REVIEW: Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen
To save his daughter, he’ll go anywhere—and any-when…
Kin Stewart is an everyday family man: working in IT, trying to keep the spark in his marriage, struggling to connect with his teenage daughter, Miranda. But his current life is a far cry from his previous career…as a time-traveling secret agent from 2142.
Stranded in suburban San Francisco since the 1990s after a botched mission, Kin has kept his past hidden from everyone around him, despite the increasing blackouts and memory loss affecting his time-traveler’s brain. Until one afternoon, his “rescue” team arrives—eighteen years too late.
Their mission: return Kin to 2142, where he’s only been gone weeks, not years, and where another family is waiting for him. A family he can’t remember.
Torn between two lives, Kin is desperate for a way to stay connected to both. But when his best efforts threaten to destroy the agency and even history itself, his daughter’s very existence is at risk. It’ll take one final trip across time to save Miranda—even if it means breaking all the rules of time travel in the process.
A uniquely emotional genre-bending debut, Here and Now and Then captures the perfect balance of heart, playfulness, and imagination, offering an intimate glimpse into the crevices of a father’s heart and its capacity to stretch across both space and time to protect the people that mean the most.
Dear Mr. Chen,
This is a great example of a wonderful title and cover catching my attention and getting me to read the blurb. The description sealed the deal and I requested a copy of the book because it sounded like fun. Yet, when I read time travel books, I’m always crossing my fingers; will it make sense and play by its own rules or will the edifice end up collapsing by the close of the story? I think readers looking for more of the family angle and human drama instead of the science aspect will be happier with this book.
The opening scene is a bit confusing – to the characters as well as the reader. I finally got a grip on what was happening and from that point, things took off. The world building is good, the rational is okay and the characters are interesting. There are some wrenching moments spaced along the way and I truly felt Kin’s anger, frustration and rage a few times. The man got put through the wringer.
He also makes some mistakes; a few little and nitpicky and then a couple of wowzas. Yes, he was in the throws of powerful emotions and being pulled in a few directions but these seemed like such silly things for him to have done. Be that as it may, he steps up and with the help of some friends, manages to come up with a plan. I won’t talk more for fear of giving the game away but I was impressed, overall, by how tightly things are plotted and still manage to make sense. Timey-wimey stuff can get complicated. The last mission and the final “save” are inspired. Well done.
The time travel stuff is good but of course there are restrictions needed for the plot. No jumps over 150 years and tons of agency rules. It is strange to me that Kin’s original time is 128 years into the future from his trapped past time of 2014 and his agency can pinpoint some small details which are crucial for his final mission yet initially they’re using him as a resource for the agency for what ought to be fairly easy things to find out about our time. They even have “read only” access to copies of our websites and God know people are putting every thing on them these days.
I wish there had been a bit more time spent on the opening section of the book to get me more invested in Kin’s relationship with his wife and daughter. That part seemed rushed. And it wasn’t until Kin breaks some rules once he’s back in his original time that I get a feel for more of their emotional connection.
Another bizarre thing is how Kin keeps in touch with Miranda for years worth of her time yet she doesn’t question the fact that he’s still on this super secret military mission he initially bamboozles her with. For years? What – is he on a mission to Mars?
I’m not thrilled about the number of times that Kin knows that Penny is just brushing her feelings, anger, fears, and questions under the “I’m fine” rug and yet he keeps letting her do it without attempting to clear the air or talk about her feelings or reassure her. It suits him so he goes with it even though he knows she’s not happy. And despite all the warnings and dangers of the final mission, Kin still has some keepsakes which could blow the whole deal. Really?
Yeah so I did have a few problems with some details that don’t take too much away from the fun and intricacy of the plot. The whole held together well but I’m not a voracious reader of SF books and thus could be totally off base in how well the book would work for these readers. Still, I enjoyed it for the family and friends. B-