One of my favorite parts of my Patreon page (which you can subscribe to HERE) is my book blogging monthly column, Canon Blast, where I read and pick apart a work in the SFF Canon.
In the interest of book blogging more, I’m going to try to do little write ups of things as I read them, in addition to my annual year-end, massive wrap up post. I can’t count the number of times I’ve wished for a job that would allow me to read all of the things and get paid for it, and while this definitely doesn’t pay me (or give me time to read everything) it’s still fun. And that’s what counts. On to the review!
HERE AND NOW AND THEN — Mike Chen
Buy it HERE.
Here and Now and Then is a time-travel novel about Kin Stewart, a man living in San Francisco in 2142 who works for the TCB, or Temporal Corruption Bureau. The job of the top secret TCB is to send agents back in time to apprehend time-traveling criminals who go back to try to carry out assassinations, or more likely, just make themselves a bunch of money.
White collar crime knows no limits, folks.
The book opens with Kin’s latest mission going very, very south. His homing beacon is damaged and he is stranded in the past– in 1991. At first, he does what he’s trained to do: lay low, try not to do any lasting damage to the timeline, etc. Eventually, Kin realizes that he’s probably stranded forever and starts to make a new life for himself. He meets Heather, gets married, has a daughter named Miranda.
Kin lives in the past for almost twenty years before an accident triggers his beacon for a split second and the TCB arrives to bring him home. Or at least, back to the future (ha!).
This event begins the real story. Kin is forced to leave his family with no explanation in order to spare their lives, because they technically shouldn’t exist in the way that they do. He disrupted his wife’s timeline by marrying her, and their daughter is a time anomaly. What follows is Kin’s attempts to cross the boundaries of time to save his daughter from the repercussions of his actions, from herself, and from the TCB.
I’m solidly on the fence about this book.
I like the idea. Time travel is an entertaining trope, I think, and this is a fun way to play with it. I enjoyed the parallel lives that Kin led, and Chen does a really good job of weaving them together. It’s smooth, but not completely, and it does give you a sense of the headaches that Kin suffers while trying to balance the two lives. It’s never overwhelming though, and the reader always knows where in time they are.
I like the characters. Kin is interesting and likeable. His fiancee in the future, Penny, is likeable and very understanding of his wife and daughter in the past, once she learns about them.
Everyone is nice, except Penny’s parents, but we don’t see them much. Even Penny’s stickler for the rules brother Markus isn’t really a bad guy. He’s just trying to do his job.
And that’s also my problem with the book. Everything is easy. Everyone is nice. The only villains are the faceless TCB higher ups and time itself. And, **mild spoiler**
Everything works out. There are basically zero consequences, which means, in retrospect, that there’s really no stakes either.
HOW everything works out is entertaining, and the novel is paced pretty well so Chen does have the reader hanging on hoping it all works out. That’s good. Once you get to the end though… I was a little disappointed.
That’s why I’m on the fence. On the one hand, I really liked a feel good time travel story with a very sweet father/daughter relationship. A lot of speculative fiction is dark and intense and it can be hard to read books like that one right after the other. So it was a refreshing change to find Here and Now and Then.
On the other hand, I still wanted it to be less easy.
Overall rating: 6 skeins of yarn out of 10.