Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen
I love books involving time travel! This is a genre-bending and unique tale of love, and I loved every heartbreaking second of it.
About the Book
Publisher: Mira Books | Release Date: January 29, 2019 | Pages: 336
Genre: Adult, Science Fiction | Format: eARC | Source: Publisher via Netgalley
Kin Stewart is an everyday family man: working in I.T., 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.
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Friends, this book took me completely by surprise in the best of ways! I had been in a reading slump for 20 days and nothing that I picked up could hold my attention, but when I picked up Here and Now and Then it was like I had been waiting for this book. This is a genre-bending and unique tale of love, and I loved every heartbreaking second of it.
“People aren’t supposed to have lives in two eras. You know that, right?”
The story is so much more than just a science fiction story about a man stuck between two times: it’s about the love our main character feels for his family and being torn between two lives. Kin is from 2142 but was stranded during a mission in 1996. Despite there being strict rules about maintaining the timeline, he goes against them when it becomes obvious that he won’t be rescued. Eighteen years later he remembers nothing of his past life in 2142 but snippets he wrote down in a journal about time travel and the bureau he worked for, but nothing of the life he left behind. He has a wife and daughter and is happy. But rescue finally comes and it is time for him to leave the only life he knows – the one that should never have existed – for the one he left behind. But he will do anything to protect them, including leaving them without a word.
“The future versus the past. He couldn’t choose between his new life and his old life. Not now. Not like this.
I really enjoy time travel stories and this is one of the best ones I’ve read so far. This is more than a time travel story, it is a tale about a man that will do anything for the people he loves. The book hooked me in from the first sentence and drew me in. I’ll admit that while I loved Kin (short for Quinoa, he was born when it was a fad to name children after foods) from the start, it took me a little bit of time to warm up the other characters. But once I did I wanted to protect each of them with all of my heart.
At the heart, Here And Now And Then is a speculative look at what our world could look like in 150 years. The technologies and advancements of the future are discussed through time travel: Markus always stopping for fast food because they don’t have food like that in the future, needing special technology to look into the social media of the past for research, bringing a pair of chopsticks because in the past they still use forks. Despite there being injections available to prolong life, there are still people that prefer to live without. It feels so authentic to life now that I didn’t need to suspend any disbelief and it almost felt like I was reading a contemporary because the heart of this story is really the characters and their relationships.
This a definitely a character-driven story, but the world-building is effortless. Chen doesn’t get bogged down with the details of describing the landscape but provides just enough information about the future for the reader to suspend disbelief. Without these little asides to draw out the differences, 2142 feels very similar to the present and makes the story all the more believable. Except of course the whole time travel thing, but then again he does work for a secret government agency.
“But thanks to the wisdom of a tv show, Kin realized he didn’t always have to put up such a fight against circumstances. He might even come to like life in 2142 if he just gave things a chance. He felt different because he was different.”
I was surprised at how philosophical the book felt to me (especially since some of the Zen quotes actually come from Doctor Who) and I was totally here for it. For some reason I began to think about Nietzsche and how we are never really the same person from moment to moment — our memories change and our cells die and live. Honestly it got me thinking about how lucky it is that if we live multiple lives we don’t remember them. I loved that this book made me think, but I do want to say it isn’t overly philosophical… I just like to think about these things.
Overall, I absolutely loved this book and wholeheartedly recommend it! There is so much I can say about the story but really I think this is one where going in as blind as possible is best. If you like character driven stories and science fiction that feels effortless, you need to read this book!
REPRESENTATION: racially diverse world, gay side character (m/m), PTSD
CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNINGS: loss of a loved one, death, grief
Many thanks to the publisher for sending me an eARC via NetGalley for review. Quotations are taken from an uncorrected proof and may change upon publication.
Let’s go on another adventure together!