In the 2016 movie Arrival, Amy Adams plays a mourning linguist recruited by the government to establish communication with the taciturn aliens squidging around inside their stark floating eggs. Are they a global threat, or are they just kind of emo?

As she begins to understand their language, in which time is less nonlinear than irrelevant, her entire worldview shifts, and we realize her flashbacks involving the death of her daughter are actually flash-forwards—she is about to conceive that daughter with Jeremy Renner, and she goes through with it, all of it, even though she knows the heartbreak will come.

Time, man. It’s complicated.

The movie is based on “Story of Your Life,” a short story by Ted Chiang, whose new collection of nine stories, Exhalation, arrives 17 years after his last.

In the first story, “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” time travel becomes possible through a hoop in the backroom of a Baghdad merchant’s shop, and a love affair loops back onto itself.

In the second, an alien being builds a contraption that allows it to methodically dissect its own brain, and the secrets it unearths spool back to the origins of the universe.

There’s a warm intellectual care to a Ted Chiang story—this is a man who spent five years poking around at linguistics before writing “Story of Your Life,” so he could make you cry over a story about linguistics.

His fans tend to wish only that he would work faster, produce more. I do, too, but not really. What a rare thing it is, lately, to anticipate. PLEASE READ

Exhalation by Ted Chiang, from Knopf