Thursday, May 17, 2012

Review – To Fix You and What If?


 A request straight from the site; the review of To Fix You and, the follow up, What If? are after the break!

When all is lost, is there such a thing as hope?


(Medicshy's note: I am tired of 'Ah' for when AJ speaks, and so many writers use the convention. It isn't even the right sound for the accent. 'Ih' is closer, and even that's not quite right. Makin' it sound like a southern thing ain't about the 'I's, it's the wordin'. You cain't just go around addin' 'h's to things and expectin' it to work. It ain't right! The only reason I put this here is because it struck me very hard by the end of these stories and I don't want to have to bring it up in the review, or the review of any AJ-centric story that follows it. With that out of the way, the actual review:)

To Fix You:

The Story:
After Rainbow Dash fails the tryouts for the Wonderbolts she finds herself on the edge of Ponyville, tears refusing to stop. Her mounting failures have piled up too high, and as their weight grew too much to bear, Rainbow leaps from a cloud in a suicide attempt. She is saved at the last minute by Fluttershy, who is injured even worse in the accident, then both are taken to the hospital by Pinkie and Applejack. She spends the next few days in recovery and, with the help of her friends, is able to get a whole new outlook on life.

The Characters:
Rainbow Dash is the lead, a dark, depressing pony to begin with but through a fair bit she grows to learn she isn't a failure and is wanted and becomes happier, if not really much lighter. She has a tendency to get very emotional despite claiming never to do so, but her character honestly isn't that far off from the show one. Though she does have this odd thing where she second guesses everything she does, and she completely loses that 'cool' attitude we all know so well, and she is in love with Applejack, depressed, and tried to commit suicide, but every story needs a premise, right?
Supporting her is Applejack, who says Sugarcube constantly. I don't care if this is supposed to be a pet name thing with Rainbow, but seriously, enough with the darn sugar; we'll all get diabetes. Other than that Applejack is almost impossibly kind and understanding, but with a more fleshed out back story than is normally seen and deeper character besides the hard worker and the shipping target. Definitely deserving of the supporting role.
Pinkie Pie is the next most used character, going between Pinkamena and Pinkie when Dashie was hurt, but she's not overly hyper or overly dark in either, so it all works out. Her balance isn't quite right for the show, but it is well within accepted range of the fandom, do I'll give it a pass. After her it becomes a bit more difficult, as the rest of the Main Six are missing for much of the story.
After Fluttershy saves Dash she spends most of the story in a coma, so not a lot of development can occur there, though what little character does come out would not have been my choice for the poor girl.
Rarity is... a bit of a bitch. Understandably so, but still unwarranted in the scenario, though she does immediately resolve it happily at the end with no conflict or real, you know, scenes growing her as a character.. In the story her parents are dead, but it was written before Sisterhooves Social was aired, so the lapse in canon can be ignored, but while I'm sure she has a deep past in the writer's head, it goes nowhere.
Twilight Sparkle ends up the most used after Pinkie, but she is just sort of this middle ground the whole time, never jumping in or showing any sort of anything. Really, it's almost as bad as Nurse Redheart's clinical coldness, but she isn't the focus, so I suppose it's understandable as well. Just sad to see three of the six going to waste.

Execution:
Multiple minimal grammatical errors, tactless word choices, pacing stutters, and minor typos are present; all small, but with just enough presence to be niggling hindrances. There are surprisingly visceral, touching, and emotional scenes that would be done spectacularly were it not for the author's troubles with finding enough words in a scenario. Certain ones end up repeated, often to the detriment of the piece. There was also at least one bit of questionable canon which I can only assume was stated due to the post date of the story. One last complaint I have is that there are large portions of dialogue that are simply... lacking, just going around in circles or not having the intended impact. Then, seeming to make up for it, it becomes the most flowery language imaginable, a veritable bounty of superfluous fluff. And then the lovey-dovey stuff that just sweeps over the end of the piece; so much sap spilling from the computer screen... It's actually rather amusing.
Everything previously mentioned aside, it is overall executed well, but that lost potential for amazing really gets to me.

Enjoyable?:
I moaned a bit above, I know, but on the whole, yes, it is enjoyable. I'm not a huge fan of the sadder stories, but it was presented well enough to make it all worth while. The shipping felt a bit serendipitous, truth be told, but it doesn't detract from the story, and when all is said and done, I got something out of the story, so that's all you can really ask. Not a favorite, but not without merit. Even if my whining guides you away, give it a read if you have the chance. It's not such a bad little story, it just needs some love and attention, is all.

In Conclusion:
A touching little piece tarnished by some poor choices throughout. Worth a read if you have an extra minute or two.

However, one review wasn't all I was asked for. The sequel, What If? Right now.

In desperate times, the weak ask: “What if?” The strong ask: “What next?”

What If?:

The Story:
As a mystery stallion enters Ponyville, Applejack goes to Twilight for help with Rainbow. She is worried that Rainbow is too clingy, this being her first time alone in weeks, and that it is indicative of metal issues still being present. After a brief pep-talk from Twilight, AJ goes home to a very-happy-to-see-her Rainbow Dash. However, soon after she gets home, another issue makes itself present: the mystery stallion is Applejack's father, asking for forgiveness for abandoning the family when they were all younger. Big Mac refuses to let Cider stay in the house, but AJ thinks he has changed, and so goes with him to help get his life back on track. In the following days Dash learns that she cannot live without AJ, flying after her while AJ learns that her father is not the caring stallion she was hoping for. From here it all becomes spoilerific, but deus ex machina and quoting song lyrics are a powerful force.

The Characters:
Applejack now takes the co-lead, strong in mind and body, stubborn and sure in her actions, even with things going strangely around her. Really, I like this Applejack, she's just the kind of strong mare everypony can look up to. And, even better, she figured out how to stop saying Sugarcube! But now she has this odd thing of stalling when plot relevant, just so totally focused in whatever emotion needs her stationary for things to be set up correctly that she misses things like the pony obviously coming up to attack her. It's a bad habit I truly wish she'd break. Rainbow Dash, when compared to her southern counterpart, has gotten weaker. Clingier. Speaking very often in ellipses and fully focused solely on Applejack. But she doesn't seem to understand how relationships work. Honestly, neither of them do. They treat each other more like sisters, with Rainbow acting like a ten year old girl more than a full grown mare and AJ acting like an older sister, tousling hair and pep talking her saddened Dashie. They kiss, sometimes even passionately, but between those pecks and smooches, if I didn't know the set up, the only thing telling me they were going out would be the constant use of “marefriend” and “lover” when one looked at the other. It's when they end up apart that they feel more “in love,” but even that is just because both are obsessed with the other's well being, Rainbow going so far as to almost be non-functional without AJ there. It's just a terribly terribly week incarnation of the mare that I cannot side behind, even trying to accept it after everything that happened. She should have been like a phoenix, rising from her ashes even stronger than before, but instead she's like Icarus, the fire only leading to a bad end.
Cider (AJ's Dad) is a stallion with a big presence, a pathetic past, and a drinking habit. If he weren't a plot point, he could be a particularly homophobic and abusive pastry for all the effect he had on the story. Big Mac is fiery, oddly talkative, and stubborn, but otherwise difficult to read. The remaining members of the Main Six are much as they were previously, which is to say, flat versions of the show characters. Twilight is a knowledgeable bookworm, Rarity says “Darling” constantly and is all prim and classy, Pinkie is energetic and childish to a slightly grating degree, and Fluttershy hardly speaks. Not much more can be taken from the story, except that they all stutter when sad, anxious, upset, or think a sentence was flowing too well, further weakening defining characteristics.

Execution:
There was a typo in paragraph one, so there isn't much improvement here, and in fact the relatively brisk pace of the previous story has been replaced by the slowest, most meandering version of storytelling I have been privy to read. It reminded me of Tolkein, the way it could go on for seemingly forever, describing everything in minute detail, yet telling you nothing.
I'll try to explain:
There were, on multiple occasions, whole paragraphs describing the setting a pony was in, or their state of mind, or perhaps their actions, and on almost every occasion I knew no more than I had starting the paragraph or could not hold a picture of what they had done in my mind. For all of the descriptions thrown in, they are all the same, so while I know at this point exactly what AJ's and, to a much lesser extent, Dash's eyes look like, I couldn't for the life of me hope to describe Sweet Apple Acres, the Library, or any of the ponies past their color combo to someone based on this story. This is not how descriptions are done, and with so much time spent on them, slowing the pacing to a crawl, I expected more. But instead the entire story seems to come off with less. Less visceral, less touching, less absorbing... just less overall. It made the same mistakes as the first tale, but emphasized them instead of fixing them.
And then, to top it all off, the entire story is fixed with deus ex machina, what should be the last resort of any writer, and then a series of quoted song lyrics threw what little investment I had in the story right out the window.
If the last story suffered from missed opportunities, this one was firing blind from another continent.
The ending was touching though.

Enjoyable?:
Personally... I hate to say it, but, no. It is not enjoyable. At some point reading this story became work for me, not something I was doing for fun anymore, and there is no reason for that. Yes, I put it on a deadline, yes, I feel responsible if I miss it and don't post, and yes, reading on a time limit does have a tendency to hamper enjoyment, but it hasn't stopped me before. I am willing to bet it is more my own tastes in a read than anything else, but I found myself procrastinating and doing other things instead of reading it, trying to put it off until the review deadline was reached, and no story should cause that reaction. And maybe it's all the recent English classes and the hopes of someday teaching it, but I couldn't help but find the title of the story apt. All I want is to fix you, story. All those little flaws keep you from greatness, and I'm afraid a harsh-ish review is the only way to bring enough attention to them to fix them.
You may find differently (in fact, I hope you do, because no work deserves to go unappreciated), but I cannot in all good faith say I enjoyed the story, and because of this, I cannot recommend it.

In Conclusion:
A continuation of a touching tale that subtracts from the original. While looking into the complexity of Apple Family life is a noble endeavor, far too many flaws in execution and characterization combine to keep the thought from its true potential. A story suffering from sequelitis, it might be better to stop at the original.

The Link:

And that is that, so... 

Okay, I can't just end this without saying something.

I'm going to be honest here, I hate giving bad reviews. This is why bad reviews often end up as harsh, brief critiques. Just saying a story is good or bad helps nothing, while giving reasons for it at least give the author a clue of what to keep and what to toss aside. Even still, I don't like to be giving critiques, even if I am trying to help. This space should be used to highlight stories worth reading, not point you away from stories not, and I feel like I'm failing you when the story I review isn't the crème dela crème. I'm not saying don't suggest stories for me to review, as I am here to serve and tell you if things are worth your time, just please don't be mad at me with the result. I'm going with my honest reaction, and complaining isn't going to change it any time soon.

Okay, that settled? Did I put out that fire before it could start? Good.

That's all everypony! Hope I gave y'all a little insight, now if'n you'll excuse me, I got some tales to read! Have a wonderful day, everypony!

Yer honest writer,
~Medicshy

5 comments:

  1. huh... ok then, completely different to what i took out of the story, i did notice in to fix you the repetition of words and some other things you mentioned but overall i enjoyed it a lot, i found that i could imagine what was happening quite easily and i looked forward to reading it, heck i even had a few dreams about it, anyway i am not going to annoy you for giving it a bad review, maybe i only liked it because of relating to some of the characters, and i think that so far in what if (i am up to the first conversation with big mac) then i think the characters were set out perfectly, but we all are entitled to our own opinions, i am sorry you didn't enjoy it nearly as much as i did.

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    1. Apparently I am the only person in existence to say this story wasn't a gem in the dark, so obviously I'm just some horrible brute here. I'm not even going to defend myself- if I am wrong about any of it, tell me how in whatever terms you'd like. This goes for everyone reading this, not just maul. If I am doing more harm than good, I should know so I can be jailed like the horrible monster I am.

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  2. ummm you know i don't really care if you give it a bad review, i was just stating that i enjoyed it and that some of the other people that read this might enjoy it too, it just depends on what kind of fan-fics you are into, personally this is right up my alley so i really enjoyed it but for someone who is not into this kind of things it can be less enjoyable.

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  3. I'm sad to hear this review... To Fix You was one of my first reviews... And I loved it, it is still my favorite fan-fiction to date... I am sorry for the way you feel, and I value your opinion... I still stick by it is a good fan-fic...

    As for 'What If?' I haven't read that, probably won't, and cannot give any recommendations on that, so I definitely agree with that. :)

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  4. Yah, I agree with you 120%; for all its flaws, "What If?" would have been a far better story without the D.E.M. I literally shouted "ARE YOU BUCKING KIDDING ME!?" when I read that chapter.

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