Nightmare Yearnings by Eric Raglin

Review by Brennan LaFaro

Eric Raglin is quickly becoming one of my favorite proprietors of short fiction. To understand why, you only need to glimpse at the variety showcased in his debut collection, Nightmare Yearnings.

Raglin understands how to distill a story to its core elements, forcing the reader to focus on the pieces that make the story truly scary without having to wade through anything superfluous to get there. The end result is sixteen stories that will all make you feel.

Every one.

Sure, some might make you feel afraid to turn the light off at night. Some might make you feel nervous about visiting Spain. Some might make you feel a little hesitant about what those birds outside your window are really up to. Some might make you feel all kind of ways about drain cleaner.

But they’ll make you feel.

Nightmare Yearnings is not shy about embracing the weird either. “Mother’s Tongue” lets you know the kind of thing you’re in for right off the bat. It’s followed by “Ivory”, one of my favorites from the book. Equal parts creepy and fantastic, it sinks its talons into the reader, drawing them in for the remainder of the ride.
Stories like “Gray Matter” and “For My Final Girl” stand on their own, but benefit immensely from Raglin’s author notes at the end, providing insight into what went into writing the piece, as well as where you might have seen it appear before. Putting these at the end of the book allows readers to learn a little more without risking spoilers.

Story collections rarely earn five stars from me. By their nature, they are striking diverse tones and attempting to appeal to a wide audience, often ending up uneven. Nightmare Yearnings brings sixteen stories to the table over the course of 190 pages and never drags for a moment. While I enjoyed every story on some level, some of my favorites not yet mentioned included “Under the Hoof, Upon the Horns”, “Lockdown”, “Smaller”, and “When Mothman Came to Queer Lake”.

If you consider yourself a fan of short fiction, or if you’d like to see what can be done in the medium, I can’t recommend Nightmare Yearnings highly enough.

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