Reviews: Whateley Universe
Interesting concepts, but a rough start.
At the time of this review, these stories have been written over a ten-year span, by a number of different authors. Some of the authors are quite good at keeping the tone of the characters and universe consistent throughout- I'd recommend Bek D. Corbin, Babs Yerunkle, and Diane Castle as being quite good at that. Bottom line, if you're interested in a pretty good take on the concept of a mutant school a la X-men or Sky High, give it a look. The early writing is *extremely* rough, but the authors tend to improve over time (again, they've been at it for ten years). Some improve more than others, and some just bowed out completely. Basic gist: Cthulhu mythos is real, as are many others, subject to authors' understanding of said mythos. Ominous things are coming to a head in the next two years, so the head of the school has (unofficially) altered a number of policies on how the students are allowed to act. Into this comes a new crop of kids for the closeted LGBTQ dorm. They make a training group because of shared issues. One's a reincarnated elf queen, one's an accidental embodiment of a ancient superweapon (formerly lacking in free will) designed to end cthulhu-mythos things. One's an escaped experimental subject who was exiled from their rich family, another's a kung-fu master, one makes poltergeist duplicates of herself, and the last one is a low-power superman. Weirdness ensues. The stories started out as TG fic, so periodically when an author is added to the group, they'll randomly try to retcon side characters into being TG for no obvious reason. There's no escaping it; just shake your head and carry on. Don't bother with the stories by Dr. Bender or Renae; they read like weird fap-fiction and neither author can keep other character voices consistent at ALL. The only exception to this is the Halloween storyline; you do kind of need to read those just to know what's going on in the subsequent stories. When reading, sort the stories based on when, in the story timeline, the entire completed story ends or begins. Don't read them in publication order, because that will be very confusing. Over all, the concept is a lot of fun, but the execution is sometimes a bit rough. Particularly in the beginning. But if you've got a lot of time on your hands, and a good tolerance for rough writing, give it a read!
I've only read the first dozen or so stories, but here's what I think so far: The quality varies a bunch from author to author, which is probably to be expected. Most of the authors are pretty good, and I intend to keep reading. My biggest complaint is that "Starwolf," who writes the Tennyo stories, is not a good writer at all either in terms of concept or writing style; I find their stories unreadable. Skipping everything by him/her/it/them avoids most of the problem, but it does cause a bit of feeling like I haven't read the prequel (because, of course, I haven't) and also the backstory, which I think is pretty dumb, pops up and bugs me every now and then. The writer for Phase/Ayla is probably my favorite.
A More Intelligent, More In-depth Review
So earlier on this website I apparently posted a review here. I don't remember writing said review at all, but that being said a better review is in order. Let's break this down, shall we? First off the characters, they're creepy. Mostly because all of the characters are either emotionless, or just so kind that it comes off as forced. This is not intended, as evidenced by the way the plot goes. If you really needed a reason to read this the characters are not it. Second, let's talk about the plot. It's reminiscent of the silver and gold age comics of DC and Marvel fame, where all the evil people are simply evil because "I'm evil!", but it's even worse because the good people are good because they don't have anything they want to protect from these evil mutants. A very large majority of them were betrayed by their fellow humans, many more of them rejected from society, so why the hell are they protecting it? It all seems like a very forced author appeal, that people more powerful than us would protect us even if we hated them. Most often, the inverse is true, that people more powerful work only to increase their own power. This is an aspect of the X-Men comics as well, but there's no reason why this webnovel should have to be exactly X-Men but for transformation fetishists. I'll get to this later. If you were looking for a good plot, you won't find it here. Third, the setting. It is in a world where both science and magic exist. In my previous review I mentioned that it's odd. Magic needs a form. It is not just an excuse to fix plot holes. Get it right, authors. My main point which I neglected to mention in the other review was that the magic is just duct tape used to fix plot holes and is never fully explained, it's illogical. If you were looking for a good setting, well... it's exactly X-Men's. Fourth, let's talk about the target audience. This is blatantly a wishing hole for the author's fetishes and desires. At least that's what I hope, because otherwise they're just trying to appeal to an audience they're not part of. Irrevocably, it is for the MTF transgender and transformation fetishists out there. Sure, not that there's anything wrong with that, but there are better ways to be spending your time. So, the only reason to read this is if you have the fetish, which I do not. Therefore, I don't enjoy Whateley.
Review of The Braeburn Report
I've read a number of the Whately Universe stories. I'm not a big fan of the Team Kimba stories, feeling like they work best as background characters, but some of the sidestories are excellent. The one I am reviewing is The Braeburn report at http://www.crystalhall.org/braeburn.html by Babs Yerunkle. Basic synopsis, two MCO researchers discover some disturbing truths behind some of the aspects of the series such as the large number of m2f transformations and the astounding amount of guilt-free sex the characters participate in. It's fascinating reading at several points. And then it drops into a storyline that made glance towards to end to see if it was supposed to be an in-universe pairing fanfic. What do I mean by this? Well, spoilers ahead, one of the researchers has a fetish for the idea of teaching an m2f mutant how to become female, explicitly noted in the story to be an Eliza Doolitlle kind of thing to him. The other researcher conveniently becomes a mutant who exactly fits the first researcher's ideals and needs someone to "help him understand what it is to be a woman". Cue the soft lighting and Barry White as they proceed to do just that. And right when I'm expecting a scene cut and Researcher B vowing to never look up what Researcher A posted on fanfiction.net ever again, they drop back to the serious plotline about humanity's extinction through gender-bias and lots and lots of sex. It's a bit of a see-saw but honestly, it was a good read. The characters are interesting. The grammar and spelling are almost perfect (only homophone I caught was a confusion between "kneed" and "knead"). I recommend the reading of it. Just... be ready to emit some nervous giggle around that one scene. To borrow from a joke on XKCD, there's some Strunk/White in the middle of the Strunk&White writing.
Boldly failing where no one has failed before
Okay, so I have to agree with the other reviews, that most the Canon stories are too long and absurdly boring. Dr. Bender is the only talented author among the Canon writers. So anyways, a lot of the canon stories flat out suck. To make matters worse, on the Whateley forum, the Canon writers are referred to as the "Canon Cabal." Arrogant much? Anyways, this Canon Cabal consisting of all the Canon writers, ultimately decides who becomes a Canon writer, out of all the aspiring fan-fiction writers who post their stories on that forum. Here's the fucking problem. MOST of the fan-fiction authors are better writers than the canon writers. They write better. Their characters are far more likable and less sue'ish. And their stories are FUN to read. But how many of these FF writers make it into the canon cabal? Almost none. Last time a canon author was added was 2008. And from what I can see, has only written one story which isn't very good. Guess what these Canon authors say on the matter? They DON'T EVEN READ the fan-fiction stories most the time. They just ignore their fans like that. As if the fan-fiction writers are all garbage writers. Arrogant much? YES! Biggest single turn off about this story universe. Especially when the canon stories are...let's be fucking honest here...not that great. The writing is often dry and overly-drawn out. Characters are sue'tastic. Story lines lack decent villains who aren't just evil for the lulz. To make matters worse, if you speak out in nearly anyway against this practice of screwing over the lowly FF writers, or criticize the canon stories, you get flamed. They literally try and run you off the forum. Seriously seriously flamed. It's like putting an opinionated person into a room full of delusional zombies who can't think for themselves. So yeah, the fan community is seriously fucked up, and is a HUGE turn-off to lurkers like me who have considered posting, but haven't, and ultimately read all the canon stories and was not impressed. My opinion? These arrogant Canon authors should read through all these FF stories and start to add some of the FF writers who have the skill, and are desirous of the job. That would seriously improve the story universe. As it is, the FF Universe is 10 times better than the Canon univ.
Great Ideas that are hindered by poor execution.
So lets start with the good, the universe is awesome. Yes parts of it were lifted wholesale from the X-men, but so what the X-men are awesome. There are a lot of great ideas like Humanity First and the Goodkind family, while we had characters like Senator Kelly and Graydon Creed from the X-men, I liked the idea that there was an entire political machine devoted to the perpetuation of the anger. Another cool idea was the addition of the Cthulhu Mythos. Also I like the idea that the School is supported by both superheroes and supervillains and is thus neutral is cool. But these good parts are held back by a few things. The first is that 2 of the 5 characters are just boring (Chaka and Fey). And one of the characters has the potential to be interesting if her author was better (Tennyo). One of them is ripe with unfortunate implications about how women should act (Jade) but while we are meant to sympathize with her, she is also quite obviously unstable, so that may be the point (if so kudos for subtlety). Ayla's the most interesting for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that her writer is decent. The second is that Ayla is the most involved with the world as a whole, so her stories tend to focus on the best parts of the setting. Now on to the bad, the authors keep getting confused as to how much the discrimination exists. Take Ayla's first story, she is a member of the most powerful anti-mutant family in the world they have a small army, lots of political clout and a huge grass-roots organization. Then Ayla when Ayla learns of Whateley (from a random police officer) says that her family has never heard of Whateley. There are lots of other odd inconsistencies like this, mostly that were are told that this discrimination is a big problem but it never really manifests and no one seems to care that mutants exist if they aren't part of the whole Goodkind thing. Oddly discrimination seems worse at the school where everyone hates everyone else (Actually that was kind of cool, because you could see that many of the people victimized by the Goodkinds might blame it on supervillains and take it out on their children, causing them to join together etc.). But a big problem is that a vast majority of the student body exists to be a jerk for no good reason (especially nameless characters).
Let's be blunt
Take a shot every time I say Unfortunate Implications. It's written at about a just above fanfic level which does make some sense considering it began as round robin rp (let's describe every single action in a day), although some writers are very good. Pacing is atrocious; I read for almost 12 hours straight through tons and tons of backstory and I'm officially on day 2. I jumped around to some of the later chapters, it improves but not much. Team Kimba; all are God Mode Sue Self Inserts. The Unfortunate Implications are dripping on this one, with more every time I think about it. Self inserts (bland middle children who can't do anything right) who turn into beautiful underaged women with super powers and put up more fuss about their powers. On the super power side, the universe itself is pretty solid. There's a nice mechanic in that Whateley is completely neutral, and the powers themselves are explained and run a nice gamut. However and this needs to be reiterated, the blatant MTF fetishism is astonishing. Seriously, the stories are borderline insults to actual trans people and the LGBT community at large; some of the better written characters (Jade and Ayla) are not and the issue is handled somewhat better. Still, the term shemale was a "scientific" term in Ayla's story; Unfortunate Implications. Many of the gay freshmen are apparently so thrilled to meet other gay people that the first night is practically a giant orgy; Unfortunate Implications. Gays are so hated that it's easier for them to hide; Unfortunate Implications. I'd like to think that people aren't that awful; and even being born and raised in the South, being bisexual and knowing quite a few gays, I can honestly say I've never seen an instance of gay bullying. And it certainly doesn't make any sense to have dozens of people lying to the world when on a good day Team Sue can basically take out half the school. All in all, it had enormous potential, and I was certainly curious after seeing so many entries on this site, but ultimately it fell very far flat and basically is soft core porn in some cases and hackneyed cliche writing in others, with broken characters and a setting so ripe with Unfortunate Implications that it might very well have collapsed into a singularity beyond which no further scrutiny of the setting can be done without Unfortunate Implications
After reading a lot of the series...
I thought I might put in my two cents. Personally, I love the series, but then I've always been a sucker for any kind of fantasy. However, the quality of the stories greatly varies from writer to writer. Starwolf's stories tend to be somewhat flat- that and they need to remember that there is more than one form of 'your'- and Heather O'Malley's stories often seem very reliant on 'Show, Don't Tell' though she seems to think it's 'Tell, Don't Show'. E.E. Nalley, J.G. and Diane Castle are by far the best of the authors; I enjoy reading the Outcast, Lit Chix/Loophole and Phase stories far more than any of the others. About the Team Kimba characters: Chaka is, honestly, boring. I don't generally find her stories interesting and there's really nothing about the character that appeals to me. Fey is a Sue of the highest degree, and her stories bore me too. Bladedancer actually is quite interesting in that O'Malley has done a decent job with the 'fish out of water' part of Bladedancer's life. I do wish that someone would write some Lancer stories, he's quite entertaining. Generator often irritates me but I do often enjoy her stories. I do like Tennyo quite a bit, but I wish her stories were better. Carmilla I like quite a lot. Phase is by far my favourite. He's probably one of the most well thought-out of the TK characters and he's written incredibly well. About the side characters: Whateley has fallen into the same trap as several other series for me in that the side characters are often more interesting than the main characters, and I'd prefer to see more stories involving the side characters. I'd love more Lit Chix/Murphy/Loophole stories; I'd love to see a story about Zenith, or Sahar, or Belphoebe- one that didn't involve Jobe- or Prism, or Verdant, or Vox, or Screech, or Gabriel; and I'd definitely love some more Outcast Corner stories- especially a story about the Fury Twins, or the end of Call The Thunder. Some of the side characters, like Gabriel or Zenith, are incredibly interesting, more so than some of the main characters. To sum up: while the series is good, it does need improvement.
Gerazzi reviews Whateley
I've really been putting this off but I suppose that I owe it to people who are actually interested in this series. I play a game with someone called "Internet Glory" the rules are as follows:
- First person with five points wins.
- No NSFW content can be linked.
- One link per email.
- One challenge per email.
- Upon completion of a challenge, you get one point.
- If you fail the challenge, you lose a point.
Review of a Lurker
Well, I read through some of the stories again, and decided to update my old review. Bottom line: Whateley is TG fantasy-fulfillment of varying (though often lower-average) writing skill. I'll get to a main sticking point in my craw; the Stu/Sue/gender-neutral term for Mary Sue of the characters; it's off the freaking charts for most of them. And guess what? No matter how much the fans protest, it doesn't change it. The main characters, Team Kimba, might as well be named the Sue Team; each member is essentially one of the hottest, most powerful students in the school, if not THE most powerful (Tennyo, Fae, I'm looking at you). It'd be one thing if they were continually balanced, but so far, they've gotten asspulls and power-ups ahoy with little foreshadowing (Jade and Ayla being the exception). Another problem I have with the stories themselves: The fact that each enemy encountered so far is a puppy-killing, serial raping, mass murdering, soul-sucking abomination (or a combination of the above). Honestly, for all of the fans declarations about the quality of the writing, I was expecting a little more... nuance, depth, *character* from the villains. And speaking of the stories, I'll get onto my last major gripe (as space is somewhat limited): The writing quality. Don't get me wrong; a few of the writers are actually good (not withstanding the content of the stories). But for every decent writer, we get boring, badly written, clunky writing from others, like Starwolf and Heather. The first Tennyo story Starwolf wrote read like a bad Tenchi fanfic (actually, it -was- a bad fanfic). Although her writing got (slightly) better, I still find them boring and devoid of emotion. Heather's Chou pieces are just boring and wooden, with terrible prose that managed to turn what should have been a interesting story into another piece of TG/transformation fantasy. My opinion on the series: Flawed, but worth checking out, for at least some of the stories.
Yes, it's a mixed bag. But I likes mixed bags.
I do love the Whateley universe. However I do love Bek's writing, she got me into the universe. First the good: 1) The setting is cool. Yes, TG stories can turn a few people off, but they are moving into other genera as well. 2) The writing is *very* good for the most part. "Show, don't tell", good action sequences etc. 3) A rich universe where even side characters and Author avatars get to grow and expand. The bad: 1] the villains are balls of idiocy. The only reason "Team Kimba" wins is that the villains are stupid or inept. That got old real fast. 2] They need to lose. Period. Not in the "beaten up" sense, but they need to suffer a defeat that they can't blast or Ki their way out of. 3] The Mary Sueness of TK is very much a function of adults writing for teens.