Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Ponyfic Roundup 26: Outside Insight finalists, 2/4

Here's my second batch of reviews of the 22 (other) finalists in this summer's EqD "Outside Insight" contest. I'm discussing six stories this time round and, once again, there's quite a range in scores. I'm fairly sure about my choice for this week's Pick, but it wasn't the supremely obvious decision that I was able to make last time round.

Pick of the fics

Rise by Blueshift
Breezies, Apple Bloom and Twilight
Adventure; 15K words; Aug 2014; Everyone
To the Breezies, ponies are the enemy: agents of summer shutdown and even death. Young Misty's coming-of-age Quest may change that. My liking for Adventure fics is well known, and this one also has some brilliant world-building. There are also moments of heart-rending emotion: I found myself impressively offended by some elements of Breezie culture. Mostly wonderfully paced, and this was heading for a 9+ rating for a while, but the story only just slipped inside both time and word-count limits, and that does show a little in the slightly-too-quick resolution. 8.5/10

Other stories

I Am Demon by Aquaman
OCs and Others; 16K words; Aug 2014; Teen
This fic won the EqD contest outright. It doesn't win mine! Don't get me wrong: it's a superb feat of imaginative writing in terms of showing ponies (Clover the Clever especially) from a truly different perspective. However, the gimmick of using colours to represent Demon's emotions becomes increasingly trying as the number of those emotions increases: I simply can't fully enjoy a story that's as hard on my eyes as this. Immensely clever, but I can't help feeling dialling down on that a bit might actually have made this story even more impressive. 8/10

The Last Trumpet's Call by Cold in Gardez
Adventure; 15K words; Aug 2014; Teen
A gryphon [sic] goes to Cloudsdale to talk to his dead army friend's (Cirrus) family. This is one of my favourite genres, written by one of the best writers in the fandom. It shines brilliantly in terms of imagery, and I loved discovering how vital a weather pegasus could be for the military. So why doesn't it win for me? Partly, it has the same problem Pride did: I just don't really like militaristic gryphons, so the enjoyment factor is inevitably slightly limited. Cirrus's fate was a tad predictable, too. A truly wonderful last line, though. 8/10

Little Apple by Oroboro
Winona, Apple Bloom and CMC
Slice of Life; 4K words; Aug 2014; Everyone
This tale of Winona's relationship with (mostly) Apple Bloom is a good example of a solid story that didn't really grab me. Maybe I just don't find Winona a massively engaging protagonist, though Skywriter's Sun Princess (PR 6) got a decent enough score. Returning to this story, it has a slightly gimmicky style involving the use of bold: I actually thought this might have been too restrained, so much so that it didn't contribute much to my enjoyment. The climax is quite involving, but nothing made me go "Wow!" 6.5/10

What Do Ponies Call Stockholm Syndrome? by CogWing
Discord and Fluttershy
Comedy/Random; 2K words; Jul 2014; Everyone
"You can't write speech like this." I said. "Really, you can't." I continued. Ahem... I often like this pairing, but this story just didn't work for me, even aside from the aforementioned technical issue. I found Discord far more annoying than engaging, and Fluttershy rather forgettable. Apart from one hilarious phrase consisting of the same word five times running (seriously, it works) I was never caught by this fic. Also, if you're going to use the word "Brony" in a ponyfic for any reason at all, you need to make that story amazingly good. 4/10

Wisp by rockyrobben
OC, Twilight, Celestia, Blueblood and Fancy Pants
Slice of Life; 12K words; Aug 2014; Teen
My goodness, this one could have done with better proofreading. "Pegasi" in the singular? "Filly's" for "fillies"? There were more. The idea of using a... consciousness as POV character was one I found absolutely intriguing, and I was really interested by the concept of The Well. However, it's not exactly a rollicking ride and I did find my attention wandering several times, notably in chapter two. I wasn't massively taken with the Twilight stuff, either. Thanks partly to the poor editing, 6/10.

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