I am very excited about this little book – it features the old West, magic, dinosaurs, alternate history, people of color and tons of lovely—and happy—queer love.
It’s 1858 and mages at war in China open up three rifts that change the geography of the world forever. Vast seas submerge the most powerful countries in the world and split the United States in two. The consequences resonate far and wide, not only economically and socially, but also because the rifts bring back… dinosaurs.
This is the setting against which the three novellas in Ginn Hale’s collection The Long Past & Other Stories take place. They are all independent stories but interconnected by the world at large.
The first story, The Long Past is set a mere six years since the change happened and it follows childhood sweethearts Grover, a black man and Lawrence, a white mage, after Lawrence comes back from war—very much alive, despite the news he had been killed. But Lawrence doesn’t come back alone: with him a group of mages with a plan to use the US rift to reassert power in the hands of a few. Lawrence and Grover need to get to the rift first and close it no matter the cost. In this story, we are introduced to the world created by Ginn Hale, the changes brought forward and how it has been affecting the lives of people in the first few years since the rifts opened.
But the main drive here is Grover and Lawrence’s lovely relationship—the story is a road trip that works as a way for the couple to find their way back to each other. There is a heady mix of sadness (time lost, trauma, war) and hope to this story. Bonus: Grover is an animal tamer and has a pet dinosaur called Betsy. It is awesome and anything related to Betsy adds a bit of levity to this story.
The Hollow History of Professor Perfectus takes place later on in 1893, and in Chicago, where two women make their lives travelling from fair to fair with their magic number. The catch is: Abril is a real mage, living in hiding. Hiding from what or whom is an intrinsic part of this story, better left unspoiled. Suffice it to say, this features automatons, mages, awful misogyny, great women heroes—and against it all, the budding love story between Abril and her stage assistant Geula, as the two women learn to open up and trust one another.
The last story—Get Lucky—features a rags-to-riches story of Luc, an orphaned, queer, Chinese-French man and his lover, a hired gun named Dalton. A story about second chances, finding true love and companionship and changing one’s life for love, Get Lucky is just as lovely as the first two stories in the collection.
The Long Past & Other Stories is kinda like Pacific Rim but in a Fantasy setting, with dinosaurs and lots of empowered and happy queer stories. There might not be giant fighting robots here but these characters sure are all drift compatible, if you catch my meaning.
In Booksmugglerish: 8 out of 10.