Tor.com content by

Molly Templeton

Winter Is Seriously Here: What Happened on Season Six of Game of Thrones

If you’ve got ten or so hours to spare between now and July 16th, I highly recommend binge-devouring season six of Game of Thrones, even—or maybe especially—if you watched it when it aired last year. What seemed, week to week, like an inconsistent, fairly unsatisfying season (certain moments aside) turns out to be a solid stretch of narrative setup and motion when you gulp it down in a sitting or three. Every season of intrigue and betrayal moves the narrative forward, but finally, by the end of season three, the pieces are in intriguing place on the board—places that suggest season seven will be a battle of consolidation and compromise as various parties begin to take the Night King’s threat seriously.

There’s going to be war. Everyone’s talking about it. But who’s left to fight?

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You Cannot Sink My Love for Battleship

There exists no convincing argument that movies should never be based on board games, because Clue exists, and therefore disproves any such argument. That said, the game of Battleship is a categorically stupid idea for a movie. Battleship is basically bingo with a bit of deductive strategy and no wacky prizes at the end. People in movies cannot sit around yelling YOU SUNK MY BATTLESHIP at each other, a fact which must have been clear to the people behind Battleship. Despite its dubious source material, Battleship is the one of the greatest dumb action movies of the early twenty-teens. Writers Jon and Erich Hoeber and director Peter Berg clearly took their Hasbro/Universal paychecks, gave the game a serious side-eye, and opted to keep just a few elements: big honkin’ battleships, cylindrical missile things, and goofy coordinates.

Everything else is newly made-up big dumb action movie gold.

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A Story Radiating Across the Stars: C.A. Higgins’ Lightless Series

C.A. Higgins’ Lightless begins aboard a unique spaceship, the Ananke, that has a black hole for a heart. That’s how Althea Bastet sees it, anyway. Though she’s the ship’s engineer, her practical skills are tangled up with her affection for the ship she thinks of as hers. The black hole powers the ship and its purpose, but Althea dreams that of the black hole as a heart, a bloody, embodied thing.

Althea can tell when something is wrong aboard her ship, and at the opening of Higgins’ series, she knows. Lightless takes places entirely aboard the Ananke; it’s not exactly a locked-ship story, as other characters come and go, but the cat-and-mouse game that drives one of its storylines makes the ship feel claustrophobic. But Lightless is only the first in the trilogy, and while Higgins’ tale never leaves the Ananke entirely, the subsequent books—Supernova and the closing Radiate, which comes out next week—spread across the entire solar system. It’s a surprise, to move from Lightless’s narrow hallways to the surface of Mars and beyond, but Higgins’ shifts in viewpoint are effortless. She seeds each book’s story in the pages of the previous books, connecting everyone in a narrative that loops back on itself. Though the perspective is different, Radiate begins where the action of Lightless starts: with Matthew Gale (called Mattie) and Leontios Ivanov (called Ivan) boarding the Ananke.

Some spoilers for Lightless and general discussion of Supernova and Radiate follow.

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Series: Space Opera Week

Would You Like to Smell Divine? Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab’s New American Gods Scents

It’s because of American Gods that I have a sprawling perfume collection. Ten years ago, Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab—BPAL for short—released their first line of scents based on Neil Gaiman’s novel, and I found I could no longer resist the temptation to find out what these beloved fictional characters might smell like.

If you are turning up your nose, thinking, Oh no, not perfume, I hate that stuff, wait! So was I. I loathed perfume. I held my breath walking past perfume counters, leaving a wide berth around the salespeople positioned to offer customers a spritz of something terrifying. When I saw references to BPAL online, I scrolled a little faster, certain it was not relevant to me.

But there is nothing like a story to make a person change her mind about a thing.

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Assassins, Pirates, or Dragons: Where to Start With Robin Hobb

Choosing a Robin Hobb book to start with isn’t just choosing a series—it’s choosing a doorway into a huge, interconnected world. All but one of Hobb’s trilogies make up a giant tale told in many pieces (the oddball is the Soldier Son series). They span continents and decades, damaging leadership and ecological damage, traumatic childhood and challenging coming-of-age.

And you can start in several places. If you’re a completist, you’ll probably start at the beginning, but if you’re not, you can choose based on character, or location, or focus. Would you like a young man with royal blood, or a headstrong young woman fighting to lead the family business? Prefer your dragon-centric tales set in a strange, deadly landscape? Would you like to explore a bustling port town in a series where family drama involves magical ships? Or do you like your fantasy set in castles and keeps, fully engaged with the foibles and flaws of royalty?

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Where Do We Go From Here? The Magicians, “We Have Brought You Little Cakes”

What if your whole life was just The Breakfast Club for a chaotically whimsical god?

The Magicians’ second season finale begins with a voiceover summary, a notion that sounds terrible until you discover that the voiceover is from none other than Ember, god of Fillory, who describes everything that’s happened in relation to how much it entertained him. These characters, with all the trials they’ve been through? Just the wacky hijinks of Quentin Coldwater and pals: the addict, the victim, the bitch, the scowl, and the martyr. Just tropes that have ceased to entertain Ember.

Ember, however, knows how to entertain; his version of the story is just as off-color as the real thing, and he does Margo’s voice for good goofy measure. “The danger of sublimated trauma is a major theme in our story,” he notes. “Character is destiny.”

But he also says the candy witch from the season premiere will pay off, and she doesn’t. At least not yet.

How reliable is narrator-Ember? How written is the story in each character’s book, tucked away in the Library? How many choices were made to bring the story to this point? The first season of The Magicians was about growing up, a coming-of-age tale with major trauma, but the second is about something just as difficult, and just as ongoing: surviving.

[“Wanna put some pants on and help me save all of magic?”]

No Fate But What We Make: The Magicians, “Ramifications”

Please welcome back to the stage the great… Mayakovsky! He may be exiled to Antarctica, but Eliot, this week, refers to him as Earth’s greatest magician. One with a guilty conscience, a dark past, and a small arsenal of magical batteries.

Probably you see where this is going. But “Ramifications” takes the magicians’ stories in unexpected directions. More than one of this week’s drastically plot-advancing turns, I really didn’t see coming—and at least one of them I’m still unsure about. But at some point along the way, I started to trust this show. It makes mistakes (cough god jizz cough), but it makes them in service of complicated, emotionally resonant storytelling that works on multiple levels, while doing a dizzyingly excellent job of using plot to advance character. When characters stagnate on this show, it’s on purpose.

But right now, everyone’s growing and changing and adapting at a breakneck—and downright painful–pace.

Except Josh. He’s just stoned.

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Dream Casting The Raven Cycle

I think I speak for a reasonable portion of the internet when I say I am both incredibly excited and super wary about the idea of a Raven Cycle TV show. How will they get it right? Will there be actual teenagers on the show? What if it turns into The Vampire Diaries, but with Welsh kings and psychics? (Don’t get me wrong: I love TVD, but this is a whole different can of worms.) Readers have really, really, really strong feelings about the characters in Maggie Stiefvater’s novels, and there’s simply no way one show can meet everyone’s casting requirements.

That said, the minute this news went out, I started trying to figure out who should play our Raven Boys, our psychics, and our Blue. I’ve got some ideas. Maybe you’ve got some too?

One caveat: I’m mostly talking about just the characters appearing in book one, The Raven Boys, for simplicity’s sake!

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Bowling in the Underworld: The Magicians, “The Rattening”

If “The Rattening” isn’t a Buffy nod, I don’t know what is. Why rats? Why do only some of the people in Castle Whitespire turn into rats, and not others? What other power is messing with Fillory? I have so many questions, and this is only one of this week’s super-intense, quietly game-changing incidents. Senator Gaines starts to understand the range of his powers, Penny makes a new friend, Reynard shows his hand (or at least part of it), Margo gets blamed for everything, and Julia…

Julia’s confusing me a little bit right now. Just how much does not having a shade change a person? Not so long ago she was saying she’s broken, and now she’s making choices that—on the surface, at least—have no benefit for her.

But maybe they do.

[“Welcome to the underworld! Please take a number.”]

39 Other Lives: The Magicians, “The Girl Who Told Time”

“The Girl Who Told Time” goes way back in Magicians-land—and moves a lot of things forward. Remember how there were 39 other time loops in which the Brakebills gang faced the Beast and failed? Thirty-nine loops thanks to Jane Chatwin (RIP). And 39 loops in which Julia went to Brakebills. Hedge witch Julia is the wild card that changed everything.

It’s an important reminder.

[“Those grapes died for nothing now.”]

Do You Hear the Magicians Sing? “Lesser Evils”

Previously on The Magicians: Everything is terrible. Currently on The Magicians: Everything is still—or possibly more—terrible, but at least we can burst into song!

“Lesser Evils” is an hour of heavy choices. What will you give up to save the world? To save a friend? To get revenge? What will you sing to fortify yourself before you go into battle?

Don’t we all consider that last question from time to time?

Spoilers for the show so far!

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Beast and Bone: Magic From the Darkness

You might’ve heard that this month was the 20th anniversary of Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s television debut As a result, I’ve had Buffy, and her famous intro, on the mind even more than usual—particularly the part that says, “She alone will stand against the vampires, the demons, and the forces of darkness.” It’s been the driving force of many a story since then: the lone young woman, the only one who can save us all.

But what if that young woman controls the forces of darkness?

Twin girls, raised in the woods by a mother whose husband cast her out for witchcraft, grow to be something other than just children. A girl in a land full of various magics discovers her own when she raises her brother from the dead. A child who encounters a hated and feared Beast finds that she has a connection with it. These young women all have something in common with Buffy: her power originally came from darkness, too. In The Bone Witch and The Beast Is an Animal, that connection—the strength of the dark, what its power can do, where it leads—is at the forefront.

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“Listen to High King Bambi.” The Magicians, “Word As Bond”

For a while now, there’s been some disagreement among Magicians watchers about Julia: Are her choices and actions justified? Is she doing what she needs to, or just being a jerk?

The argument’s a little different now that the complication from her demigod exorcism is clear. Julia isn’t who she used to be—and not just because she’s picked up Martin Chatwin’s annoying musical habits. She watches her semi-friends like they’re a strange experiment she doesn’t fully comprehend. Stella Maeve does an amazing job with Julia’s new take on the world. What does it look like when you don’t have a shade?

[“No offense, Q—I didn’t actually ask your opinion.”]

The Best Thing About Logan is Comic Books

The best thing about Logan is Patrick Stewart. No, it’s Dafne Keen. No, probably it’s Hugh Jackman, haggard and worn, playing this character with immense physicality and a strange grace.

You can make an argument for so many things being the highlight of Logan, from the atmosphere to that breathtaking scene with the train (aka James Mangold’s stellar audition to direct the next Fast and/or Furious film). But when the credits rolled, what struck me most was a different aspect of the film—a part unexpectedly both meta and moving.

The best thing about Logan is comic books.

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Heists and Complications: The Magicians, “Plan B”

“We’re emotionally advanced. We can hold resentment and sympathy for a person at the same time.”

“Emotionally advanced” might be a stretch, but the second part of this Eliot line is absolutely applicable to our ragtag band of magicians, who have learned, to some degree, to compromise—and to cooperate. Imagine what they might’ve done if they’d figure this out a bit sooner! But now, Fillory needs money almost as much as Julia does, so everyone’s on the same side.

Sort of.

Spoilers for the season so far below!

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