Saturday, October 27, 2018

Book Review: "Here and Now and Then" by Mike Chen

I know I'm not the only one who finds novels about time travel utterly irresistible. It's not the science of time travel that fascinates me, although I'm always drawn in by the possible paradox of running into yourself somewhere in time. For me, it's more the thought that one single action, even the smallest gesture, can set off a chain of events that could change the world as we (or the characters) know it.

In Mike Chen's new novel, Here and Now and Then, Kin (short for Quinoa—when he was born the world was obsessed with naming babies after food) is a special agent for the Temporal Correction Bureau (TCB), in the year 2142. When a simple mission back in time to the 1990s gets botched, Kin finds himself stranded in the San Francisco suburbs—for 18 years.

After his initial panic gave way to acceptance, Kin realizes that he must live his life in the here and now of the 1990s, even if it isn't quite his real here and now. So he finds himself building a life—working in IT; keeping his marriage to Heather, a driven, science fiction-obsessed attorney, on track; and trying to maintain his relationship with their teenage daughter, Miranda. It's not all that difficult, but through the years he struggles with memory loss, debilitating headaches, and blackouts—evidence his brain is destabilizing due to all of the time travel.

Kin tries to write off his episodes as PTSD, but as they increase in frequency and intensity, they take their toll on his marriage and his relationship with Miranda. When the TCB's retrieval agent finally locates Kin, and readies to bring him back to 2142, Kin isn't sure he wants to leave the life he has known, even if he knows he never should have had it in the first place. And when he returns to his present-day, Kin is shocked to find he had a completely different life he left behind. How can he return to his "old" life when his wife and daughter are back in the past?

"Did a missing past even matter anymore compared to human touch in the here and now?"

As Kin tries to re-acclimate to his life and those in it, he longs for his daughter. When his efforts to keep in touch with her across the years inadvertently put her in danger, Kin realizes the only thing he can do is travel back in time to save her, even if it means the end of his life and the end of his relationships in current time. It will take courage and strength he's not sure he has anymore, and the luck of time, which he hopes is on his side one last time.

I thought this was a fun, poignant book, full of suspense and emotion. At times it got a little too technical for me (science is so not my thing, even if it's fictional science), but the story had so much heart, and you wanted to root for everyone, even if that meant not everyone would get what they wanted. Kin is a terrific character, even if you wanted to smack him sometimes so he'd just say what he was feeling.

Here and Now and Then is an enjoyable addition to the time travel genre. But even if you're not a time travel fan, there's enough emotion, heart, and character development to sink your teeth into. And who knows? Maybe it will even get you thinking about who you'd travel through time for!

NetGalley and MIRA provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!


  1. wow. Sounds great. A few shades of Pears "Arcadia" which covers some of this same conundrum. Can't wait to read this. Great review and wonderful writing to explain a complicated plot.