Short Stories 366:12 — “Diyu,” by Robert William Iveniuk

coverIs it wrong to admit I was pleasantly surprised to see Canada as a setting, even though I knew which particular slice of awful history I was about to see? “Diyu” is the perfect example of what to expect from Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History, in that the stories are set in darker times or places (or both) for the most part, giving voice to people written out of history or edited into things like the way I learned about them in school, such as “The Chinese helped build the railroads of Canada.”

“Helped,” meaning, of course, “treated abominably by the wealthy white men who demanded they work to death to build the railway as fast as possible at whatever the cost to their health, safety, or lives.” Here, though, we follow one of those Chinese workers, Wu Xiao-Lu, who works the detonators and has come to North America for purposes unclear at first glance, but don’t feel entirely like choice.

An accident uncovers something terrifying and unique in a time and place that was already horrifying by itself, and Wu Xiao-Lu is fairly certain he is one of the only people who can banish the demon uncovered by the man-made disaster. What follows is some really well-done historical spec-fic, told excellently through a comprehension and lens of the time period and character in question, and while not exactly uplifting—like most of the tales in Long Hidden—it is at least ultimately triumphant.

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