‘Game of Thrones’ Season 6 finale not terribly shocking

If you haven’t seen the Season 6 finale of “Game of Thrones,” you may want to come back after you’ve seen it. This is your spoiler warning.

Let’s talk about Cersei’s industrial goth dress. I’m guessing someone in the costume department has seen the “Hellraiser” movies way too many times, because I feel like I’m watching Clive Barker’s “Game of Thrones.” Let’s not forget the Night King looking like Pinhead’s distant cousin:

Everything is happening, and it’s about time. We knew Cersei was planning something sinister, but who knew how big it would be? That wildfire explosion was crazy. One thing I didn’t see coming was the end of Margaery, Loras, and Mace Tyrell. But I was happy to see those pesky Sparrows go down.

Walder Frey also had it coming to him, after the carnage of the Red Wedding. They say revenge is a dish best served cold, but Arya apparently believes it’s a dish best served with one’s sons baked inside. Gross.

The truth of Jon Snow’s parentage was figured out by readers of the books some time ago, so last night’s “shocker” wasn’t much of a revelation, but it was satisfying to see it finally play out on screen, even if we knew all along Jon wasn’t Ned’s bastard son. I think Ned would be proud of the man his nephew has become. “The King in the North!”

Daenerys’ scenes – some of my favorites in the first few seasons – have lately been a batch of fries sitting under a heat lamp while the other stories catch up, so it’s nice that she’s finally going somewhere. The part where she dumps her boyfriend was blah, but it’s so darn touching when she names Tyrion the Hand of the Queen, it almost makes up for it.


It’s nice that we got to see a little bit of everyone, since it’s the last episode we will get until 2017. But come on, that was not enough of Sam and Gilly. (Cool library! And then we move on.)

I think the most unexpected and breathtaking moment of the finale was Tommen’s suicide. But the most heartbreaking was Davos confronting Melisandre about Shireen’s murder. “I loved that girl like she was my own,” he tells her. “She was good, she was kind, and you killed her!” (Stop making me cry, Onion Knight!)

I love GoT, and I’m going to miss it while it’s gone. Until next year.

In other news

I’m reading Hugh Howey’s post-apocalyptic “Wool” series (which is awesome – go read it right now if you haven’t), and hopefully I will have more news to report about this soon – “Guardians of the Galaxy” writer Nicole Perlman has reportedly been hired to re-write “Wool” for 20th Century Fox and producers Ridley Scott and Steve Zaillian.



“Wool” began as a stand-alone novella, which Howey published through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing system. Interesting note: Ridley Scott’s “The Martian” also was based on a self-published book. Self-publishing seems to be gaining more respect.

Maybe anyone can write a novel. Maybe even … robots? Yes, as Hugh Howey himself predicted, a novel has recently been written by artificial intelligence. The AI had some help from humans, so writers aren’t obsolete just yet. The novel, a team effort led by Hitoshi Matsubara, a professor at Future University Hakodate, was an attempt to win Japan’s Nikkei Hoshi Shinichi Literary Award. The novel, “The Day a Computer Writes a Novel,” didn’t win, but it passed the first round of screening.

The idea of robots taking over the world is just science fiction, though. Right? Well, not if you believe in a theory known as “technological singularity.” Singularity theorists say that superintelligent machines will one day overtake humans. Of course, there have been multiple books, movies and TV shows about cyborgs, androids, robots, or machines overthrowing humans. Most of them seem too far-fetched to come true, but some of them (“Ex Machina” and “Her”) seem eerily possible.

Moving on to a more scientifically plausible prediction about non-human intelligence, a Cornell student recently estimated that Earth won’t contact alien life for another 1,500 years. This might sound like a wild guess, but it’s based on math: Evan Solomonides and professor Yervant Terzian presented a paper earlier this month, at the American Astronomical Society meeting, which explains that because we have only been sending signals to space for 80 years, we’ve reached less than one percent of the galaxy. We shouldn’t expect to make contact until we’ve reached at least half of the solar systems in the Milky Way.

The astronomers address what’s known as the Fermi Paradox, which asks: “There must be other planets like Earth, so why have we not heard from them yet?” Solomonides’ answer is a good one, but I will offer up another possibility: Maybe the aliens are just waiting to see if this Trump thing blows over before they decide if we are worth talking to.

“Game of Thrones photos,” HBO. 



Gift recommendations for your favorite sci-fi fans

If you’re like me, you have a few science fiction/fantasy fans on your shopping list, and I’m here to help. Let’s get started.

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My go-to gift is always books. OK, I’m talking about gifts for myself, but maybe you have a book lover on your list too. I loved the novel “Ready Player One,” by Ernest Cline, and I’m not even a gamer. It’s a fun, futuristic adventure, and I hear they are making it into a movie. I also highly recommend “Saga” – my new favorite graphic novel. You can read my review of “Saga” here:


If your geeky gift recipient is not much of a reader, you can always stick with the tried and true gift of TV binge-watching. Wrap up Season One of a cool TV show, and throw in some popcorn or Junior Mints. Here are some TV shows I love:


Another option is sci-fi soundtracks. Of course there’s always John Williams’ famous Star Wars score, and his new soundtrack from “The Force Awakens” will be released Dec. 18, just in time for Christmas. Some of my favorite albums are Bear McCreary’s soundtracks for “Battlestar Galactica.” He is also the composer for the series “Outlander,” “Black Sails,” and some other series as well.

Red Bubble is a fun place to shop online because they sell products by artists and designers from all over the world. They have a mind-bogglingly large selection of T-shirts – from aliens to zombies and everything in between. I have ordered a few shirts from them, and they are unique, good-quality tees. They also have mugs, pillows, posters, stickers, and other fun stuff.


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Red Bubble has t-shirts, pillows, stickers, and more. Orphan Black design by Gelphratchoo; Christmas trees by alice9; and Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock by DinaCarm-Store.

Looking for some wall decor for a friend’s man cave? (Or woman cave?) BUDK.com sells weapons like swords and knives, including officially licensed replicas from “The Lord of the Rings,” “Game of Thrones,” and “The Walking Dead.” Of course, the site offers more than just fantasy replica weapons. They sell all sorts of stuff – pocket knives, pepper spray, camping gear, clothes, jewelry, and thousands of other odd and interesting items.


United Cutlery’s Tauriel Elven Bow and Arrow is available at BUDK.com, as is Jon Snow’s Longclaw Sword.



Think Geek is the ultimate one-stop shop for every science-fiction fanatic on your holiday shopping list. Where else can you get TARDIS Christmas lights, a Bat’leth letter opener, Borg leggings, astronaut ice cream, a Boba Fett bathrobe, and a replica of Gandalf’s pipe?



Think Geek’s Exclusive Star Wars R2-D2 Measuring Cup Set and Star Wars Cookie Cutters, Star Wars Tauntaun Sleeping Bag, and Doctor Who, Star Wars, and Game of Thrones stockings, are all available at thinkgeek.com.

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If you are looking for a one-of-a-kind type present, I suggest you check out etsy.com. Here you can find a hand-knitted Yoda beanie for your friend’s baby, a flask engraved with your hubby’s favorite Game of Thrones sigil, and homemade soap or perfume inspired by your favorite sci-fi characters. There are so many different things on etsy. Just make sure you pay attention to the order-by dates for custom orders if you want something delivered by Christmas, and check ratings and feedback to avoid flakes.


Whether the purists like it or not, fantasy has invaded Renaissance faires, and what “Lord of the Rings” or “Game of Thrones” fan wouldn’t love tickets to a fun festival with like-minded people? I have seen elves, fairies, wizards, and mermaids. I love it – it makes the faire even more magical. Some faires even have themed weekends (pirate weekend, time traveler/steampunk weekend, etc.). Some faires are already offering discounted tickets for the holidays. Renaissance Magazine offers a directory of Renaissance faires all over the world:


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(Top photo: Star Wars Millennium Falcon Windshield Sunshade, thinkgeek.com. Renaissance faire photos taken at the Original Renaissance Pleasure Faire, by EarthToShawna)


Atwood’s dystopian satire is far-fetched but entertaining

Atwood’s new novel starts out believably enough – the economy has taken a dive. Stan and his wife Charmaine have lost their home and are forced to live in their car. When vandals harass them, they have to scram and find another place to park. It’s not a good time.

They apply for the Positron Project, an economic experiment in which residents are given jobs and a nice house to live in six months out of the year. The other six months they live in the community’s prison.

The desperate couple is approved, and they move in. A shower! Clean towels! A bed to sleep in! A dishwasher! They don’t seem to mind sharing the house with their alternates, and they don’t even seem to mind spending half the year in prison. They are kept busy with their prison jobs, which mostly involve knitting and tending chickens.

Already, I’m confused. Why do they have to live in the prison half the time? They aren’t criminals. If it doesn’t make sense to me, why is this not questioned by the residents? But for the sake of the story, I accept it and move on with the story.

And it’s a compelling story. We can see that there is something sinister going on behind the scenes of the glossy Stepford-ish community because we are told as much: The somewhat spineless Stan is warned that there’s no going back, that no one ever gets out alive, but he signs the contract anyway, since his naïve wife has her heart set on it.

The residents of the twin towns of Consilience/Positron have no contact with the outside world. They are allowed to watch TV, but mostly 1950’s TV shows and movies. The music they are offered is Doris Day and Bing Crosby.

Charmaine herself is somewhat of a Doris Day type, always trying to look on the bright side. So it comes as a bit of a surprise when she is late getting out of the house on switchover day, and runs into the man who lives in the house when she and Stan are in the prison. They begin a torrid affair, right then and there, and before long, Stan and Charmaine are wrapped up in a plot from which they can’t escape.

The book poses a lot of interesting questions: How much control over our own lives are we willing to give up? Would we be willing to sacrifice our morality and our dignity? And how much autonomy do we even want?

It is a throwback to “1984” and “Stepford Wives,” but the fact that I stayed up too late reading this crazy page-turner is a testament to its originality. It was unpredictable, and I wanted to know what would happen next, despite each plot twist being more far-fetched than the last.

Perhaps the real question Atwood is asking is “Is this really so unbelievable?” If the science were possible, would someone do the things they do in this book? We all know power corrupts, and if there’s a market for something, however immoral, there is always going to be an evil someone who will try to profit from it, and herds of idiots who will follow him.

I realize this is sci-fi, but even within that genre, I want to believe. I want to be convinced. But I could have forgiven the silliness of some of the plot devices, if the characters didn’t behave so out of character.

One character, in particular, is such a wild card that I wonder why Atwood didn’t write her as two separate characters. It would have made more sense. Maybe it was supposed to reinforce the suspense and the feeling that you don’t know who you can trust. But it was distracting.

Stan’s brother’s name is Conor – Con for short – and he’s a con man. It’s little things like this that foreshadow the eventual obviousness that the novel is meant to be a farce, but if it’s a comedy, it’s a disturbing one.

It’s an interesting read, as long as you’re willing to suspend disbelief for 320 pages. It’s a quick 320 pages because there’s never a dull moment. (There’s also crazy sex stuff; you’ve been warned.) I would feel better about recommending it, if the place where dystopian tale meets satire had been written a bit more seamlessly.


“The Heart Goes Last”
By Margaret Atwood
Nan A. Talese; September 2015