what I liked most about it. The whole thing struck me as a realistic investigation into the minds of beings that look upon days and weeks in the same way we do milliseconds. If that kind of thing interests you, you may find something worthwhile in this.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author! (Wait, really?)


Twilight Sparkle lies on her deathbed and has one last lesson with her mentor.

This tale is peculiar in its delivery, and it’s hard to say how intentional it all is. The content is pretty good, showing an aged Twilight fully grown from the neurotic and panicky foal she once was, but still desperate to know that she has done good. One might expect this to be an ‘immortality sucks’ story, but it is far from it; the focus is on Twilight and her identity, not Celestia and her potential for grief. It’s an appropriate move that I can only approve of.

The one and only issue that brings the story down is the confusion behind the formatting. It is implied at the beginning that whenever words are in italics, someone is speaking (as opposed to using quotation marks like normal), and everything else is narration. But the italics shifts on and off seemingly at random. Are these mistakes? Or are they intentional bits of confusion, a clue as to the shifting manner of Twilight’s and Celestia’s communication and awareness? It might be metaphorical.

Normally, I’d just chalk it up to the author screwing up the formatting and be done with it. But having read so much of this author’s works, I believe AbsoluteAnonymous would have been more cautious than that. Yet I cannot be certain. And since I cannot be certain (and the author clearly isn’t coming back any time soon to correct the record), I must leave it as subjectively good or bad depending on the reader, as opposed to offering it appropriate praise or criticism. Annoying, that.

But speaking purely in terms of content? Another excellent story, and a delightfully bittersweet end to the life of a great pony.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
TBD


Crusader's End

4,171 Words
By CalebH

The moral of this story, children, is that dialogue alone is one of the worst ways to write a story.

The concept of this one is about as old as MLP:FiM. Simply put, Apple Bloom (or Applebloom, as CalebH sadly chooses to write it) is the only crusader left without a cutie mark and has decided to commit suicide over it. Admittedly, it runs a little deeper than that, but that’s the general idea. Rendered unconscious after jumping from the roof of the barn, she is visited by Princess Luna, who reveals that she’s attempted suicide hundreds of times in her very long life.

There are a number of issues I had with this story. The very first is that Luna, even as a youth, would be so weak as to permit a horde of peasants to chain her down and burn her alive due to superstitions. Buuut that one’s subjective due to my view of alicorn abilities, so make of it what you will.

The real problem with the story is that it runs 90% on dialogue. Indeed, it runs so heavy on the dialogue that, combined with poor pronoun usage, at times you can’t tell who is speaking. With a complete lack of narrative support, nothing in the story feels even remotely emotional. There’s no pacing indicators, so Apple Bloom and Luna appear to be talking a mile a minute at one another, and points where we should be seeing some display of thought, consideration, or physical reaction are nonexistent. Combine that with dialogue that feels canned.

And when CalebH does try to show some emotion in the characters, it’s overblown to the point of unbelievability. Such as when Luna admits to Celestia, with just two words, that she attempted to commit suicide. Celestia more or less instantly bursts into tears, which… isn’t a normal reaction at all. CalebH gave her no time to process what Luna has just admitted. She jumps instantly from happily chatting with her niece to an all-out weep fest. Aside from the mentally unstable, that’s not how emotions work.

It’s a shame to see this, considering this is the same author who wrote Diary of the Night. I expected a lot better. The concept is old, the emotions dull or overblown in equal measure, the narrative all but doesn’t exist, and the characters react to events in ways disconnected from reality. I feel for the author for trying to write about something they deem personally important and emotional, but that alone does not make a story worthwhile.

Bookshelf: None

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
Diary of the NightWorth It


Nine Days Down

143,510 Words
By JoeShogun
Completed Story

This one turned a lot of heads when it first came out. You’ve got to admit, the cover art alone is enough to draw some attention. But this was an even bigger draw for me. I’ve already done the whole Twilight goes to hell thing. It’s one of my favorite personal creations. So when someone else does it I get curious to see how their interpretations differ from my own.

In this, we learn that Celestia’s supposed godhood is a real and literal thing. As such, she never really needed Twilight to do anything, but she likes to play the damsel in distress sometimes. Just to change things up a bit and have a little fun. Yes, that’s as trolly as you’re probably thinking, but at least it has the benefit of making her little ponies feel good about themselves. But this latest puny mortal villain has an added trick up her sleeve. Specifically, a complex spell that shoots an unprepared Celestia straight to Tartarus.

Now, Tartarus is a very real hell. As Celestia describes it, literally everything that exists there is trying to kill you. And that’s perfectly fine. After all, Celestia may be stuck in mortal form while there, but if she dies she’ll just be reincarnated in Equestria in about a day with no side effects save a little bit of memory loss. It’s all so ho-hum, really.

Then she discovers that Princess Twilight also got sent there. Twilight, who is still 100% mortal. Twilight, who was raised in a world of sunshine and rainbows where the idea of accidentally harming another being is cause for alarm. Twilight, who is not mentally equipped to understand that something out there might actually want to cause her severe bodily harm.

Suddenly, shit just got real.

If I had to describe this story with just one word, it would be ‘rich’. This is a level of worldbuilding and life that many authors aspire to but very, very few can ever hope to match. JoeShogun covered as many bases as possible. There’s a plethora of creatures to meet (and fear), most if not all of them based on real world mythology. We've got an endless stream of creative monsters and a complete creation story that throws it all into a seamless balance. We get to learn about the many gods that exist, the likes of which include Celestia, Luna, Tartarus itself, a raging dragon named Typhon, the living earth Terra, even the deathly Dullahan. We even come to learn about the process of ascension, where one pony can go from being a mere mortal to the physical embodiment of a vague concept.

And through it all, we get to watch Twilight as she learns that the stories of monsters of the past are real. She is forced to go from a naive, sweet new princess to a terrified, hurt young mare desperate to escape the most evil place in existence with her sanity, soul, and morality intact. It’s epic character building at its best. Twilight’s experiences are ever-haunting, frequently thrilling, and rarely lacking in blood (assuming the threat of the moment has any).

What cements JoeShogun’s demonstration of storytelling is that the end of the adventure isn’t the end of the tale. We are not only given the events as they happen, but the aftermath those events have on Twilight when it’s all over. I love that he took the time to do that.

But the focus doesn’t remain entirely on Twilight. Celestia gets her own fair bit of presence in the story, showing that even immortal goddesses have their weaknesses. Celestia does everything she can to protect Twilight from the horrors around her, frequently failing and always desperate. Luna gets a chance to shine too, and I should note that I absolutely love her characterization in this story. It’s apparently based somewhat on the comics interpretation, which I’m not normally fond of, but JoeShogun made it work wonderfully. You know you’re watching something special when Luna refers to Tartarus as her "favorite vacation spot".

Yet even if the character growth of Twilight, Celestia, and Luna is the main point of the story and very well done, what draws my eyes the most is the epic worldbuilding. Every chapter reveals something new, brings up a different creature, or reveals some nugget of truth in this crazy, dark world (frequently all of the above). The wordbuilding is ceaseless and remarkably complete, such that I don’t think I’ve ever seen it achieved to this level. And then we get a bonus chapter at the end that reveals everything we’ve seen fits seamlessly together like one big jigsaw puzzle that is itself a fascinating tale.

To say I’m impressed would be a massive understatement.

This is a story that has earned all the praise it’s accumulated. It is a truly worthy addition to the small niche of tales attempting to define Tartarus. No, more than that: it raises the bar on what Tartarus-based stories should be.

I don’t expect anyone to touch that bar for a long, long time.

Bookshelf: Why Haven’t You Read These Yet?

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
Of Birds and Bees and Awkward ThingsWHYRTY?
Tables Have TurnedWHYRTY?


Stories for Next Week:
Changeling by CCC
A Close Encounter of The Cute Kind by TheNewYorkBrony
Twilight Sparkle Investigates by Bradel
Heart of Gold, Feathers of Steel by Nicknack
No, I Am Not A Brony, Get Me Outta Equestria! by BronyWriter
The Moon's Apprentice by Forthwith


Recent Review Map:

Paul's Thursday Reviews CVII
Paul's Thursday Reviews CVIII
Paul's Thursday Reviews CIX
Paul's Thursday Reviews CX
Paul's Thursday Reviews CXI
You Are Here
Paul's Thursday Reviews CXIII
Paul's Thursday Reviews CXIV
Paul's Thursday Reviews CXV
Paul's Thursday Reviews CXVI
Paul's Thursday Reviews CXVII

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Comments ( 12 )

Well, TIL that Crusader's End has a story I wrote in the similar section... one that's quite the reverse, with little to no dialogue.

Weird.

The only one I've read here is Petriculture (which is indeed very fine) though I really do need to get round to Nine Days Down before too much longer. (Three fics reviewed, all rated WHYRTY? That's quite something.)

Hell yes to Nine Days Down. It is pretty much a perfect story, save for one specific superfluous plot point. I am never one to go screaming "MOAR", but I would love to see a sequel to this one.

I really, really need to step up and knock Nine Days Down off my read later list...

And on another note, reading about Petriculture again after all these years was a hell of a nice nostalgia trip. That story was one of the earliest pony things I ever read. I'm glad you liked it, and even gladder to hear that it holds up this far down the road. :twilightsmile:

I am 100% gonna read Nine Days Down, for two reasons:

1) I want to see if it's better than Twilight's Inferno

2) The amount of mythological creatures you listed who share names with monsters from the Final Fantasy game series

I’m at the point where I have to pick and choose my priorities again, and every direction available to me leaves a lot of other things hanging.

Welcome, PaulAsaran, to the league of authors. We understand those feels completely. :rainbowlaugh:

4838906
4838951
4838977
You guys absolutely need to read Nine Days Down, like, now...

Or at least as soon as you have the time to...

:yay: Review!

Nine Days Down got just promoted to the top of my To Read list. Which is the place where it should be after such a glowing recommendation.

4838883
This makes me wonder when I'll get to reading one of your stories. The answer, unfortunately, is "not for a long time". Darned RiL being so long...

4838906
Quite something, indeed. But then, the other two stories are of a very different nature and are more likely to have those who disagree with my appreciation. Or perhaps it would be better to say "just because I like them doesn't mean you will". Nine Days Down is an entirely different beast that I think has far greater objective qualities as a story.

4838951
I'm just disappointed it took me this long to read it.

4838977
I'll practice my modesty today by saying Nine Days Down is superior to Twilight's Inferno in a number of ways. You should definitely give it a go. You'll be seeing a lot more monsters along the way, some of which may be familiar to you.

4838997
I'd say "make it stop", but I kinda like having all these ideas in my head. It's sort of a love/hate relationship.

4839027
I didn't know my opinion warranted such attention... :rainbowderp:

4839144
That's no problem to me.

Seconding Nine Days here- for once I read something before your review of it made it show up on my radar, and it was absolutely amazing.

Something I particularly liked was it drawing from non-Greek/Roman/Egyptian myths, which had some very interesting characters/creatures I had not heard of before.

4839144
I'm actually quite happy when I get any honest opinion. Yours tend to be qualified and well argued, which are huge pluses:pinkiehappy:

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