• Member Since 16th May, 2013
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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 Posts463

  • Thursday
    Paul's Thursday Reviews CCXV

    Hello again, FIMFiction. I’ve had quite the lazy week, but it was on purpose. I was starting to feel the burnout after achieving ~2,000 words/day for most of July, so I figured it was about time. But now I think I’m ready to get back into it.

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    7 comments · 200 views
  • 2 weeks
    Paul's Thursday Reviews CCXIV

    My schedule has a problem. It’s one that’s been building up for a while now.

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    20 comments · 402 views
  • 3 weeks
    Paul's Thursday Reviews CCXIII

    I’ve decided that I’m going to take a minor vacation in August, if only so as to use up some of those vacation days from work before they’re gone in January. With this in mind, I figured I’d also not read anything over the course of those four days. Ah, but how to do that when they’re already on the schedule? I don’t want to push them back, it’s becoming more and more important to me to build a

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    5 comments · 356 views
  • 4 weeks
    Paul's Thursday Reviews CCXII

    Wow, last weekend was a busy one. Family gathering was relatively small this year, for obvious reasons. Although I must emphasize the “relative” part; usually when there’s a big holiday like the 4th, we end up with 20 people or more present. This weekend was “only” nine, including me, my parents, and my brother’s family of six. That’s right, six. That boy is a glutton for punishment, I swear to

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    8 comments · 383 views
  • 5 weeks
    Paul's Thursday Reviews CCXI

    My preliminary editing of the original fiction version of Guppy Love is all but finished! Soon I will have the entire story stored in GDocs and ready for prereading, which means it’s about time I started really looking for prereaders. I intend to ask the prereaders of the MLP version to come back to evaluate the changes, but I’d like to get a few others to offer a fresh perspective. I’m

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    16 comments · 370 views
Jun
25th
2020

Paul's Thursday Reviews CCX · 8:31pm June 25th

Howdy, folks. I’m afraid I don’t have much to report this week. Well, other than the very real possibility of maintaining 2,000 words/day of writing this month. Feels like I haven’t pulled something like that off in ages. Pays that I’m finally cutting down on the video games again. It comes in phases.

Still focusing roughly half of all my work on Guppy Love. It’s coming along nicely, but I still haven’t bothered to go looking for a cover artist. That’s partially because I’m trying to save money; I’m already over budget for the month, so I’d like to wait until at least July to get that going.

Speaking of being over budget, it looks like I’m going to have to cancel any vacation plans I had. Until my company gives us back the 20% salary they decided to withhold from all their employees, I can’t afford to do much of anything, especially with the awareness that my rent will be going up by another $60-$70 in September. I wasn’t sure what I’d do. Visit my sister in Japan? EFNW 2020? Canadian fishing trip with my parents? All were potential options capturing my interest. But after taking a hard look at my finances these last two months, I have to face facts, and the fact is that I can’t afford any of them. It sucks, but what can you do? Guess I’ll have to spend those two weeks writing and being with family. Oh, the horror.

I also learned this morning that my apartment complex is forcing all tenants to switch to some unknown-brand internet service possibly as early as Monday. I didn’t sign up for it because I had AT&T, was happy with it, and was told I could keep using it until I had to renew my contract in September. Now they tell me I might not be able to use the hardwire port AT&T’s connected through and I’m all “Uh, what? You couldn’t have told me that five months ago when I was making my decision on whether to switch? Thanks, assholes.” So, yeah. Don’t know if I’ll have internet service next week.

Huh. Guess I had more to report than I thought.

Who wants some reviews?

Stories for This Week:

Keeping It Simple by Ivory Piano
Everfreely by WishyWish
The Face I'll Wear by Carapace
Where Are You, Twilight? by B_25
Follow You Down by Erina Tail Yellow
Moondancing by Creativa-Artly01
Cross my Heart and Hope to Fly by Tayman
The Most Magical Night of My Life by anonpencil
Celestia Privatizes the Sun by Fiddlebottoms
Fit for a Princess by bookplayer

Total Word Count: 313,184

Rating System

Why Haven't You Read These Yet?: 2
Pretty Good: 5
Worth It: 0
Needs Work: 2
None: 0


Alternative Title: Big Mac Gets All The Mares. Platonically. Mostly.

Although I think Soarin put it best:

[...]sometimes I swear it’s like you're dating everypony and nopony all at the same time.

In this pleasant slow burn of a slice-of-life, we start with Big Mac in the hospital after some Mane Six shenanigans leave him seriously banged up. The mares, collectively feeling guilty about the incident, make amends by doing what they do best: befriending the stallion. What follows is a long, winding path full of tangents adventurous and silly where Big Mac slowly begins to learn more about and get closer to Applejack’s many friends. Among it all is a growing underlying problem, one that threatens Big Mac’s sense of self-worth and comfort: Applejack seems to be using the situation to take the farm over from under his hooves.

This was great. It stars everybody’s favorite farming stallion, going deep into who he is as an individual. At the start, the story seems like little more than a series of random, mostly unrelated events where Mac is forced (and I do mean ‘forced’) to do things with the Mane 6 as they try to get closer to him. This includes such things as philosophical debates with Twilight, Wonderbolt shows with Rainbow Dash, attending art galleries with Rarity, going herb-hunting in the Everfree with Fluttershy, and competing in a baking contest with Pinkie Pie. The myriad of events can make it seem like the story isn’t going anywhere.

Through it all we have Big Mac’s insecurities. His struggle to accept his sisters’ growing up, awareness that maybe he isn’t as needed on the farm as he used to be, the fear of not wanting to let his newfound friends down, and above all else, his deep need to be useful to somepony, anypony at all.

Then a certain famous cellist shows up in his life and things get really complicated. You know, of all the things that might bother me, the most unexpected one is that we never got to see Big Mac thank Pinkie for introducing them.

Ivory Piano eventually gets the story on a set track, and once it’s there it stays the course effectively. The end result is a warm-hearted love note to the big red stallion. When we discover exactly what he sacrificed for his family over the years, it puts the entire story in a new perspective. It all culminates in a pleasant end for Big Mac, one that puts him right where he wants and needs to be. If I had any major complaint, it would be that the sequel was never completed.

This story has everything. The Mane Six are all beautifully characterized, and their individual relationship growth with Big Mac is a delight to behold. Then we have Octavia, who is characterized in a whole new way I never expected and yet, somehow, is the first one that manages to consistently keep her signature voice from the show in my head. Her regular sniping with Rarity is always a treat to behold, and it is a testament to Mac’s attitude that he can handle it so well. Also, Celestia’s reaction to meeting her was just plain awesome.

There are two things I must emphasize. The first is that, despite my teasing at the start of this review, this isn’t a story where every mare in the show fawns over Big Mac. There is certainly a touch of romance involved, but that centers around two mares in particular. The others are platonic. Some of them amusingly so, such as Twilight, whose adorable lack of social experience keeps her from realizing when Mac gets uncomfortable with her completely ignorant and innocent closeness. Point is, if you’re here looking for a bunch of mares competing for the romantic affections of one guy, you’ll be disappointed.

The second thing is that this is indeed a ‘slow burn’ story. The first third of the story can feel like it’s not going anywhere. Oh, the individual events are interesting enough on their own, but sometimes it reads less like one big story and more like an anthology of Big Mac-centered shorts set in the same universe. The good news is that everything plays a role in the bigger picture, it just takes time to see it. Have faith; Ivory Piano gets to the point. Eventually.

In the end, I left this story happy. For Mac and for myself. It’s a long, hard look into the life of a pony who spends most of the time on the sidelines. I wish I’d read it ages ago.

Bookshelf: Why Haven’t You Read These Yet?

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author!


Everfreely

13,524 Words
By WishyWish

It’s been two years since graduation, and the girls have all gone their separate ways. Fluttershy and Applejack, the only ones to not leave their hometown, have somehow failed to really keep in touch. Tonight that changes with them getting together one night at Camp Everfree. But they’re not just here to remember the old days…

Now this was an interesting piece. It’s a drama. A slice-of-life. A romance. But it’s not typical by any means. The story centers, at least in part, around their decision to spend practically the entire visit in the nude – the primary reason they’re meeting in the closed-for-the-year Camp Everfree in the comfort of night. The story is all about comfort zones, self-awareness, and mutual support. Most of all, it’s a story about trust.

To be clear, this isn’t a story where two girls go nude for a bit, realize they’re both hot, and start getting it on. It’s vastly more mature than that. The subjects that come up are varied and, at times, complex. Everything comes out in the open, and that means things other than bodies. Discussion of male/female differences and female body types share a presence with revelations of loneliness, personal and societal obligations, and the nebulous nature of the future. There are moments of amusement, moments of revelation, and moments of sensuality.

When I finished the story, what most stood out to me was the ‘romance’ bit, which is itself unusual. The story doesn’t end with some mutual declaration of love. The connection Applejack and Fluttershy have found seems more complicated than that. It feels less like they’ve learned to love one another and more like they’ve learned to love in general. That this could lead to them being a couple from now on is a given, but it also doesn’t seem to be the principle of the story. In a way, you could argue that even this aspect is taken to its most natural form in the story: it’s not about who you love, it’s about the act and concept of love unto itself.

This is by no means the first story I’ve read about two characters trying out nudity together, but it is certainly the most interesting. It uses nudity as a foundation for being open and honest, and does it well. Solidly written, excellently paced, and certainly memorable.

Bookshelf: Why Haven’t You Read These Yet?

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author!


When Cadance and Shining Armor permitted Thorax to live in the Crystal Empire, it came with a few requirements. Seeing as Thorax is only fourteen and doesn’t understand pony culture much at all, one of those requirements is for him to attend a pony school. The time has come, and now he faces a conundrum: go to school as himself, or as Crystal Hoof?

This was an unexpected story in which Thorax learns a lesson from Shining Armor about pony culture, particularly its rulers. It isn’t about Thorax trying to decide on an identity, as I thought it would be. Rather, it’s about Thorax having to make an important decision for the first time in his life, one that can have significant effects on his future. All his life, the big decisions have been given to him, regardless of his opinion. Now he’s expected to choose his own path, and that’s scary. Rightfully so.

I am pleased with the overarching results. I had half-expected Princess Cadance to be the one to give Thorax this talk, but instead we get Shining Armor. Seeing it in action, I can’t help feeling that was the right choice.

The Face I’ll Wear shines a spotlight on two lesser-loved characters (well, at the time in Thorax’s case) and comes with a great moral lesson. I can think of no reason not to recommend it.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good!

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
The Majestic Tale of a Noble HunterWHYRTY?


Spike wanders an unfamiliar place, seeking out Twilight and wondering how he came to be here.

This story is a little different from your usual fare. Roughly three fourths of it is Spike wandering in nebulous places with little clarity. We don’t know where he is. We don’t know why he’s there. There are regular contradictions about the setting, the timing, the order of events. It all feels like a jumbled, nonsensical mess.

Then you hit the ending and everything clicks.

This is a story that tries to view the world through madness. Indeed, that’s what the entire first three-fourths of it is about. Therein lies its gimmick and its greatest flaw. You see, while the majority of the story tries to indicate some sort of journey, it does so in a way that is tumbling and lost and unclear. I think the majority of readers will see this, get confused, and slam the back button. It’s intimidating at the very least. Only the curious and the determined will be able to get through to the end’s reward.

How does B_25 solve this problem? Honestly, I’m not sure that they can. If their goal was to explore the perspective of a mad and unreliable protagonist, they succeeded, but in succeeding they also created a high bar of entry for the audience. There’s no obvious, easy solution here.

But I will say that the tragic conclusion is well worth the price of admission. It’s the kind of thing sadficionados will love, competently done and generating quite the bleak scenario. I almost wish the ending could be expanded into its own major story, because it’s a powerful concept all on its own.

But there are still questions unanswered. What the heck is up with the paper? Is it just a plot device with no intention at all of making sense? Or is it something Twilight gave to Spike so they could stay in contact? And why did Spike do the things he did in the first place?

The good news is that these aren’t questions that need an answer for the story to be good. Indeed, I came away from this story impressed. The Happy Ending Crusaders will abhor it and the general audience will probably give up in less than a thousand words, but those who push to the end will find something very rewarding.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author!


Vinyl and Octavia wake up. One of them has to decide if she wants to do this again.

In this story, Vinyl and Octavia have a one night stand, but Vinyl didn’t realize that’s all it was. The good news is that this isn’t some overdramatic scene where a weepy Vinyl tries to convince an indifferent Octavia to give a real relationship a go. It’s more like neither of them realized what the other was expecting from the encounter. Neither do they have a long, drawn out discussion of the situation. In fact, it all moves rather quickly.

I really liked this approach. It felt natural. Organic. Real. I can easily see two people in the real world going through these exact motions. Yet, despite the ‘real’ nature of it all, it still manages to be interesting, and even a little fun. Vinyl’s reaction at the very end had me grinning, because it’s so relatable and endearing.

I can think of nothing to criticize. By all means, give it a read. It’s not like it’ll take very long, and it may just put a smile on your face.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good!

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author!


This review stems from me going on one of my “I wanna read something unknown” moments and exploring the underappreciated corners of FIMFiction. I saw this story and how it was completely ignored and figured I’d take the risk. And what I got was… well, about what you’d expect from that kind of thing.

But how rough are we talking here? I’ll let chapter 4 do the talking:

The next day, Twilight does something near and dear to Moon Dancer, she goes with her to a class she's teaching on Haycart's Method to several adult ponies. As Moon Dancer teaches, Twilight sits in the crowd and smiles. She's so proud of her friend. She's teaching with such enthusiasm and a smile on her face and the mares and stallions are actually listening to her contently.

After the class comes to an end, Twilight congratulates her friend. "I'm so proud of you." Moon Dancer smiles at this and then she and Twilight go off to lunch. At lunch, the two talk about Moon Dancer's amazing seminar. All the while, Moon Dancer can't help but blush.

After they're done with lunch, the two go off to do a little shopping for the day in Manehattan. Twilight can't help but admit that Rarity is right, shopping is soothing for the mind and soul. After several hours, the two come out of the stores with several new outfits and accessories and hop on the ferry back to Ponyville. The two had an amazing day at the seminar and out shopping and they'd honestly have it no other way.

That’s it. That is chapter 4. The whole chapter.

So this story is about… nothing. Moondancer visits Twilight, they travel all across Equestria (which is roughly the size of a small city), Moondancer goes home, the end. There is no conflict, no rising action, no climax, no theme, no purpose, no character growth.

There’s also no consistency with the story itself or with canon. Moondancer’s supposed to be on vacation, yet right there in chapter 4 we see her working. They talk about Lyra as if she’s just moved to Ponyville, even though it’s been long established that Lyra’s been in Ponyville for ages.

Overall, this story is exceedingly simple, to the point I’d argue it isn’t really a story. It’s just Twilight and Moondancer doing things in extremely telly ways that are both exacting and vague at the same time.

The good news is that this was written in 2017 and Creativa-Artly01 has been decidedly prolific, producing a ton of material since then. Perhaps it’s naive of me, but I’m curious to read something newer to see if they’ve improved any. We all had to start somewhere, after all.

Bookshelf: Needs Work

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author!


While watching Rainbow Dash perform a stunt show, Pinkie has an epiphany. It’s not a good one. Rather, it’s about how she feels profoundly worthless in the grand scheme of things compared to her friends. This leads to her falling into a severe depression her friends can’t help but notice.

This one was a bit of a struggle for me. I like the subject matter; having encountered what Pinkie’s going through before, I know it’s not a simple thing to get over. But I could never get invested in the events of the story. The problem, I feel, is the dialogue. A lot of it felt forced, almost like the characters were reading from a script. It makes me feel as though the author wasn’t prepared for the story they wanted to tell.

The formatting of the dialogue didn’t help. Here’s an example of a pet peeve of mine. The dialogue, coming from Fluttershy:

"It's not. But life doesn't have to be glamorous in order to be worth living. It's all about what makes you happy. I love animals. They're my passion, afterall. But sometimes it can be easy to lose sight of what we have, and instead focus on what we lack. I know the feeling. It felt as if nothing else mattered; that no matter what I did, life wouldn't be any more significant. That's what I'm seeing in you right now."

How did Fluttershy say this? Does she sound depressed? Upset? Comforting? I’m sure everyone who reads this interprets it in their own way. Then we get this little jewel:

Fluttershy spoke in a wise, serene tone that caused Pinkie's sense of desolation to slowly fade.

Wait, really? She did? Why are you telling us this after that monologue is over, author? We could have had the tone and intended emotional output down right away instead of having to guess at it all the way through! For shorter bits of dialogue, this might be okay, but if a character is monologuing you don’t set the atmosphere after the speech is over.

This is just one example. Overall, the dialogue just killed a lot of this story for me.

Again, I like the subject Tayman is broaching with this story. I just don’t feel they were able to capture the characters correctly given the circumstances. Still, maybe it’s just that this is an early entry in Tayman’s bibliography. Fine Tuning certainly wasn’t bad. I’m willing to give them another go.

Bookshelf: Needs Work

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
Fine TuningWorth It


Cranky Doodle didn’t want to go to the Grand Galloping Gala. He only went to prove to his friend Steven that he wasn’t the stiff he’d been accused of. Little did he know that he’d meet the most amazing girl that ever lived.

Yep, this is a “How Cranky Met Matilda” story. In that sense, it’s everything you’re expecting. anonpencil succeeds with this one by demonstrating how much of an impact Matilda had on Cranky with that first meeting, turning his entire life and even his life philosophies upside down. Nowhere is this more apparent than by how the first paragraph so drastically contradicts the conclusions of the final scene.

This is a pleasant and well-written piece by someone not known for producing things that qualify as ‘pleasant’. The romantics and those with an interest in Cranky’s background will delight in this. It does have a sex scene near the end, but it’s tame compared to what we might expect, and doesn’t feel extraneous or pointless, which gives anonpencil an extra leg up on the competition.

With strong characters, an expectedly bittersweet ending, and good sense of atmosphere, I have nothing but approval for this one. The only caveat is that it may not mean much for the non-shippers out there.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
Broken BindingsWHYRTY?
A Fitting EndWorth It
Always HereWorth It


Celestia Privatizes the Sun

1,556 Words
Fiddlebottoms failed to provide cover art.
Requested by Heartshine

Well. I imagine the dragons are pretty happy about this.

Here we find a story aiming to be a scathingly satirical rebuttal against all capitalism and bourgeoisie. It was written at the very beginning of our modern age of insane political outrage at every word said, major or minor, by someone of the opposing party. This is not a surprise. Within this story we’ll find ridiculous and unrealistic decisions that are blissfully unaware of the most basic premises of planetary survival, all framed through the perspective of someone who has the most bitter and unhappy view of those possessing the necessary skills for making money in a free market system.

Does all this sound critical? Because I assure you, I couldn’t stop grinning.

I love Fiddlebottoms’ combination of wordplay, over-the-top ridiculous premises, and nonsensical caricatures. Recognizing this for the satire it is, I gave up any pretense of taking the story seriously and focused on enjoying the insanity. It’s certainly heavy-handed in its messaging, but it feels less like it’s teaching a lesson and more like it’s just being stupid for stupidity’s sake. I mean, we’re talking about a story where the sun is being used to blind pony children with underwear commercials. This thing doesn’t even make sense within its own framing.

If you’re a socialist, this will probably fill you with a certain perverse joy. If you’re conservative (I know there are at least some of them hiding in the dark crevices of FIMfiction), try not to take it seriously. This was designed to entertain one group and maybe offend into gibbering rage the other.

As a story? It’s total nonsense and shouldn’t be worthy of any rating at all. I myself am entertained, but if I’m going to be fair and give this the classification it deserves then…

Bookshelf: Crackfic

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
New Author!


Applejack and Twilight have been dating for a while now. AJ knows Twilight wants to get married, so this Hearts and Hooves Day she gets the gold necklace her father used to propose to her mother. But it’s such a simple, plain thing. It means a lot to her, but is it really fit for a princess? Suddenly, Applejack isn’t sure if she should even try.

This is a touching piece in which Applejack fears that her simple farmpony self isn’t good enough for a mare as wonderful as Princess Twilight Sparkle. Of course, we all know where this ends. What really matters is the journey, and bookplayer does it well. Through flashbacks of AJ’s parents, particularly her mother, and Twilight’s all-around sweet nature, everything comes together to create a nice, warmhearted romance.

I’ve not much else I can say. The shippers among us will absolutely love this. The non-shippers also have something worth their time as the story focuses heavily on Applejack’s insecurities rather than the romance itself. It’s an all-around solid piece, and I’ve nothing negative to add. Heck, it’s even written in such a way that the story stands by itself, without any knowledge of its predecessor. So go ahead, give it a go.

Bookshelf: Pretty Good!

Previous stories reviewed for this author:
The AppleDash ProjectWHYRTY?
A Fact for TwilightPretty Good
Dubious EnchantmentPretty Good
In the Service of The Princess of FriendshipWorth It
Sleepless in St. MaretiniqueNeeds Work


Stories for Next Week:
A Requiem For Lost Libraries by Mitch H
Smells Like Christmas Morning by AppleTank
Rarity's Cat is Evil by Shakespearicles
The Seasons of Earth and Love by RainbowSparkle3
Reassurance and Inquiries by Jet Cannon
To Never Love But One Mare by Undome Tinwe
The Ship-Off by TheBrianJ
To Catch Up With the Sun by Dark Avenger
A FLEet|ng LIght |n thE DArknEsS by Flashgen
Courtesans by GaPJaxie


Recent Review Map:

Paul's Thursday Reviews CCV
Paul's Thursday Reviews CCVI
Paul's Thursday Reviews CCVII
Paul's Thursday Reviews CCVIII
Paul's Thursday Reviews CCIX
You Are Here
Paul's Thursday Reviews CCXI
Paul's Thursday Reviews CCXII
Paul's Thursday Reviews CCXIII
Paul's Thursday Reviews CCXIV
Paul's Thursday Reviews CCXV

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Comments ( 4 )

Oh my, I didn't expect that story to ever get much attention! Like you said, it's not exactly the usual stuff I'm known for. But hey, if it shows I can flex my writing muscles for something besides genital mutilation and vomit, then I'm more than pleased with it. Glad you enjoyed it, and thank you. :)

I really like "Keeping it Simple" and my favorite part are when Pinkie is involved as she and Mac have a very interesting dynamic. I will admit being a little bit sad that she kind of fades away later in the story.

5294307
Most characters faded around halfway through, but it's no surprise. It's hard to have that many characters feel important throughout an entire story, after all. I think it's good Ivory Piano narrowed it down as the story went on.

In the years since I read Keeping it Simple, I've read many storieas that are probably better on some capacity, but man does that story still hold a special place in my heart. I still remember the spark of joy I felt whenever a new chapter was posted. Or the gentle laughter at the April's Fools chapter Even after all these years, and all that will come, KiS will probably still be my favourite pony story.

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