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Death smiles at us all; all a man can do is smile back.

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Vertigo Reviews: My Neighbor, Dead and Loving It, Cuddle Bug, Oh Pony! I shrunk my sister!, An Su-37 Terminator separated from its pilot in Equestria, and Straight Outta Loot Box · 3:05am May 31st, 2019

It's been a few weeks since life dealt me a dead man's hand. I've gotten a fair bit better however, so review time again. But first: I want to state that I'm playing with the old version of my review format as I came to the realization that the more expansive format was simply far too much work to use. So, I’m reverting to my old format. Sorry to those who liked the other one. Anyways: let’s dive in!

Story 1: My Neighbor by Antiquarian – One of the Best

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Stories seldom make me feel the way that this one did. A simple slice of life story that's primarily driven by narration, My Neighbor is powered by an insurmountable level of saintly kindness that reminds me of how I feel when I watch a show like “The Joy of Painting”.

Centered on an elderly man known only as Mr. Arrow, My Neighbor follows this quiet, very to himself man in his life. When a snowstorm hits however, he lends a helping hand to the Apple family.

My Neighbor is the kind of story that I wish I found more often on FiMFiction. While there are plenty of fluff-based stories on the site, this is one that relies more on showing genuine kindness rather than manufactured emotion. It's the difference genuine kindness and doing something that can make someone's day and creating a scenario that can't happen that elicits an emotional response due to it being in human nature to find something like that scenario emotional.

It boils down to how close to home it hits, and this story is one that does hit close to home.

I've always been deeply critical of stories that live and die by the idea of cutesy scenarios. It isn't that they can't be good, but they often feel like they amount to extraordinarily little. They're about as safe as you can get in the way of a story and it bothers me. Emotional elicitation like that feels manipulative and for a story to get a genuine reaction out of me like My Neighbor did is something I haven't felt in a long, long time.

Tonally, My Neighbor maintains a very consistent warm feeling. It never deviates from it either; the entire story is the sort of thing that feels uplifting in nature. From the saintly depiction of Mr. Arrow to the way the narration as a whole paints a humble picture of the world as a whole. By the end of the story, I felt genuinely happy. Something about the little things in life always get to me and this story got to me the same way seeing a puppy does. It was magnetic and even as I type this, I can’t help but smile.

Moving on, My Neighbor a standard slice of life story at its heart and as such, it's not exactly the most fluid story. It more than makes up for this with everything else, but it does still at times definitely give off that traditional slice of life feeling. That's not a bad thing in of itself, but I feel it's worth mentioning. So, if these types stories aren't your thing since they succumb to feel very stagnant, then be warned that this story can feel the same.

Character wise, the story’s great; it shines like a supernova. Mr. Arrow’s a simplistic, yet very well fleshed out character. Described in a way that one could perceive him as a very cold, grumpy old man, the narration brings to life a man who’s simply to himself and a kindly, well liked man in his community. It brings to mind something I’d see in a movie where a kid has fallen on hard times and needs advice from a wise old gentleman.

As for the show-based characters, the only one who's given a platform to make an Impact with is Applejack. However, even then, the story is through and through Mr. Arrow's and the concept behind kindness being found in spite of an impersonal demeanor outshines Applejack a thousandfold. Nevertheless, she was well written and well handled.

Grammatically, the story's very good. A nice variation in word usage, but ultimately very consistent. However, there's one minor, yet bizarre error. It comes in the form of the use of “driveway”. I'm going to assume that this story was written by someone from the UK as the term “drive” is used frequently. However, the sudden change to driveway is a tad jarring.

Overall, despite that one error, My Neighbor is a beautiful, heartwarming tale that brings to mind the good that resides in people. While we often focus on the negativity that surrounds us on this planet thanks to how we as a species always strive to fix things, it's nice to be reminded that we're capable of acts of kindness. The smallest gestures and acts of it can have the largest impact on us. This story hits that chord with flying colors.

Final Score: A++

Story 2: Dead and Loving It by Trick Question – Death With A Smile

Come on baby (Don't Fear the Reaper)

Dark comedies are something I adore immensely. So, I guess it goes without saying that this story is something that attracted me like a Magnetar.

Dead and Loving It consists of three stories. As such, I'll go over the three (they aren't very long) and then judge them collectively for the final score.

Our first story involves Trixie, who arrives at her funeral. This story's fairly amusing and has an ending that's wickedly funny. It's one of the best starts to a multi-chapter story I've ever read and the handling of the characters is phenomenal. It's also one of the best and funniest portrayals of Trixie I've ever read (not to mention one of the few portrayals where I didn't want to wish death upon her).

Story two is centered on Princess Celestia, who wants to take a vacation. This is easily the funniest of the three stories and I had to stifle my laughter as to not wake up the house. It's ridiculously funny and one of the most beautiful examples of ridiculousness given a darkly comedic form. Even if you aren't a fan of dark comedy, I suggest reading this chapter. It's straight up hysterical on its own.

The third story centers on Applejack, who's shopping for a coffin for Granny Smith who she thinks will keel over any day. The store she goes to is owned by Flim and Flam. This story is easily the weakest of the three and the humor largely fell flat. Simply put: the ending compared to the other two stories is nowhere nearly as satisfying (in spite of a pretty good twist) and it all felt really meh. The more I think about it, the more frustrating it becomes in the way of how much less funny it was.

Though despite that, the third story itself is still readable and it didn't ruin the overall story by any stretch. Rather, it helped me realize that this is one of the most consistently well written stories I've ever read.

For starters: the handling of the characters is great across them all with their personalities being distinct, yet colorful and unique. From the lovably silly portrayal of Trixie on the first story to the beautifully narcissistic Flim and Flam. Every character shines like Betelgeuse whenever it goes kaboom. It's amazing.

Collectively: the stories are all fantastically paced. They're all very short, with the story itself coming in at 2,868 words total. Despite this, each story fits on the perfect level of detail and plot to make them all feel fleshed out. It's quite remarkable.

Grammatically: the story’s impeccable. Nothing else to say here.

Overall: Dead and Loving It is a fantastic story. The writing's snappy, the humor is appropriately dark and twisted, and the characters are all handled brilliantly. I recommend it almost as much as I recommend you don't read it before finishing this blog.

Story 1: A
Story 2: A++
Story 3: B+

Overall Final Score: A+

Story 3: Cuddle Bug by little big pony – A Nice Twist on the Cuddle Story

Oh Bugger

I want to preface this by saying that this story is much weirder if you listen to the Nirvana song Breed as you read it.

This story is very simplistic: although it's a cuddle story, but the characters have significantly more fleshed out personalities and it's surprisingly funny. One morning, Bon-Bon and a human named Adonis have a day planned out. However, Adonis isn’t quite feeling up to getting out of bed and pesters Bon-Bon to climb back into bed with him for a few more minutes to cuddle.

A premise that on its own would have me steer clear due to most cuddle stories amounting to little more than superficial emotion that’s crammed to the brim with schmaltziness that’s topped off with a mushiness that could only be found in a Nicholas Sparks novel, Cuddle Bug counters those tropes by having the two characters be at odds with each other for the majority of the story. This makes the ending all the more rewarding by having it feel both earned and remarkably amusing given the reaction of Bon-Bon.

On the pacing side of things, Cuddle Bug is brisk and very to the point. It’s 2,061 words long and doesn’t waste a single word in needless padding; its one and only focus is the conflict between Bon-Bon and Adonis. It lives and dies by it, save for one little moment at the end with in my eyes could’ve been nixed and the story wouldn’t have been too much different. Though it is, by far and away, the most amusing part, so I guess it’d be worse off without it. I digress however, let’s move on.

The characters are by far and away the story’s strongest aspect. As stated earlier: Cuddle Bug’s like a cuddle story with more fleshed out personalities and it definitely shows. One issue I’ve always had with cuddle stories is that, besides the mushiness: the characters are often broken down to their most basic form. They never feel like they’re anything more than comfort blankets that help a sad character with the most superficial and blasé dialogue that masquerades as sympathy. While not inherently awful, it often makes the read feel very empty. Especially when the traits of characters are all replaced by tunnel-visioned empathy without any sense nuance.

With this story, we have genuine characters: Bon-Bon is a reluctant, no-nonsense character who’s angry at Adonis, a lazy human who’s either blissfully unaware to Bon-Bon’s anger or doesn’t care about it and wants things to go his way. Their conflicting personalities give this story actual personality, something I think many cuddle stories lack to the point they may as well be diagnosed as being anemic. So, from me personally to the author: good job.

While only being classified as “random”, I still want to make note of this story’s surprising level of comedy. Whether intentional or not, Cuddle Bug is a rather funny story—and a consistently funny one at that. It’s silliness is never overplayed to the point it feels like a crackfic, but it’s definitely one that doesn’t squander its silliness by having downtime.

On the grammatical side of things, I didn’t notice any spelling or punctuation errors. In the way of the wordplay, I must commend the author for the hysterical nicknames they came up with for Bon-Bon. Those were the highlights of the story and had me audibly laugh more than once.

Overall: Cuddle Bug is a story I highly recommend. It’s a fun, energetic, and gloriously silly story. You won’t regret checking it out.

Final Score: A

Story 4: Oh Pony! I shrunk my sister! by Nailah – Tiny Pony, Modest Adventure

Big Things Have Small Beginnings

One of the very first ideas I had for a story on this site was similar to this one: a scientist is shrunk down to the size of a mouse and has to figure out how to be returned to his normal size. However, he'd ultimately be squashed. This idea was intended for my anthology story, so death was inevitable. The idea was given the shaft and I never gave it a second thought, but seeing a story similar to it was a pleasant surprise.

Our story centers on Rarity and Sweetie Belle, the former of whom is working on some dresses, whilst the latter pesters her to help. Standard sisterly dynamic and it works. While it may only be 1,905 words, Oh Pony isn't something that intends on revolutionizing the world of literature. It's simplistic in nature and seems more than content with that. So, all things considered, I quite like the setup to this story… save for once aspect; one very glaring flaw. Its pacing.

Oh Pony is a very, very fast paced story. That's fine on its own; it's a comedy with a premise that has a lot of potential to provide a lot of fast-paced craziness. However, it doesn't really do that. While it captures the 1-2-3 mentality one would expect from a story of its type, Oh Pony glosses over a lot of its potential.

One great example of this comes when Sweetie Belle mentions that Rarity is small enough be a toy for Opalescence. She sees Opal, who's sleeping, and then… that's it. An extremely funny set up for some chaos and brilliant dialogue from Rarity, who could try to coax Opal away with a ball of yarn, only to see her precious cat leap at her because she's seen as a mouse.

But nothing comes of it. Instead, Rarity and Sweetie Belle get out of Carousel Boutique and the continues; easy as 1-2-3. It's really disappointing as the narration is, at times, really funny and I would've loved to have seen what silliness the author could've conjured up if Rarity was faced with Opal staring her down.

Instead however, Oh Pony suffers from something I called “Purge Syndrome”.

If, by some chance, you're unfamiliar with the ridiculously successful Purge franchise, it's a horror/thriller film series set in a dystopian future in the United States. Once every year (on the eve of the Spring Equinox in what's meant to be a metaphor for cleansing themselves), all crime between 7:00 P.M. and 7:00 A.M., all crime is legal.

Love or hate the films, the premise to The Purge offers an extraordinarily large amount of creative freedom for a writer to do an array of things. Whether it be body horror through mad scientists performing inhuman experiments on those unlucky enough to not have the means to defend themselves on the dreaded night or what other countries do on the night to take advantage of international law being dead in the US. However, in the end, the original Purge film settled for a home invasion thriller that used its “all crime is legal” premise as a glorified excuse as to why the police couldn't be called.

Stories that squander their potential are, in my mind, suffering from Purge Syndrome. In the case of Oh Pony, it feels like the story knows the potential is there, but doesn't quite know how to go about it. Whether this is due to the author not knowing where to take the story or something along the lines of that, I can't say for certain. Nevertheless, it makes me want to a see a sequel where the ante is upped to fully take advantage of this story's great premise.

To add a personal bit here: I'd try to maximize the creative potential of being small. The aforementioned scene with Opal is an example of this. Think of a film like Ant-Man and how it used the size and scale of the world when Scott Lang was small to its advantage. The world's your oyster when you write with size in play. Remember that.

Moving on however, let's discuss the comedy; the most expected thing from the story. In the case of Oh Pony, I didn't fit myself rolling on the floor holding my sides. Nevertheless, I chuckled a few times—mostly with Rarity's over dramatic dialogue and her saying she's still fabulous. Beyond those chuckles, the story succeeds in having a jovial tone that never stops feeling like it wants to, with all of its heart, be funny. That alone is admirable and in of itself charming.

On the character side of things, Oh Pony is more or less solid. Nothing too noteworthy. Rarity is well handled and appropriately melodramatic, Sweetie Belle is well handled and Twilight Sparkle is fine. All in all: a solid effort.

The last, and by far the most irksome, thing I want to mention for this story is it's grammar. I consider myself someone who, at his heart, can tolerate a fair bit of bad grammar. Let's face it: we all make typos. Heck, I'm sure there are a plethora of them in this blog. To get worked up over some grammatical errors is, in my eyes, low hanging fruit. Granted, it's fruit nonetheless and I do expect authors to do their best to make sure their stories are as well polished as possible—hypocritical as it may be given some of my stories.

I do have my limits however. Tense swaps are inexcusable in my book. Broken English—the type that I'd expect to see when someone's trying to mimic a Chinese phishing scam—can also get under my skin, though I do get a good laugh out of it.

My ultimate point is I do have a tolerance grammatical errors and I'm willing to give a fair bit of leeway if the story's grammar is consistently acceptable. So, with Oh Pony, I'm bamboozled. Yes, there are a number of errors. On its own: I'd be frustrated, deduct a point, suggest an editor, and move on. However, in this story's case, I can't do that.

Because this story already had an editor.

This fact made the errors significantly more frustrating to see. I understand that editors aren't flawless, but Oh Pony doesn't have a single line of dialogue which ends with a comma that's succeeded by “x said”. Instead, it always ends with a period.

Now, I want to say: I understand that when it comes to editing, not all editors look for grammatical and punctuation errors. Some read the story and look for plot holes or structure issues. If that's what the editor did in this case, I concede my irritation in that regard. With that said, let's move onto other grammatical issues.

While not an error or issue in of itself, there are multiple points where this story has four period ellipsis. Generally, this signifies an ellipsis followed by a normal period. Here however, it generally operates like a normal ellipsis. Irksome on its own, but different strokes for different folks. However, where it becomes an issue is when it ties into the previous error.

“But Rarity....” pouted Sweetie Belle

This is a paragraph near the start. It's one of twelve instances where there are four or more periods in some sort of dialogue. If you wish to be more restrictive, there are ten as one of them has five periods and another is outside of dialogue. With that said, six of those twelve ellipsis precede an “x said” line. One of those six is the one that had five periods however. All in all, half of the ellipsis in this story are grammatically incorrect.

The last grammatical issue I had is more a personal one. There are moments where the story seriously overuse pronouns. While not grammatically incorrect on its own, it makes reading certain paragraphs awkward. Here's an example.

Rarity whistled a light hum, as she began working on a new piece for her upcoming fashion show. Once again, she was running near the deadline, but she knew she would be able to get it done on time. However....she couldn't deny Sweetie Belle's constant wanting to help her, didn't make things go any faster. She sighed heavily, tilting her head towards her sister.

This is the opening paragraph to the story. Besides the odd statement of “Rarity whistled a light hum”, it's fine. However, I would've dialed back the uses of she a bit. One particular instance comes with the second sentence. While I normally dislike doing this, I want to give my own example of how it might've flowed a bit better.

Once again, she running near the deadline, but knew she would be able to get it done on time.

By removing the second she, you remove the feeling of repetition given the proximity of the first and third uses of the same word. While not something that cripples the story, reading the same word several times over the course of a paragraph can make a story feel rather bland. This thankfully doesn't happen often in the story, just a few times (twice to be exact), but I still wanted to make mention of it.

Overall: Oh Pony isn't a bad story. It's perfectly readable on its own, but looking at the larger picture: it definitely could've been more. There's a lot of untapped potential that, had it even be poked, could've made this story significantly more lively. As is however, it's a decent read that's decent fun.

Final Score: B-

Story 5: An Su-37 Terminator separated from its pilot in Equestria by Gale Maze – A Crackfic Done Right

Highway To The Danger Zone

I’ve been meaning to review this story for about a year and to the author: I’m sorry I’ve taken so long to get to it.

Now then: allow me to quickly say that crackfics are something that I find significantly more difficult to objectively discuss. As such, do understand that this review is strictly from the perspective of how much fun this story was and not how it was as an actual work of literature.

With that said: being a crackfic, this story’s plot is anything but important. What little there is is given directly in the title. An Su-37 Terminator is brought into Equestria. Hijinks ensue. At 2,414 words, this story’s about as cohesive as one could imagine it being.

Fueled by fourth-wall breaking narration that’s about as ludicrous as it can be, this story’s everything I could want in a crackfic. It’s unapologetically absurd and it’s an obscene amount of fun for it and I loved every word of it.

Character wise, this story’s got some of the funniest and most blatantly ridiculous names for characters ever. It’s about as self aware as self aware can be without being in-your-face about it, but I adored it. Now in the way of handling canonical characters: it’s atrocious. Not that I cared. I genuinely adored it all.

Grammatically: this story is… well, not good. Not that it matters given the entire purpose of it is insanity. While I would’ve appreciated the story not swapping tenses, I guess I can’t complain given the story clearly doesn’t care enough. Still, it’s bothersome.

Overall: if you haven’t read this story, I highly suggest you do. It’s one of the funniest, most absurd stories I’ve read on the site and it doesn’t disappoint whatsoever. It’s energetic, ludicrous, completely unapologetic, and it has absolutely not right to have made me laugh as much as it did. Gale Maze, you had better one day write another story or I swear, that Apollo Justice story will never be written.

Final Score: A++

Story 6: Straight Outta Loot Box by Prane – Quip Costs $19.99 Plus Tax

Straight Outta Upvotes

Another story I've been meaning to get to for a while. Once more: I apologize to the author.

A story that's part satire on the nature of loot boxes (this story was written around the time of the Star Wars: Battlefront II controversy) and part Spore if it were a story, Straight Outta Loot Box is something remarkably original. It's a ridiculously fun story to read for all of the clever details it puts in, along with the extremely fun parallels it has. It's the type of story that I could re-read several times simply because the little details are that fun. It centers on Celestia and Luna, who get a game that lets them create a universe. There are many expansion packs, but they aren't the core focus of the story, but rather a side aspect.

At its heart: Straight Outta Loot Box is a story that's about the oh-so coveted sibling rivalry and how it can make playing games a nightmare. This, coupled with the nature of the game and DLC, makes the story itself all the more fun. Add on the brisk pacing and the end result is something truly special.

On the character side of things, Straight Outta Loot Box is phenomenal. The banter between Celestia and Luna captures the feel of two bickering sisters and their personalities as a whole perfectly. It's one of the best portrayals of them I've seen in a comedy. Beyond them, we see Celestia and Luna's parents briefly. They were quite amusing, albeit nothing too noteworthy. Though they did provide a few of the funnier moments in the story.

Speaking of that: the story's a comedy and it's sadly a place that I'll concede wasn't super great. Indeed, Straight Outta Loot Box isn't a story that is outwardly funny—in my eyes anyways. While it did get a few chuckles out of me, it's not as funny as it could be. Some jokes don't quite hit their mark as well as they possibly could. It's the only part of the story that really fumbles, though I'd argue it more than makes up for it in every other possible way. So, even if not being a consistent riot is a deal breaker, do note that it's more than brilliant elsewhere.

Last but not least: the story’s grammar was fine. Nothing more, nothing less.

Innovative, clever, heartfelt, and fairly  humorous: Straight Outta Loot Box is one of those stories that demands a sequel (and some overpriced DLC). Great job, Prane. I loved this story.

Final Score: A+

Thus ends this review batch—which is quite easily the most positive to date. What a great change of pace. Hope you all enjoyed it. I had quite a bit of fun writing it, though I feel a tad rusty given my sorrow. Nevertheless, I hope they'll become frequent once more. Until then; have a blessed day.

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Comments ( 4 )

Ah damn, I'll have to reread it to see how I fucky wuckied the prose. Thanks for letting me know, and thanks for reviewing!

Thank you for the review! You gave me a reason to re-read my story after all this time, and I was pleasantly surprised that it was at least okay-ish. All the best to you, and I hope you'll also find some of my other stories eqaully, if not more enjoyable! :raritywink:

Well, nice to see you're back in the swing of things Vert.

Glad you enjoyed my work. :twilightsmile:

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