|Reviews for Of Sheep and Battle Chicken|
| Sciencefictionsquirrel chapter 123 . 8/4
I'm proud to say that this story is actually the first Mass Effect fanfic I've ever read, mostly because I didn't get into the games until recently and I have a personal policy of not indulging in fanfics where I'm unfamiliar with the source material. This story was actually recommended to me by a friend who was helping me with one of my own stories, as an example of satisfactory arc structure. However, I enjoyed this story a great deal for many other reasons, not the least being that many of the science fiction stories I read during my formative years, among them Halo: The Fall of Reach, Starship Troopers, and a series called the Seafort Saga, all had similarly realistic, believable grounding in the darkness of the world and militaristic, even fascist outlooks because it's necessary in such a fucked-up, uncaring universe. I enjoyed your exploration of how the individuals involved are affected by those facts, and how they find comfort in their service, in trying to do the right thing, even how they go into the fires of hell and come out stronger.
I binged my way through this story, and admire the quality of it. I can safely say that the PremiseVerse is now one of my all-time favorite AUs, due to my appreciation for the effort involved in such extensive worldbuilding as an aspiring author. This story's universe is of a depth and quality that I aspire to construct in my own works, and if I ever write a Mass Effect fanfic (Which I'm actually in the process of preliminary development for one), it is likely that you and this story will get an acknowledgement for that influence.
Actually, fuck it. Time for brutal honesty. This story is one of my all-time favorite works of fiction ever, and I'm proud to say that. Keep up the good work, and I would proudly offer my services to help out in any way. I only hope that, should you choose to tap me to help, I can live up to your expectations and do this work the justice it deserves. I tip my hat to you, good sir, and am not above getting on hands and knees and worshiping at your feet like some kind of groveling scumbag. You are a god among writers, and don't you ever let anybody stop you from continuing to do what you do best.
P.S. Seriously, anybody who tries to put you down or attack you over telling the story you want to tell, I want you to only have two words for. The first is 'fuck,' the second is 'you.' They got no right to piss on your work just because it offends them.
| Fellowman chapter 1 . 7/30
Makes warhammer 40k look like my little pony? Ha! We'll see about that! Though I am liking the story, so far.
| Tirion I chapter 40 . 7/30
Holy shit, you made a Volus badass. Never thought I'd see the day, Earth-clan.
| pcerdam chapter 43 . 7/27
Not only is your AU (and this chapter in particular) blowing my mind, I find it amazing that you are still hard at work on this saga. I wish you the best of luck, certainly looking forward to reading whatever else you have in store. A really heartfelt thanks for writing a so very entertaining retelling of my favorite trilogy.
| Xabiar chapter 123 . 7/19
Well that was certainly An Ending. The overall events ultimately ended up the same, but it was a much larger and more diverse battle than in the game. By a long shot. I don’t know how fair it really is to compare since everything is so drastically different. Ilos was a much more interesting planet than before, and making Vigil an arrogant Inusonnon AI was a nice addition. That and him actually coming along to assist in the fight.
With that, I was surprised at how…good everything ended up being. Benezia dies (Not before heroically committing suicide), Nazara is destroyed (Expected), Shepard gets a promotion (A pretty large one), Liara reconciles with her father (Nice scene), everyone of any basic importance lives (Seriously, you didn’t kill off even OCs), humanity gets a seat on the Council (Expected), the *Quarians* get a seat on the Council (The hell?), the President seems to want to help Shepard reform the SA (Admirable), and the Illusive Man is out there plotting and scheming (This should be interesting).
It was, in essence, a happy ending in all but name if you ignore the thousands of nameless soldiers dying, but in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t have much impact.
So…now overall reflections taken with this story as a whole. It was a long read, but it felt like a necessary length given the scope of the changes, and nothing really felt artificially rushed. There were a few chapters that didn’t serve any real purpose, but they were like…four or five, which is pretty much nothing in the scope of a 123 chapter story.
The plot itself really was a true AU in every sense of the word. It was pretty much a completely new experience, definitely something I’ve never seen before in Mass Effect fiction. The plot was very cohesive and well-planned out, and the changes equally so. The addition of entire arcs like the Cerberus one, or changing things entirely like Noveria and Ilos all made sense in the context of the story, and the scale was much, much larger.
There was really only one part that I felt didn’t make sense (Which should be clear from previous reviews), but aside from that I found few glaring issues with the plot itself, and a not-insubstantial amount of time was spent setting up things for future stories and fleshing out and building on the world itself. I loved all the changes to Cerberus, the Shadow Broker, the Reapers and the details added.
I can’t really point to something I actively dislike, which is always a good thing. If anything, the only (Largely subjective) problem I had was the…predictability isn’t the right word, but in the end, nothing *that* unexpected happened when I began thinking about how you would end it. Saren and Benezia were going to die, Nazara was going to die, and a bunch of faceless soldiers are going to die, but no one who’s actually important. And that’s exactly what happened, and it actually turned out *better* than that. The only people in the entire story who actually mattered and died were Kaidan and arguably Cole (Who was a minor character at best), and any impact that could have had was long gone since I figured that out from like chapter 13.
Ultimately, nothing really bad happened to the characters. They got wounded, but not much else. All of them more or less got what they wanted in the end and were happy. The victory was earned, I don’t dispute that, but going down the line I’m not sure how much I should care if there isn’t going to be any stakes. And no, the threat of the Reapers isn’t a stake since I know they’re going to lose. There seems to be a line quite a few authors won’t cross, and that’s killing off characters who aren’t villains or antagonists. To be perfectly honest, someone should have died when facing Saren. Why should there be any tension in fights or confrontations if they’re all going to survive in the end? Sure, there can be things worse than death, but it isn’t as permanent (Excluding Shepard, of course).
I don’t know how or even if this will be addressed in the future, but I do hope it is. This is my personal opinion though, and shouldn’t detract too much from a very well-written and entertaining story. To wrap it up, I’ll address the characters briefly.
I found the majority of them ok. None of them *bad* but very few that I actually found that interesting. I feel this is more to do with the exceptionally large cast, and that not everyone got enough screen time to receive enough development. Shepard and Liara received the most focus, which was expected. Liara was well-written, but I’ve never really found her particularly interesting and this took her story and just made it deeper. It was well done, but not to my particular interests. Shepard was interesting until I sort of figured her out (I’ve written similar characters, so maybe that was why it wasn’t as ‘different or new’ to me), but I will say she probably had the best character arc of the entire story. As for the romance, it was fine, not a large fan of the pairing myself so take that for what you will.
A lot of the Normandy crew started out very strong, especially Garrus and Wrex, but over the course of time they sort of fell to the wayside, only getting occasional scenes to give their perspective on something. This resulted in some things feeling rushed like Garrus and Telanya’s relationship (which came out of nowhere), Kaidan and Ashley’s romance (Which was set up very fast with not much development), Tali didn’t really have much time on the ship in general (Although the romance with Joker was one I thought was well-done) and Wrex really didn’t have much time either (Which is a shame since all his scenes were pretty neat).
With all that said, there were still a good number of characters I liked a lot. Tetrimus comes to mind first, then the Illusive Man, Jiong, Aethyta, Rael’Zorah, Udina, Pressly, Nazara and Maxwell. I put these all in this category because whenever they appeared, I because a lot more interested in what was going on. I *wanted* them to keep showing up, either because of their perspectives, positions, characterization and so on. Some of them were expected, others not so much (Seriously, Udina of all people). If you want to add onto organization/governments that had the same effect, anything with Cerberus, the Council, Leviathans or Reapers automatically made me that much more interested in the chapter/arc.
So in the end, while it’s not perfect (Nothing is), this is without a doubt one of the best Mass Effect stories written so far, and I’ll definitely be reading more of this series in the future. For the sheer work alone this deserves recognition. Well done.
| Xabiar chapter 115 . 7/18
Congratulations Udina, I actually like you now. Actually legitimately like you. I was wondering if you would preserve the obstructionist part of that game, and you did manage to do it, and make it all come together in a really satisfying conclusion. Udina punching that guy was great and the entire escape sequence was really well done.
And, uh, the Leviathans can control time. Huh. Cool. How were they beaten again? I think I remember some mention back that the only really hard rule the Reapers have is no time manipulation. And the Catalyst is going to come into play pretty soon it sounds like. Knowing that what’s probably going to happen is all set up by the Leviathans throws just how much control the rest of the milky way has into serious question.
It was also good to get a proper look at the Manswells (I will read the documentation sometime, I promise) and their machinations. His talk with Shepard was something of a highlight as well, even if he’s only intending to use her later.
What I really did like about this batch, especially the latter two chapters, was that this feels like a proper coming together against an enemy. Manswell pardons them, the Quarians show up to help and even that volus gets welcomed aboard. It feels like a lot of previous events are paying off and it all looks to be coming together for an actually satisfying conclusion.
| Xabiar chapter 110 . 7/18
There was an interesting amount of Asari politics going on here, which I admittedly really liked. Aethyta appears to be how you’re going to primarily deal with Benezia, and it makes much more sense than Shepard and Co. somehow beating her, especially now that she’s more or less the avatar of Nazara. The Justicar showing up was also a notable confrontation with an honestly dense code. I have a theory as to what the Question is and wonder if it’s going to actually be used later. And no, I highly doubt Liara is going to be killed by them.
A lot of interesting information on the Commissariat as well, and establishing them as the justicars of humanity is an interesting one. Inflexible Jiong may be, but he’s definitely one of the most interesting characters introduced, especially for coming in so late. I rather hope he doesn’t die.
I did almost have some measure of sympathy for Benezia before she decided to get augmented by Nazara and then gave whatever the hell that depressing speech was. I’m impressed at the delicacy of the indoctrination Nazara put her through. He really could not have done a better job if he’d tried. Brainwashed idiot matriarch. Her bombing a bunch of cities didn’t exactly help either. Hopefully Aethyta beats her to a pulp. Or that High Priestess shows up again.
The Sovereign scene was largely untouched, with the exception of the vision being actually written out. Then again, there was really not much you could do to make that scene better. And Krogan-rachni hydbrids? Ouch. Well, I’m going to predict that Kaidan’s team goes out in a blaze of glory.
And I do wonder if you plan to touch on the line “Organic life is nothing but a genetic mutation, an accident” as that really never made sense at all, even to an AI that considered itself a god.
| Xabiar chapter 105 . 7/18
This story is in something of a strange place now that the battle is over. Everything after the battle almost reads like an epilogue in a way, despite the fact that there is still Virmire and the Citadel battle to go. It makes sense in-universe, but it’s a bit odd for a reader knowing that there is still a major portion of the story to go through. And with all that said, I wonder how it will actually play out now that so many things have been significantly changed.
The Saren fight was well-done, and did as much damage as possible without actually killing anyone of import and gave Saren a worthy send-off. It was appropriately brutal and efficient, exactly what should be expected from a Spectre, cybernetically enhanced or no. Makes me wonder just how much worse it will be during the Benezia fight, should one happen.
And it was once again nice to get a Nazara chapter, with a bunch of interesting information that will probably become relevant much later. I guess the most important thing is that the Leviathans are actually doing stuff, and are powerful enough to kill Reapers. And the Inusannon superweapon is *not* the Catalyst, so that’s interesting. I wonder what actually attracted his attention towards humanity, since they haven’t really done much that the other races couldn’t have.
Let’s see, what else:
-That government semi-could in the SA actually worked? That is…surprising, and now I kinda want to know exactly what went down there. So I guess it is going to become more relevant going on.
-Anolais probably working with the STG, or the Salarian government was also an interesting piece of information, and now I’m curious about their secret project.
-Jacob showed up randomly!
-I like Jiong and hope that he keeps sticking around. The Commissariat itself is something I’m looking forward to being investigated more. I’ll have to read your Alliance document after this.
-The Justicars seem a lot more terrifying here, based on the brief bits of information dropped.
-Despite Rael’Zorah being a pretty terrible father, I do like how he’s written here.
| Xabiar chapter 100 . 7/18
Well, I am actually impressed at how much you’ve actually changed here. With the exception of the entire Cerberus arc, everything has more or less followed the main plot. Even Feros ended with them getting the Cipher and the Thorian dying. Making Benezia of all people the final boss (Excluding Nazara) is bold to say the least, and I admire taking that risk.
And the information just dropped as almost an afterthought about Okeer was…surprising. That he helped bring the genophage even more so. I’m not sure if I would have called him insane in the game, but then again he is really a different character now. In any event, it’s made him a much more interesting character, ruthless and monstrous as he is.
Shepard giving the Board the ultimatum was also a rather satisfying highlight, since I do like seeing smug and haughty characters taken down a few notches. That being said, I really like how Anolais was written. Can’t really go wrong with a ruthless former STG commando that shoots people whom he deems guilty. Anyone who can stand up to Shepard and have the nerve to talk back is either stupid or dangerous, and Anolais definitely seems to fall under the latter.
Saren and Benezia’s final scenes were actually rather touching. Antagonists they may be, but they do genuinely seem to care about each other, and Saren realizing he is completely lost was rather sad. With how things have progressed, I’m not even sure if this is even going to end up remotely the same way as in the game. 23 chapters left. A lot can happen in that time.
You certainly weren’t kidding when you said you shot the canon in the head. A straight battle almost immediately definitely keeps things interesting, that is for sure. So far the battle has been written well, and seeing the various forces allying to fight the fallen commandos, geth and rachni is great to read. I’m wondering if it’s too early to be killing off important people, but if there was a time to start, it would be during the fight with Saren.
| Xabiar chapter 95 . 7/18
Uh huh, Benezia. Nooo, you absolutely had enough time to kill Shepard and Co. I find that excuse rather poor in light of the fact that the High Priestess just threw Shepard around like a rag doll and declared that you were *just* as powerful if now more. But, no, there was “not enough time”. Yes, because those precious 30 seconds would have meant you would have been captured for sure, ignoring that Nazara was *there* and that, if you actually wanted to simply leave, you could have just as easily sent your indoctrinated commandos or servant geth to finish the job.
That poor excuse aside, it was nice to actually get something from Saren’s perspective and get something of an update at what’s going on at his end, and *that* was certainly enlightening to say the least. So Nazara is building something, the Inusonnon superweapon (Catalyst?) attracts the “Darkness” (Which I’m still not sure what they are), and Noveria is probably going to be very, very bad.
Exciting, but *bad*. Especially if the SA shows up and bombs the area.
Shifting from the plot focus to the characters, I really enjoyed reading what seemed like almost a last hurrah before things get hairy. What I think made me enjoy this more than other similar sequences was that I think that every major character got a decent amount of screentime, even if the main focus continues to rest on Liara and Shepard.
Telanya in particular has developed into a much better character, and her scene with Tevos definitely proved that, and while the pairing between her and Garrus is still the weakest out of all of them, Garrus’ reaction did do a lot to really solidify the legitimacy of it. The additional angle of the bonds interfering in their individual judgement was a good dynamic to highlight.
The Solarch showing up unexpectedly was also a notable scene. The asari definitely are hiding something, and I’m wondering if it’s more than the Beacon in the temple. If nothing else, it was an apt demonstration of an exceptionally powerful biotic and Benezia must have been really weakened if she’s apparently as powerful as that. Given how much more indoctrinated Benezia seems, I’m not sure how realistic it is for Shepard to beat her, even backed up by Liara, Wrex and Kaidan. I’m half-expecting her to just bombard the planet as was suggested.
As a side note, I’m pretty sure that Chakwas’ first name is Karin, not Helen.
| Xabiar chapter 90 . 7/17
Hmm. Ok. The Kyle chapter was much shorter than I expected and resolved rather quickly, truth be told. And it raises questions, I guess the OSD he gave didn’t have anything new on it, but I’m pretty sure that asari is going to be coming back sometime. She seems way to important to just introduce and then never see her again. Curious what she was doing with Kyle, but that might be answered another day.
Jason and the Commissar are both working for Harper. Interesting, and makes the previous conversation seem very ironic. That entire conversation was made a lot more interesting by the fact that the Alliance is apparently preparing, or at least aware of, something that is too sensitive to tell a Spectre. Or maybe it was his way of preparing her for Cerberus help since he in an agent of theirs.
Liara’s confrontation with Telanya read very strange, since it seemed to almost be a completely different character from how she talked. Maybe that was the point, but *that* cold Liara seemed strange in comparison to…literally everything before that. Maybe that was the point, but it still read very strangely.
More Shadow Broker stuff is always interesting, and seeing Tetrimus so disquieted regarding the implications kinda drives home just how large the stakes are. If the Shadow Broker of all people is unsure of what is happening and preparing for the worst, then things are very bad. It also seems odd that the Broker would care so much about wealth, given that his goal is (apparently) to survive as the galaxy falls around him. Wealth isn’t going to do him much good there, but at least he at least plans to preserve some of the species. And he doesn’t seem wrong that the galaxy couldn’t beat the Reapers. One is going to give them trouble.
However, the Leviathans are out there (I think), and maybe they’ll be able to do something. Then again, if they could have beat the Reapers, this situation probably wouldn’t be happening to begin with.
| Xabiar chapter 85 . 7/17
And so the campaign against Cerberus comes to a close, for now, anyway. The Illusive Man is still out there as is Williams so Cerberus is by no means dead. Rachel got exactly the death she deserved as well, such a legitimately awful human being deserved really no other fate. Although I knew Liara was not going to die, it was fun seeing Shepard pretty much single-handedly take out the base.
Udina also had a surprisingly memorable scene calling out the other councilors, which is something that makes me legitimately like him beyond his actual skills. I’m half-torn on if any of the political stuff that happened afterward will become relevant or not. Were Richard and the Manswells not out there, I’d probably dismiss it as showcase of the more radical parts of humanity, but I’m not unconvinced that this is a way for them to possible get more political power in the SA.
And aside from that, not much to really say on this batch. Curious to see how you handle Major Kyle, especially given the changes to both the universe and his history.
| Xabiar chapter 80 . 7/17
Oh, that’s not good.
First, never apologize for devoting a chapter to an OC, it’s frankly needed in cases like this, and that one chapter made Richard Williams a much more interesting character. There always seems to be another secret society or organization, and these are the *true* human supremacists, who of course are not affected by anything that happened as those are just ‘setbacks’. Richard’s story is sad, but I do get it. I doubt he really is the same person if his body was entirely replaced. I would be very disappointed if they didn’t have some kind of programming to keep him in line.
And if these Manswells are going to actually investigate the derelict Reaper (Assuming it *is* derelict), then that’s a clearly resourceful part of humanity that’s now indoctrinated. Wonderful. Although…if Richard is mostly a machine now, would that make him more resistant to indoctrination? Ah, wonderful questions that will probably not be answered for a long time yet.
That chapter almost overshadowed the Illusive Man’s excellent scene, which was exactly how I hoped it would go down when he suddenly contacted Shepard. I love how unintimidated he is when dealing with pretty much everyone. I wonder how much he is aware of these Manswells. And his speech to Rachel and Richard was also perfect. And smug.
I’m going to predict that Shepard is going to kill Rachel, despite their history. And I don’t really see the SA getting out entirely unscathed from Shepard’s justified wrath…but there might not be much she can do. This has been one of best arcs in the entire story so far, and that it’s completely original is another impressive feat.
| Xabiar chapter 75 . 7/17
And the Illusive Man finally takes the stage. He actually does not seem to be as ruthless or utterly pragmatic as I expected, even if he is willing to do some unethical things. But he has his own standards, rules and vision for humanity which, if I’m understanding correctly, isn’t simple Human supremancy, but making sure that humanity is…unaffected, for lack of a better word. Almost more like a counter-intelligence organization, if anything else.
I can’t help but somewhat respect that, and that he seems to want to bring changes to the Systems Alliance is something I do agree with. I did not expect that he was involved with some Asari matriarch (The name sounds familiar for some reason), and one going so far as to join Cerberus of all things is…surprising, to say the least, Asari assassins or no.
I do find it somewhat amusing how all the heads of Cerberus are all so confident in their own plans and assuming everything is going to more or less go their way, only to have some unknown variable screw things up. The Illusive Man does seem to be much better at elaborate schemes than the others, but the more complex the plan is, the more it’s likely to go wrong.
The Systems Alliance at least partially knowing about Cerberus and signing off on it was not exactly surprising, and makes sense in retrospect. I’m somewhat surprised the Shadow Broker didn’t suspect that, since it explains how Cerberus had ‘infiltrated’ the Alliance so successfully – They were in on it from the start.
So aside from that…the main event was the attempted investigation of Kahoku and the thresher maw ambush. Lots of action all around with some insane stunts pulled at the same time. Cerberus forces are definitely not as up to standard given how easily Shepard and Co. took them out. Telayna also got an interesting amount of focus, which was really needed. I half suspect she’ll end up dead by the end since she’s dealing with the Asari government. Or if Shepard really finds out why she was put on board.
The Illusive Man is definitely going to get away mostly unscathed, but I suspect that the others will not be so lucky. The question is if they are captured or killed.
| Xabiar chapter 70 . 7/17
Ok, delay on Cerberus chapters in favor of a short Citadel detour. A surprise to be sure, but a welcome one. I liked how Shepard’s building stress was placed at the front early and emphasized, since it wasn’t quite as apparent earlier outside of some brief mentions. Sparring with a Krogan of all things was gutsy, questionable, but gutsy.
Tali got some good screentime here, and her building Joker the braces was an appropriately nice scene. And the brief scene with Rael’Zorah and get another quick Quarian perspective was also interesting. He does have good points about not relying on the Shadow Broker, which is somewhat admirable since Tetrimus did help him at some point earlier.
Nothing really plot-important was shown, which seemed and interesting break since the previous meetings with the Council and such at least got a scene, but I suppose it might have just been a reiteration of what we already know. Although I do think it would have been an improvement, if only for more air quotes and sarcasm.
Shepard and Liara got together and it’s been well-developed so far. Not much to really comment on from me. Telanya and Garrus’ relationship quite honestly feels rather weak in comparison to everything else, mostly because it still seems to have come out of nowhere without really being established, then Garrus mentions he loves her like this was already established some time ago? Ok, sure. Hopefully that’ll be improved now that she’s on the Normandy.
*Now* they go hunting Cerberus. Should be fun.