cover image When Home, No Need to Cry

When Home, No Need to Cry

Erin K. Wagner. Aqueduct, $12 trade paper (126p) ISBN 978-1-61976-232-9

Wagner (An Unnatural Life) collects 10 speculative shorts loosely connected by a quietly brooding aesthetic and themes of how humanity is changed by brushes with the supernatural or extraterrestrial. “Blowflies” calls on the author’s Appalachian heritage and evokes a lonely mood, while “How to Tell the Future by Tea Leaves, Stars, and Cards” uses a child’s limited understanding of her weirdly unsettling environment to set a scene both luminous and stifling. The standout, “Blood & Formalin,” follows an embalmer in a time of war as he is confronted with what caring for the dead really means. The last three stories move the collection to outer space: an astronaut waits to die in a space shuttle in the title piece; the human population of Mars has developed a different sense of priorities than their Terran tourists in “A Planet Like Earth”; and “From That Sea of Time” takes readers to an entire planet abandoned in mournful memorial. Wagner’s writing seats itself deeply in each individual narrator’s perspective and explores the tension between individual agency and the undeniable pull of the strange. Readers are sure to be enthralled. (Nov.)