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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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Paul's Thursday Reviews CLXXXIV · 10:27pm Nov 21st, 2019

No reviews next week, folks. I am on a fortuitously timed break.

This past week saw little work done in terms of writing. This was mostly due to me trying to upgrade my computer, a process which took longer than it should have due to me having never tried it before. I actually ended up without my computer for two-and-a-half days because of a wiring error on my part that took that amount of time to figure out. At least I have the experience, so the next time I try it I’ll be more prepared.

But the task is done, my computer is upgraded and running smoothly again, and I can play high-demand games at the highest graphics settings at 60 fps or higher on an ultrawide. You’ll forgive me if I blew all of yesterday putting my new toy through its paces. I am satisfied, and now I shall try to force myself to go back to work as usual. I’ll need to do a lot of writing in the next three days if I’m to meet my goals for the week.

Enough of that. Let’s get to what you’re all here for: reviews!

Stories for This Week:

Please Don't Fly by Lord_Bale
A Walk in the Woods by Chicago Ted
Not Exactly a Shining Moment by Darkentrophy
Riding Herd by Steel Resolve
Study Date by Nordryd
Can Ya Fix Her? by LightningSword
The Restless Corpse of Sunset Shimmer by boardgamebrony
Mortem: The Last Necromancer by SecretAgentPlotTwist
When the Elements are Gone by Quicksear
Tea by Equimorto

Total Word Count: 46,465

Rating System

Why Haven't You Read These Yet?: 0
Pretty Good: 6
Worth It: 3
Needs Work: 1
None: 0

Equestria is in the middle of a civil war between Celestia and Luna. Rainbow Dash joined the Shadowbolts, and has ever since been forced to fight her coltfriend, Soarin, who remains loyal to the Wonderbolts. When a fight leaves many of the Wonderbolts critically injured, the leader of the Shadowbolts puts out an order for all wings to fly, intending to kill as many of their hated rivals as possible in a single battle. Rainbow hurries across enemy lines to warn her lover…

This was… odd. There’s an opening debriefing that doesn’t function in any remote way like any debriefing you’ve likely ever heard of. The Shadowbolts members laugh at extreme danger and their own loses as if they have no care for one another. Rainbow Dash is able to walk around an enemy camp with nopony questioning her presence despite, y’know, the flagrant mane and tail giving her identity away. There’s a random death-themed pegasus Rainbow meets who serves no purpose on his own except to support the open ending.

Simply put, the story quality is amateur. There’s a lot of potential in the concept, but the quirky plot, strange writing, and frequent grammatical mistakes mar the finish. Still, I think if Lord_Bale could get an editor and pre-reader, we might see some interesting stuff in the future. Which is not to say that this isn’t interesting, it just needs a lot of polish.

Bookshelf: Needs Work

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author!

In a bit of uncharacteristic gambling, Fluttershy agrees to a bet against Rainbow Dash… and loses. The punishment is spending a night in the Everfree Forest.

This one was written as a gift for the almighty Knighty. It is little more than Fluttershy’s experience in the forest, after which she emerges, perhaps, a little braver. It’s not a particularly eventful story. Fluttershy, for all her fears and agitation, knows how to take care of herself in a place of nature, even one as wild as the Everfree.

The primary point to the story, or so I feel, is an experiment in description. The story is flowery in its manner, never reaching purple prose levels but always aimed more at atmosphere than activity. There are downsides to this, like how it’s impossible to gauge Fluttershy’s mood in many instances, such as her encounter with the Timberwolf. Yet it strikes me that Chicago Ted had a specific goal in mind and achieved that goal, namely the generation of beauty and mood within the setting.

If you’re interested in anything faster than a casual night in the woods, this probably won’t work for you. But if you want to read some flowery prose, it’s not a bad one to look into.

Bookshelf: Worth It

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
The Blue RoseWHYRTY?

Shining Armor makes the mistake of teasing filly Twilight for wetting the bed. Twilight doesn’t take it well. Their mother has an unorthodox solution.

This is little more than a quick bonding moment between brother and sister. And really, it doesn’t need to be more than that. I like Twilight Velvet’s approach to the problem; I know it would have worked on me.

Nothing particularly special, but not a bad story on the whole.

Bookshelf: Worth It

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
Changeling to Fit the RoleWorth It

Flirty Rarity is Best Rarity.

When Rainbow Dash points out that there’s more to a relationship than sexyfuntimes, Rarity decides to make up for her lack of attention to her two marefriends by taking them out for the night at the place of their choice. Said choice ends up being The Bucking Bronco, a country bar where Applejack and Rainbow used to hang out before Rarity turned their romantic duo into a trio. One thing leads to another, and soon all eyes are on the mechanical bull in the corner…

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I love when Rarity is characterized all saucy like this. She’s filled to the brim with innuendo and naughty suggestivity. Call it a guilty pleasure. The brunt of this story involves her putting up with Applejack’s and Rainbow Dash’s antics while they enjoy a night on the town together. There’s nothing particularly special about the story, no lesson learned. Just three mares doing whatever they feel like doing. And no, that doesn’t include each other. Well, at least not on screen.

Steel Resolve likes his shipping, and I like Steel Resolve’s way of handling it. This is going to tickle the shippers pink. Everyone else may not get so much out of it though, as there’s no drama, no conflicts to speak of, no rising tension or climax. If you’re not of the right slant, this will do nothing for you. Luckily for Steel Resolve, I am most definitely of the right slant for this. But I’m still waiting for that one story of his that will rise above a singular purpose.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
GreenPretty Good
I Love To See You SmilePretty Good
Pros and Cons, Or Never Try To Con a ProPretty Good
You Make My Whole Life WorthwhilePretty Good

Study Date

1,687 Words
By Nordryd

I wanted to read this for two reasons. The first is that I don’t see a lot of SunShy and was curious to fill that little pink bacon hole in my life. The second is that I am shallow and saw that cover art of Sunset being adorasexy. Eh, we all have weaknesses.

Anyway, there’s really nothing to this story. It’s Sunset confessing to Fluttershy. More or less immediately, complete with the long spiel about why Fluttershy’s so perfect and making her heart melt with praise. And that’s it, story’s over.

Not that this is a bad thing. Not at all. But it’s very direct and one-dimensional, with zero conflict or drama or anything to make it interesting beyond two girls confessing a crush on one another. If you’re here for something 100% romance, that’ll likely do you just fine. If you’re looking for something deeper or anything other than romance, best to turn away now.

For my purposes, I’ll put it on the middle ground. I’ve got nothing against the story in general, but I prefer my romances to be a little deeper than this.

Bookshelf: Worth It

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author!

When Big Mac walks into Rarity’s store behaving even more shy than usual, she of course has to get to the bottom of it.

This is the first story I’ve seen that deals with the repercussions of Brotherhooves Social and Ponyville Confidential in tandem as they relate to Big Mac. The story ends up being about how big Mac fears his actions make him look to the general public and his concerns regarding his reputation as a stallion. Of course, it is Rarity — only the most feminine and mature of ponies — who is able to help him get over this rut, and I thoroughly approve of that.

I think one of the better elements of this story is that it never hints at the obvious underlying issue the shallow will have with this scenario. Said obvious thing I imagine people to expect is for this story to make a point about how Big Mac wearing a dress one time for his sister and having a doll does not make him homosexual. To the author’s credit, this topic isn’t even given the dignity of a passing mention, thereby denying that it was ever an issue in the first place.

Short, sweet, and perfectly in-character all around. I hope the sequel tackles the next problem with equal finesse.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author!

Urban explorer Keith has discovered a corpse in the basement of an abandoned house. This is scary enough, but then the book she has begins vibrating. And then, when he’s not looking, the corpse begins to move…

This is something more my speed. The horror involves being trapped in a changing house while an undead body pursues you with unknown reason or intent, your only help being a mysterious book that writes back to you. The good news: the corpse can only move if you’re not seeing it. The bad news: if you take your eyes off it to try and communicate with the book, the corpse starts to move. Worst of all, it’s perfectly silent.

While I feel that boardgamebrony could have worked the atmosphere to greater effect, the story still works well with what we’re given. This is also one of those Weird tales where a lot of questions go unanswered, but in a good way. As some of you may know, I’m fond of that style of storytelling, and so I welcome this.

This is some good creepy fiction, and a nice change of pace. By all means, read it if you’re in the mood for something dark.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author!

The moral of the story: the secret to redemption and harmony is a ragtag gang of homosexual adventurers.

There were once necromancers in Equestria, but then Celestia decided, for whatever reason, that they were evil and needed to be destroyed. Mortem isn’t much of a necromancer, by his or anyone’s estimation, and that low standard has kept him out of all the big necromancer alliances and whatnot. It’s also kept him from being targeted by Celestia as she goes on her crusade to destroy them. All that ends now, as Mortem is the only one left. So when a small Equestrian army appears at his doorstep, well, he’s not going to jump to conclusions. Maybe he can just write Celestia a friendly letter and prevent his demise through good old-fashioned diplomacy.

The vast majority of this story is Mortem’s one-sided conversation with Celestia, delivered in letters sent to the Equestrian army. Strangely – I’d argue even uncharacteristically – Celestia never bothers to respond. But Mortem does his best to look on the bright side, defending his citadel to the best of his meagre ability and continuing to write Celestia in hopes of a peaceful resolution.

I love SecretAgentPlotTwist’s sense of black humor. Mortem’s regular references to his methods of defense (he’s not evil, honest!), his passive aggressiveness, and his trolling that results from Celestia’s persistence are all highly entertaining. The end result is a fun story for anyone who enjoys humor of a darker variety. The ending is solid gold, and I only wish I could have been a fly on the wall when Celestia got that last letter.

This one’s got a ton of views, and I’m happy to add myself to that. If you haven’t enjoyed this one, there’s no reason not to do so. Unless you just don’t like dark humor, in which case what’s wrong with you?

Bookshelf: Pretty Good!

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author!

Applejack has been avoiding her friends lately. Stubbornly so, at that. Twilight realizes something is wrong, and she thinks she has an idea what. She decides to visit the farm and invite Applejack to open up about the issue. But getting AJ to talk isn’t as easy as all that.

Set in Season 4, this story opens up the dreadful fear in the Mane 6 that, upon returning the Elements to the Tree of Harmony, they will stop being friends. Yet that is only the face of the issue, and the talk that eventually forms between Twilight and Applejack ends up being a little more cerebral. This is a story about Applejack’s place among her friends and her value as, to put it in light terms, Best Background Pony. 

The end result is a strong friendshipping tale between everyone’s favorite bookworm and apple horse. The story is pleasant, easy to consume, and touches on some important subjects for all involved. I can think of no reason not to recommend it.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
The Person in the MirrorWHYRTY?


16,170 Words
By Equimorto
Requested by Shrink Laureate

Where to start? Apparently, Celestia has gone evil and taken over Canterlot with the intention of making the day last forever as Daybreaker. Except the Cutie Map is calling all of the Mane 6 on three different friendship missions, none of which are anywhere near Canterlot. Twilight & Co. are a little miffed by this, but seeing as the Cutie Map has never steered them wrong, decide to deal with the friendship problems while Starlight goes to confront Daybreaker. It’s gonna be a weird ride.

Starlight was easily the highlight of this story. The way she deals with Daybreaker is priceless. And it’s at this point I should note that this story is mostly for laughs, without there being much to take seriously in the whole thing. That’s not a criticism, mind you, I’m just pointing it out; this is a story you read for the humor and little else. It is, in a sense, a perfect storm, with every event impacting every other event in a sort of ‘butterfly effect’ way. Some of those events won’t make sense (the Flim Flam brothers come to mind), but I’m largely okay with this given the overarching nature of the story.

The only part that really bothers me is the outdated character behavior. Fluttershy still avoids speaking loudly for fear of being heard, a trait she’s not had since Season 5, possibly earlier. Rarity refuses to do any real work because of a risk to her hooficure, something she hasn’t whined about since at least Season 3. Numerous things like that. It makes me wonder if Equimorto has been watching the show at all since, say, Tirek.

But if you can look past how this story ignores the characters’ development of the last nine seasons, it’s an entertaining piece. Getting trapped on boulders by rampaging yetis, solving friendship problems between hideous sea monsters, and tricking an almighty, wrathful sun goddess are just the cherries on top of this cake of chaotic silliness. If that sounds like your cup of tea (erm, pun not intended), then by all means give this one a go.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author!

I consider Max a good friend at this point. For a while now we’ve had a little unspoken agreement in which I review his original fiction as he releases them. I did so for Colony, which was such a strong showing I eagerly awaited the sequel. Max surprised me by offering to give me an early copy this time around and, wanting to get a review done at around the same time as the release, I promptly started on it on top of all my regular reading. Frankly, this story is one of the major reasons my writing has been so… unproductive lately. I don’t mind as much as I probably should.

When we left Colony, our heroes James, Anna, and Sweets had just prevented a colony planet from being ‘cleansed’ in radiation-based apocalypse. This has seemingly earned them enough credit to let them go back to Earth despite their low reputation there, collect their pay, and move on with their lives. Instead, and for a variety of reasons I can’t go into because spoilers, they are essentially turned around at the gate with new missions. Jake and Anna soon find themselves on security detail for an exploratory team on an uncharted planet, while Sweets ends up on a space cruiser trying to determine the source of a mysterious hacking.

It’s strange that, once again, Max decided to take our three protagonists and separate them. Unlike in colony, where that separation occured only partially through the story, this time it is throughout practically the whole thing. A curious decision, indeed. Honestly, I’m kind of hoping that these three can get the chance to work as a proper team again in the third story.

Similar to Shadow of an Empire, Max starts this story off slow. Almost draggingly so. Much of the story revolves around Jake and Anna doing their jobs protecting a bunch of scientists who don’t really seem to need it and Sweets banging his head against a wall trying to solve a mystery. But, also like Shadow of an Empire, the wait ends up being worth it when the friendly planet decides it would rather be several varieties of lethal and things get very dicey with very short notice. Once the action really kicks in, it kicks in hard and it becomes difficult to stop reading. This story exemplifies the proverb “Good things come to those who wait.”

I’m not going to go into details of exactly what our three heroes face. I will say that it brought to mind certain staples of my video game-based history, with particular flashbacks from games like StarCraft and, more disturbingly, Dead Space. It might be my bias speaking here, but I had a blast.

While the story is about Sweets, Jake, and Anna, they aren’t alone in their endeavors this time. For Sweets, he’s on a military cruiser meeting all kinds of people, most notably the small and wiry scout Quinn who teaches him the basics of hand-to-hand combat. I swear, nothing phases this guy, and I loved him for that. Jake and Anna, in the meantime, get to meet a group of scientists, each with their own quirks and motivations and issues.

I feel that one of the best elements of the story was the interaction of this team; Max did a wonderful job creating a dynamic group of individuals who all play off of one another in varied ways. The two who are regularly banging in their bunks, the highly experienced one butting heads with the shy rookie and her ridiculous new theories, the commander and the doctor struggling to keep the team from imploding on its own social conflicts so they can do their respective jobs. This was all a key aspect to keeping the story interesting while we wait for the overarching mystery of the planet to be resolved, and a very good call on Max’s part.

The story also does a commendable job cluing us into what’s coming. Having read so many of Max’s stories, I am familiar enough with his methods that I picked up on a lot of clues very early on and was able to make some accurate predictions of what was coming, in concept if not in scale or style. This is hardly a complaint; no, it’s actually high praise, because I love when authors do these kinds of things. I picked up on the hints quickly, but I doubt that others will have quite the same experience I had. It might even be worth a second read-through to pick up what you missed the first time.

Ultimately, Jungle is a slow-build thrill ride full of interesting characters, deadly stakes, and terrible threats looming around the corner. The threats here are far less human than the last story had to offer, but is no less engrossing for it. Fans of Colony will not be disappointed.

Stories for Next Week:

The Void Rift Crisis by Visiden Visidane
Tʜᴇ Cᴀʟᴀᴍɪᴛʏ by Cloud Hop
A Melody's Soul by Manaphy
Humanity's Greatest Pastime by soulpillar
Wrath of a People by DR-Fluffy
Pinkie Tales: Saddle Arabian Nights Shaladdin by Magpiepony
This Isn't War by QueenMoriarty
Five Letter Word by Enigmatic Otaku
Time and Times by archonix
We Get Diplomatic Immunity, Right? by Pascoite

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Comments ( 14 )
Wanderer D

Can Ya Fix Her?

I remember this story! It was cute!

Thank you for the review! :pinkiehappy: I'll make sure you've got an eARC a lot earlier next time. In fact, I must apologize for being late in getting it to you. It was a sudden realization of "Wait a minute, why am I not doing this!?" and a frantic rush to make up for lost time.

That said, I'm glad you enjoyed Jungle, and I can relax (I've literally been popping over to Fimfic from my writing about every five minutes since noon and hitting a refresh waiting for this to pop up) now that I've seen what you made of it. I'll go burn off that nervous energy on a bike ride. But not before saying thank you for the glowing review, plus answering a question for the first time in a public forum rather than a private one: The separation of the team.

It’s strange that, once again, Max decided to take our three protagonists and separate them. Unlike in colony, where that separation occured only partially through the story, this time it is throughout practically the whole thing. A curious decision, indeed. Honestly, I’m kind of hoping that these three can get the chance to work as a proper team again in the third story.

I knew this was a gamble, but aside from it serving the narrative pretty well with the two halves of the story, there was another reason I did it: Sweets was, until this point in the story, largely outclassed by Jake and Anna, turning a lot of their interactions around him into "escort mission" level stuff. Something they all knew in Colony. Sweets going off on his own, then, was a chance for him to escalate and grow to be closer to their level. Hence the training with Quiin to be able to take that "escort mission" aspect away. The third (and final) installment will see all three of them not only back together, but will finally see Sweets on a level "playing field" where before it wasn't. I knew it was a risk, but Sweets needed that growth. Where in the end of Colony he was kept out of the final moments on North Shore, the plot streamlining to Jake and Anna because Sweets wasn't cut out for that, well ... you got to see what he grew in Jungle compared to Colony.

I knew it was a risk. Part of my "flop sweat" of waiting was seeing what the public would make of it. While many are finding it curious, it so far hasn't impacted anyone's enjoyment of the story that I've seen, so I think the risk paid off.

Similar to Shadow of an Empire, Max starts this story off slow. Almost draggingly so. Much of the story revolves around Jake and Anna doing their jobs protecting a bunch of scientists who don’t really seem to need it and Sweets banging his head against a wall trying to solve a mystery. But, also like Shadow of an Empire, the wait ends up being worth it when the friendly planet decides it would rather be several varieties of lethal and things get very dicey with very short notice.

You have no idea how glad I am to hear this worked. A big inspiration in mood and approach for this story was, unsurprisingly, Alien, which does something similar, starting out with things that are mostly normal with one or two odd unanswered questions while relying on the strength of the characters alongside the "huh, that's strange" to pull the audience along until the moment things start really going weird. Obviously it's not a perfect comparison, Again, major stress about trying to get that balance right, but it sounds like while it might not work for some people (the same people who spend the first third of Alien on their phone) it should be enough for those out there that are pondering on the "huh, that's weird" and looking for the moment things start to go wrong.

In that vein, I also might as well mention that a lot of the devotion to getting the expedition team right was basically a giant obscene gesture to Prometheus (you actually might have noticed a few members of the team themselves making jokes in that line) and it's absolute lack of intelligent, talented, or even remotely educated scientific personnel. Terror is a lot more visceral when everyone's doing the right thing and it's still not working.

I'm also so glad that giant cast was fun to read about and follow. Keeping that whole team straight was a headache! But ultimately a lot of fun. I'm glad you appreciated all the work that went into bringing their characters to life and capturing all their interactions, struggles, successes, and failings. Ahhh ... the sweet satisfaction of a job well-done.

I'm so glad you enjoyed it. I'm glad the foreshadowing and clues were ladled out correctly. I'm glad the action as things ramped up delivered, that the threat hit properly.

Thank you so much for the review!

Only one I've read is "Mortem: The Last Necromancer," and I agree, it was a very fun read. I got to help the author tweak it a bit, which was a pleasure to do.

Author Interviewer

I recall Restless Corpse being pretty good. :) I hope you enjoy Pinkie Tales as much as I did!

Oh my, I wasn't sure what you might think of that one. It was a bit of a challenge, to see if I could merge Rarijack and Appledash in a way that was convincing. The end result was "Appledash date Rarity" which I quite enjoy the idea of, so it was fine.

I'm forever striving to make interesting work, but meaningful? I'm not sure whether that's in me. Parts of my stories might be to some. But a story that had a unified intent and purpose? We already have our Pascoites and our Estees and our WandererDs.

Glad you enjoyed it! I also submitted this review to the book on Amazon, FYI. Also sorry for the regular bombardment of tempting PMs with my theories. I actually stopped doing that near the end because I was too invested in finishing to bother.

You say that as if we couldn't always use more writers like those. :rainbowhuh:

Perhaps, but I am content to write enjoyable nonsense for now.

I'll admit I was glad when they stopped, but not for the reasons you might expect: I was worried I was going to slip up and give something away in one of my responses! It's always a lot of fun to see/hear someone's responses as they go through a story, especially one where putting the pieces together is a big part of the plot. So I enjoyed seeing them drop into my inbox, and getting a mad chuckle here and there of "Oh, wait until this happens!"

I agree that Quiin was a lot of fun. He was actually based off of some face-to-face interactions and conversations with Recon Marines, with a fun dollop of the "ranger" archetype on top. We'll probably see him again. :raritywink:

I figured as much, considering you didn't murder him.

I must also admit that the shipper in me was forcing me to wear the shipping goggles during Sweets' interactions with certain characters, particularly that technician in the hanger who kept popping up.

Me: "Sweets is all on his own through this whole thing! Surely there must be a reason."

Inner Shipper: "Because Max is trying to set him up with someone!"

Me: "Quiet, you. It's not that."

Inner Shipper: "But you want it to be..."

Me: "I said quiet! Back in your box!"

Inner Shipper: "You'll be back."

Me: "Sometimes I wish I could quit you."

:rainbowlaugh: Sweets definitely wears the shipping crown. So far, among the crowd people have suggested to me that they want to see him shipped with include Anna, Jake, Fen ... I don't think anyone's suggested Quiin yet, but it's only a matter of time. And it's always Sweets.

That poor hacker. May he never stumble across any Colony fanfiction. It'd be bound to scar him.

It makes sense for it to be Sweets, really. I mean, he's always off on his own. Jake and Anna have each other, even if not romantically, but Sweets? Yeah, people gonna ship him hard.

Then again, a bromance between him and Quiin could be fun...

"In a world where space is just another highway ... Two men find themselves stuck in star cruiser, trying to get home."

"You hacked their election?"

"I didn't mean to! I was just poking around. It was ... easy!"

"Yeah, well now they're trying to kill us. Great job, Sweets!"

"But getting home is going to be a lot harder than they think!

"You called pirates!"

"I didn't know they were pirates!"

"How could you not know they were pirates!? There's a skull on the front of their ship! Their hail was 'surrender your goods or be destroyed!'"

"I thought it was like ... a local thing?"

"Ray Candy and Adraxis Quiin star in ... Third Star to the Right ... and Straight on 'till Doom! Coming this summer!"

First good review I've had in a long time. That means a lot. Thank you. :twilightsmile:

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