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What prompts people to reimagine a masterpiece?

Take the works of Shakespeare, for instance – for years, writers have been digging into the Bard and offering different takes on those classic tales. Sure, it makes a degree of sense; there’s a universality to Shakespeare’s plays, after all. If there weren’t, they would have long since faded into history rather than become a cornerstone of the Western canon.

But, you know – it’s Shakespeare. If you’re going to fiddle with greatness, there’s not much room for error. When your template is one of the great works of literature, you’d best come correct. I should note that I say this as someone who adores this sort of reimagining … so long as it’s done well.

Lyndsay Faye has done it well.

Her new book “The King of Infinite Space” (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, $27) is a marvelous exploration of “Hamlet,” a thoughtful, inclusive and provocative interpretation of the tale. Modern and magical, it’s equal parts thriller and love story, built on a foundation of the classic work while also freely and gleefully embracing its own uniqueness. Like so many of the best reinterpretations, the original is still there, but deeply changed; the core of the tale, the spirit that makes it so great, remains, even as the narrative structure around it becomes something new.

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There’s nothing quite like stumbling upon a great book.

Yes, we all have our favorite authors and our favorite genres, our favorite styles and favorite publishers, but every once in a while, if we’re lucky, we wind up with something unexpected in our hands. Maybe you read a review blurb, maybe a friend pointed it out to you – doesn’t matter how you got it, just that you got it.

“First Cosmic Velocity” (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, $26) by Zach Powers is one of those books for me. It is an absolute gem of a book, a tale of tragedy disguised as triumph. It is a beautifully-crafted work of literary genre writing – part historical fiction, part sci-fi, with hints of family drama and magical realism thrown into the mix as well. It’s a story unlike anything you’ve read, told from a perspective unlike any you’ve experienced.

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