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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Stardust (KismetJeska)

Last night I pulled an almost all-nighter reading all ten chapters of KismetJeska's 'Stardust', a crossover between Sherlock and Hunger Games.  I'm now waiting impatiently for chapter eleven of this wonderful story.  The story places many Sherlock characters into the world of the Hunger Games trilogy, and it will eventually become John/Sherlock.  Which, considering the romance in Hunger Games that changed everything, is reasonable, but it's quite different from the calculated romance of Katniss in HG.  Still, the story is well-rounded and well-written.

While I enjoyed HG, I wasn't a big fan of the first person perspective through the whole book (please note I'm only able to talk about the first book since I haven't read the other two).  Though I only read a few chapters in the manga, Battle Royale seemed superior to me because it focused on more than just Katniss and Peeta.  Sure, HG had some focus on other characters, but we don't truly learn about the other competitors in any meaningful way.  This makes their deaths a bit easier to deal with.  In BR, however, even at the beginning we get to know the other characters, their backstory, and when people die it usually comes directly after learning about their life.

'Stardust' takes what I like about BR storytelling and blends it with HG - we learn about a few of the different competitors but not about all of them.  It's third person perspective, bouncing back and forth between the different competitors you're supposed to care about.  The description of the Capitol and training is brief, but the scene where Sherlock earns his rating of 11 is marvelous.  KismetJeska pulls it off with skill.

There are a few grammatical mistakes that having a beta reader would probably clear up, though none are particularly grating.  The only part that makes me cautious about this story is the eventual John/Sherlock pairing.  This isn't because I don't like John/Sherlock - it's because it is so radically different from the HG romance.  A few chapters in, when the Games start, their hands lock (don't make the joke) around a gun.  There's the expected 'feeling' that runs through them, and the scene is told from Sherlock's point of view.  Yes, John and Sherlock make slash-fans salivate and any way you look at it they're a pretty fucking awesome pairing, but I expected more calculation from Sherlock.  A realization of how he could play the Games.

But - I'm waiting with anticipation to see how Kismet has their romance affect the Games.  Their romance is so different from that of Katniss' that I feel I will enjoy seeing how Sherlock and John revolutionize Panem.  I'm also interested in seeing how much of the HG trilogy is covered in 'Stardust'.

I'm slowly gathering together a 'Best Fanfic' and 'Great Fanfic' list, as well as 'Best Authors'.  While 'Stardust' is currently on the list for 'Great Fanfic', depending on where it goes, it may end up on the 'Best Fanfic' list.  It's a great blend of HG and Sherlock, containing perfect snippets of each.  There isn't too much of either fandom overwhelming the other, nor too many direct quotes or scenes that make someone acquainted with either fandom roll their eyes.  That is one of the signs of lazy crossover - simply taking a scene from one fandom and inserting other characters without changing the damn lines.  Thankfully, 'Stardust' is devoid of that.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Lay You Down Like a Throw Rug (coffee)

This will be a quick update.  The person that wrote 'Shoes and Ships and Sealing Wax' also wrote a short story that I was able to read today while eating lunch.  'Lay You Down Like a Throw Rug' by coffeebuddha is, well, I'd call it a romcom, if only because there is the phrase, "...apparently he lives in some kind of mortifying romcom now..." in the middle of the story.  'Lay You Down...' takes place in a Castle AU(ish).  Naturally, I've only seen around five minutes of Castle, so it makes perfect sense that I'm reading fanfiction of it.

Chances are I'll start reading a ton of Castle fanfic, get guilty, and then start watching the show.  It's what usually happens.

The story's great.  'Shoes...' was great too, and I plan to slowly chew my way through her other stories as well.  The writing is witty and appropriately cute as well as cutting and - damnit, there was Godzilla in the story and it just made me so happy!

Good, short ficlets are actually harder to pull off than they should be.  Over in the Eyeshield 21 fandom, hadaka had it down so perfectly I wanted to just give up on writing anything because she was that good.  I'm thinking maybe, possibly, finally coffeebuddha is someone who I can rely on for good short stories from Criminal Minds and Castle (after the guilt sets in and I actually watch it).  With a ficlet you have to give just enough tidbits of information about the characters that people are able to follow the new story you're building, or so that people can place the story in context.  You have to string the reader along so that they have enough information to feel in-the-know, but you can't go overboard or it becomes tedious.  The balancing act of just-enough information is what makes or breaks a ficlet, and 'Lay You Down...' is well-balanced.  It's funny and fun.

Go read it.  I'll be bringing more reviews soon.

Sherlock X-Over

I finished watching episode three of Sherlock's series two, 'The Reichenbach Fall'.  Thanks to having friends who saw it before I did, I knew exactly what was going to happen, but that didn't make it any less a punch to the gut, nor am I any less eager for them to finally begin shooting series three.  (2013 is too damn long to wait!)

Like most fandoms, I got into Sherlock backwards.  I'd been looking up a random pairing in fanfiction's search capability and slowly whittling away the hits by selecting categories to view.  Up pops K8BNimble's 'Crime is of the Essence', and it just seemed so strange I had to read it.  Turned out to be one of the better crossovers I've read - though that isn't saying much considering how bad most of them are.  I'll be rereading and reviewing it in the next few weeks.  I do love a good mystery, and it includes both Sherlock Holmes and Severus Snape.

But that fanfiction made me a bit interested in this new, handsome Sherlock.  I had enjoyed, to some extent, Robert Downey Jr.'s Sherlock in the American movies, but most of the time his acting just made me want to watch Iron Man again.  I finally settled down to watch S1E1 of Sherlock in college, and it made me squirm in my seat with joy.  It was fucking perfect and I needed more of it.

Of course, I was also trying to watching Doctor Who and Firefly and Torchwood at the same time, so it ended up falling to the side while I tried to straighten out my television show focus.  I was also hindered in not having Netflix, but that's another story.

After finishing 'The Reichenbach Fall', though, I decided to go waltzing off into the dangerous waters of Sherlock crossovers.  I'll write more about my feelings towards crossovers in another post, but, for now, let's just say it's complicated.

There are a little over 1,000 crossovers for this fandom, and most of them are spread out over a variety of other fandoms.  There's a predictable mass in Doctor Who, over 400, and I might be wading about in that section for a time to see if I can find anything that doesn't involve the Doctor and Sherlock or Sherlock and Amy.  I'll probably sample a few of those anyway, but I am looking for a good adventure with limited romance to blog about for that crossover.

There are, naturally, some crossovers that make one's jaw drop.  By far the strangest is an Indonesian fanfiction that crosses Spongebob and Sherlock.  I wish I knew Indonesian just to read it.  There are a variety of others ranging all over the spectrum of interests, and as I usually do with crossovers, some of them just make me wonder about humanity.

Thankfully, there are some good fanfictions hidden among the rest.

One of these can be found in, surprisingly, the Pirates of the Carribean crossovers.  A crack!fic, 'Freebooters' has Sherlock as a pirate captain stuck in the same cell as Jack Sparrow.  There are a few typos but hardly enough to be distracting.  A short piece of work, it actually holds a lot of interesting details into Sherlock's life as a captain.  Plus, John is a merman.  It's just a good fiction all around.  I'll be reading TheOtherMadHatter's 'Glimpse of Gold' as well, since it also has Sherlock as a pirate captain but is much longer than 'Freebooters'.  I may end up highlighting TheOtherMadHatter depending on how the rest of her stories turn out.

Criminal Minds is hit and miss, though none of them are truly awful and would be palatable enough if one needed a break from more intense reading.  There's a mix of fluff and deeper works, and, as expected, people love seeing Spencer (from Criminal Minds) and Sherlock teaming up to solve cases or just be brilliant.  While I like Spencer he always seemed a bit soft, especially compared to Sherlock, but he is supposed to be a genius.  'Shoes and Ships and Sealing Wax' is actually quite good, a lovely exploration in two geniuses meeting and speaking.

There are plenty of 'bad guy' versus Sherlock crossovers.  One of these is 'Sherlock vs Dexter', which is acceptable but lacking any true excellence.  Mediocre but a way to pass the time, I think I would like to see more Sherlock and Dexter standoffs, but that's because I love Dexter.  Still, for a first fanfiction, it's acceptable. Another pits Sherlock against Jigsaw (Saw) in 'Can You See in the Dark?', but the writing is uninspired and dull.  An interesting plot can be killed by bad writing, and 'Can...' seems to bleed poor writing.

I haven't been able to make it through all the crossovers, but I'll do my best to give brief impressions.  Supernatural seems too convoluted and dull, and the Titanic crossovers are exactly what you would expect.  The Tron crossover may be promising but only has four chapters at the moment.  The Twilight stories look predictably awful and hilarious.  The X-Men (movie) crossover 'Near' is mediocre, falling just short of being truly wonderful.  Eragon surprised me by having its one crossover be an M-rated one.

Overall, most of the crossovers are dull or poorly written with a few gems in between.  Most likely, if you want to read it, it exists, but the quality of the writing will likely not be up to any standard.  In the next few months I'll be weeding through the crossovers and bringing you the best ones I can find, but the list will be small.  Sherlock has a big fandom, but sometimes the biggest fandoms contain the absolute worst fanfictions.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Building With Worn Out Tools (Lomo)

A few weeks ago I finished reading Lomonaaeren's 'Building With Worn Out Tools'.  Set in a Harry Potter universe, it describes the divorce battle between Harry Potter and Ginerva Weasley.  There's also a romance plot thrown in there that has a lovely false start.

Lomonaaeren is one of my favorite authors and, before I got back into fanfiction more seriously, was the only reason I still read it.  She writes primarily a pairing I don't typically care for - Harry/Draco - but her exploration of the Harry Potter world of purebloods and magic is delicious.  With a variety of spells in her 200+ stories, interesting character development, and wonderful flare for the dramatic, Lomonaaeren is one of the queens of HP slash.  No matter what else I'm reading, one of her stories is always bookmarked and being worked through.  Her portfolio ranges from hilarious oneshots to brief dabbles in disfunction to novel length adventures.  If slash is your thing, or you aren't opposed, Lomonaaeren offers some of the best HP fanfic out there.

As I slowly gather up more good fanfiction that ranges from romance to comedy to mystery I'll be reviewing a lot of Lomonaaeren's works because they're stable and have been on my radar for so long.  But I feel it necessary to note that while her stories are primarily slash and include sex unabashedly they're more than sex.  Fanfiction is a bit saturated with sex, sex, and more sex (and did I mention sex?), and Lomonaaeren has a variety of sex scenes on display, and plenty of romance, but her worldbuilding and spellcraft is remarkable.  As is her character development.

One of Lomonaaeren's strongest traits is that just when you assume that she has fallen into a rut of characterization of Harry, Draco, Hermione, Ron, Ginny, Pansy, Blaise, Astoria, Narcissa, Lucius, anyone - she does a 180.  Yes, her Harry does have consistencies in characterization, but he's always a surprise.  He doesn't always play the savior wounded by society, nor does he always play the eager hero.  Draco doesn't always play the snob, nor does he always play the intelligent Slytherin.  Ron isn't always characterized as stupid, praise the gods!

'Building With Worn Out Tools' is one of Lomonaaeren's earlier works, and the only fault that bothered me was her characterization of Ginny Weasley.  She prepares you for that in her warnings, though, and makes a much more honest attempt in showing Ginny as still human in a situation in which other authors would just not even try (or actively go out of their way to demonize).  And, considering the POV is from Harry and Draco at various points but not Ginny's, she pulls Ginny off alright.  Plus, her page is full of other stories in which Ginny is much less the villain and, in fact, sometimes the hero.

The scene that truly sticks with me from 'Building...' is the marvelous duel between Harry and Lucius.  Unforgettable in its brutality, the scene is bloody and harsh and beautiful.  Lomonaaeren only improves with her description of wizarding duels as her writes, and I admit I read her stories for the duels.

Rating: 10 out of 10 stars

(If you have a story, written by you or someone else, that you want me to read and review, please leave me a comment.  I'm always eager for non-romance fanfic and strange pairings as well!)