Independent Bookseller Picks

March Recommendations from WORD Bookstore

WORD is an independent neighborhood bookstore in Greenpoint, the northernmost neighborhood of Brooklyn, celebrating its fifth anniversary this month. Our goal is to be whatever our community needs us to be, which currently includes hosting events and  carrying a carefully curated selection of kids books, nonfiction, and fiction—from all genres.

We also host an old-fashioned dating corkboard called Between the Covers, as well as a Basketball League of which Lev Grossman was once a member! Here are our March picks for science fiction and fantasy titles.

Crucible of Gold, Naomi Novik
I’ve always been a sucker for alternative history sf/f, and I’ll never forget the first time I picked up His Majesty’s Dragon. Two of my favorite things—British history and dragons—wrapped into one? Sold! So it’s with great glee that I contemplate the release of Crucible of Gold. Laurence and Temeraire’s combination of derring-do and extreme fussiness is as irresistible as ever, and a dust-up with the Incan empire holds unprecedented opportunity for hijinks.

Counter-Clock World, Philip K Dick
Will it weird you out if I tell you that I love it when authors mess with death? Because I really do. Dick’s Counter-Clock World ranks next to Kevin Brockmeier’s A Brief History of the Dead as an example of this done right. In a universe where time suddenly moves backwards and no one stays dead, how do you kill a man for good? And how do you deal with all the people you thought you never had to deal with again? This isn’t technically a new release, but it’s the next to get the gorgeous Mariner repackaging treatment, so I’m sneaking it in.

The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury
Another classic getting the repackage treatment. I will never forget the experience of reading these books for the first time as a teenager. It was the first time I thought twice about the necessity of getting humans into outer space. Sure, crazy man-eating aliens are scary and all, but you can just blow them up, right? It’s self-defense. But Bradbury’s subtle, sidelong way of getting to the heart of humanity’s tragic flaws struck me in a way gaping maws and weird tentacles never could. Add to which, it must be universally acknowledged that he’s a damn fine writer, and you’ve got good reason to pick this back up.

Blueprints of the Afterlife, Ryan Boudinot
It’s not exactly a new release (it came out in January) but I do feel that Boudinot’s novel has been overlooked enough to earn it a mention. Some of my favorite fellow booksellers have recommended it to me, and I’m pleased to pass the recommendation along. In the Afterlife (i.e. after the big disaster that wipes the slate clean, in this instance involving a sentient glacier), several strangers are united in a reconstruction of Manhattan located in the Puget Sound. What are they doing there, what is actually going on in their lives, and who is this Dirk Bickle guy anyway? Reviewers have invoked more established sf writers than you can shake a stick at in attempting to describe the charms of this wacked-out future vision.

Lost Everything, Brian Francis Slattery
Other reviewers have described Slattery’s latest as The Road with a boat, but that doesn’t even begin to capture this book. I often wonder what it must be like to live in his brain—all of his novels deal with apocalypse in one way or another, but in a way that finds the joy in the cracks of the gloom. Lost Everything does indeed have a father and a son and a boat, but it also has a hootenanny or two, a great love story, a searing look at why and how we go to war, and a truly terrifying piece of climate change.

The Navidad Incident: The Downfall of Matias Gulli, Natsuki Ikezawa
While I have plenty of already established authors who I stalk, waiting avidly for the next book, I do try and keep an eye out for newcomers to add to the stalking. Enter Ikezawa! I honestly never thought an author could make a bus full of veterans an interesting character, and boy does he prove me wrong. I’ve been trying to think of a good comp—maybe the way I feel about the ship Serenity, from Firefly? Anyway. In an imaginary south sea island, the aforementioned bus full of veterans goes missing, and the president’s search for answers turns up a host of possible explanations, each unlikelier than the next. You can read an excerpt over on Words Without Borders; originally published in Japan in 1993, this is the first English translation.

Deathless, Cat Valente
Valente is both local and a store favorite. Her books combine cleverness and general smarts, her crazy-innovative imagination and a deep awareness of myth and legend, with action-packed plotlines well-steeped in politics—it’s a recipe for addiction. In Deathless (newly out in paperback!), she takes on the Russian folk legend of Koschei the Deathless, looking behind the curtains to see how a man could lose his soul.

Fuzzy Nation, John Scalzi
We probably don’t need to insist to anyone visiting this site that they need to read John Scalzi, but just in case: You need to read John Scalzi! Space opera at its finest, my friends. In this newest one, a profiteer and independent contractor finds himself in the unlikely position of saving a planet and its inhabitants. Corporate greed, individual freedom, and the good of mankind versus a kind-of-cute biped that maybe is sentient, despite all claims to the contrary? Sparks will fly, and how.

The Illumination, Kevin Brockmeier
What if, one day, everyone’s injuries started to glow? Brockmeier’s latest novel weaves together disparate voices in a stunning meditation on pain and beauty. Like all the best speculative fiction, he wields the paranormal to show us a very present truth. The Illumination is a reminder that, no matter how dramatically the world changes around us, people are and always will be people—and that there is a brightness in that, regardless of our failings.

The Half-Made World, Felix Gilman
This book isn’t new, but I can’t pass up an opportunity to push it on people. It’s something like Larry McMurtry meets Jules Verne—steampunky technology combines with a frontier plot to create a gobsmacking good book. The good doctor Liz is one of my favorite heroines of the last few years, and John Creedmoor is a study in good intentions gone awry and then back again, full circle. I constantly handsell this one at the store, and no one yet has been disappointed.

Check out WORD on our website, as well as on Twitter, Facebook, and tumblr.


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