Barnes & Noble Bookseller’s Picks

Barnes & Noble Bookseller’s Picks for May

For over a decade, Jim Killen has served as the science fiction and fantasy book buyer for Barnes & Noble. Every month on the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog and, Jim shares his curated list of the month’s can’t-miss new SF/F releases.

Blood Sisters—edited by Paula Guran
(May 5, Night Shade Books—Paperback)

From Dracula to Twilight, few horror icons have been reworked and reimagined more than the vampire. Edited by Bram Stoker Award-winner Paula Guran, this collection includes inventive vampire tales from female writers, including Holly Black, Nancy Holder, Catherynne M. Valente, and Carrie Vaughn, ranging from bloodsoaked, to sexy, to outright strange.


Day Shift—Charlaine Harris
(May 5, Ace—Hardcover)

This followup to Midnight Crossroad continues Charlaine Harris’s new series of tales set in Midnight, Texas, which is proving to be as fertile ground for otherworldly mayhem as the Louisiana setting of her Sookie Stackhouse novels. In a story that’s ostensibly about local psychic Manfred Bernardo being wrongly accused of an unexplainable murder, Harris manages to layer in subplots about a supernaturally aging boy, a pet cemetery, ghosts, a fallen angel, and a big corporation attempting to turn the town into a tourist trap for senior citizens. Oh, and there’s a vampire too—plus a big clue that indicates the author hasn’t totally left Sookie’s story behind.


Seveneves—Neal Stephenson
(May 19, William Morrow—Hardcover)

The release of a new Neal Stephenson novel is always a major event, and not only because of their characteristically major page count (this one lands with a thump at 880 in hardcover). We’re particularly jazzed for Seveneves, which marks the author’s return to hard sci-fi after he detoured into thriller territory with Reamde. And with an opening chapter in which the moon explodes and a plot than spans 5,000 years, they don’t get much more sci-fi than this.


Straits of Hell: Destroyermen—Taylor Anderson
(May 5, Roc—Hardcover)

In Anderson’s action-packed, delightfully bizarre alternate history series, the crews of two WWII-era vessels, one American and one Japanese, are transported to an alternate version of Earth in which humans never became the dominant species. Instead, the planet is ruled by two civilizations in conflict: the peaceful, agrarian Lemurians, evolved from ancient giant lemurs, and the Girk, descended from bloodthirsty dinosaurs. If for some reason you need to know more, the plot of this 10th installment revolves around an attempt to defend the Lemurian homeland of Madagascar from an assault by the Dominion, an allied force of Japanese survivors and the Girk.


The Book of Phoenix—Nnedi Okorafor
(May 5, DAW—Hardcover)

This prequel to Okorafor’s World Fantasy Award-winning, future-Africa dystopia Who Fears Death takes the story in a more overtly science fictional direction, with shades of Frankenstein and the X-Men. It follows the story of Phoenix, a genetically engineered super weapon created in a secret laboratory in Tower 7 of the World Trade Center complex, who has never set foot in the outside world. When one of her fellow experiments—and her romantic partner—witnesses something so terrible he kills himself, Phoenix is suddenly faced with the truth of her existence, and sets off on a mission of vengeance that will have devastating consequences.


Leviathan (The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier #5)—Jack Campbell (May 5, Ace—Hardcover)

The latest installment in one of the best military science fiction series running finds Admiral John “Black Jack” Gaery scrambling to defend the Alliance against a threat from within. Two neighboring star systems have already fallen to a dangerous new foe—a fleet of rogue A.I. warships originally developed by Alliance military. Now, the artificial minds have turned their attention toward their makers. Gaery must pursue this deadly threat in defiance of his government, which is eager to deny any culpability in the creation of an enemy that may bring about the end of civilization.


The Water Knife—Paolo Bacigalupi
(May 26, Knopf—Hardcover)

Bacigalupi’s long-awaited second novel for adults, following the mega-selling awards-magnet The Windup Girl, presents another terrifyingly plausible vision of an environmentally ravaged, all-too-near future. It’s a time of wars over water—Nevada and Arizona both lay claim to the ever-dwindling Colorado River, California threatens to muscle in and take it, and skilled assassin detectives known as “water knives” secure hydration for powerful clients. Angel Velasquez, a water knife in the service of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, is pulled into a dangerous game of murder and corruption when he learns of a potentially bounteous new reservoir somewhere in Phoenix. This isn’t one for reading in the tub.


Trial of Intentions—Peter Orullian
(May 26, Tor—Hardcover)

This followup to the recently revised The Unremembered continues Orullian’s epic fantasy series The Vault of Heaven, perfectly pitched to fans of long-running sagas like The Wheel of Time. It’s everything you want in a secondary world tale—bursting with towering giants, evil wizards, and the many races of man; a great evil lurking in the wings (here, it’s a nefarious darkness known as the Quiet); political intrigue; widescreen battles; and an inventive, music-based magic system—all wrapped up in layered, lyrical prose.


Uprooted—Naomi Novik
(May 19, Del Rey—Hardcover)

The author of the beloved Temeraire series takes a break from Napoleonic Era dragon combat for an inventive standalone fantasy with the tectonic pull of a classic fairy tale and a bold, contemporary sensibility all her own. Plain young Agnieszka lives in a small kingdom on the border of a malevolent wood. Only the protection of a secretive wizard known as the Dragon keeps the darkness contained within. In return for his services, the Dragon demands a terrible price: a decade of servitude from one of the girls of the village. As the time of his choosing nears, Agnieszka despairs, fearing she will lose her best friend, the beautiful Kasia. Her fears turn out to be…misplaced. The chorus of praise for this one is deafening: Ursula K. LeGuin calls it “vividly believable,” and Lev Grossman labeled it, “an instant classic.”


Apex—Ramez Naam
(May 12, Angry Robot—Paperback)

The concluding volume to Naam’s Prometheus Award-winning trilogy about Nexus, a nano-drug that allows human brains to network like computers…with unforeseen consequences (aren’t there always?). Nexus-enhanced humans are now almost a separate species—one that makes the existing world order very, very nervous. As military forces clash with networked groups of protestors, the next generation—children born to Nexus users—begins to develop powers beyond anything either side of the conflict imagined.


A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel, Vol. 4—Daniel Abraham (adaptation) and Tommy Patterson (illustrator)
(May 12, Bantam—Hardcover)

We’re obsessed with Westeros in every medium, from print, to television, to these artfully adapted, beautifully drawn graphic novels. This final volume, once again penned by Daniel Abraham (The Dagger and the Coin) brings things to an epic conclusion that is both familiar in the overarching storyline, and deliciously different in the details.




Batman, Vol. 6: Graveyard Shift—Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo (illustrator)
(May 5, D.C. Comics—Hardcover)

Snyder and Capullo’s epic run on the Caped Crusader’s flagship title continues. In the wake of the death of his estranged son Damian, Batman is in danger of slipping over the edge. You know, more so. This volume includes issues #0, #18 to #20, #28, and #34, plus Batman Annual #2, and ties into both the Zero Year and Eternal crossover events.




Batman: Earth One, Vol. 2—Geoff Johns and Gary Frank (illustrator)
(May 12, D.C. Comics—Hardcover)

In the second volume of this alternate take on the Batman mythos, the Caped Crusader must deal with the appearance of new villains in Gotham—including the Riddler and Killer Croc—even as he’s pulled between the at-odds guiding principles of his two oldest friends, Alfred and Commissioner Gordon.




The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Girl Geeks—Sam Maggs
(May 12, Quirk Books—Paperback)

Billed as “the ultimate handbook for ladies living the nerdy life,” this is an indispensable guide to surviving and thriving in the increasingly female-friendly geek culture of comics, conventions, cosplay, fanfic, and the interwebs from the associate editor of The Mary Sue. Pitched as a “how-to” guide for making friends in the community, attending your first convention, and dealing with internet trolls, it also includes interviews with geek girl icons like Jane Espenson and Kate Beaton.


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