Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen, Review: Brimming with heart

With Here and Now and Then Mike Chen has reserved a spot in my best books of 2019 list. Read my full review.

Here and Now and Then Synopsis

Here and Now and Then Book Review, Mike ChenTo 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-travelling 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-traveller’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.

(Harlequin Publishing, 2019)

Genre: Science Fiction, Action-Adventure, Thriller, Drama

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Regular readers will be aware of my penchant for time travel novels. But that does not stem from a desire to actually travel through time — not at all. Yes, I have an above-average interest in technical and scientific concepts. But I think my propensity for heightened engagement with such tales lies in their inherent plotting complexity.

Now, you’ll note I said ‘propensity for’ rather than ‘guaranteed’ heightened engagement with novels involving time travel. My analytical nature can prove a double-edged sword. If you are going to deploy ‘time-travel’ then your execution better be close to flawless, otherwise you’ll lose me as a reader.

I was impressed by the effortless credibility of Mike Chen’s execution of time travel in Here and Now and Then. So many wonderful little details are woven seamlessly into the story fabric — everything from hover cars, food trends and social diversity being the norm. But as impressive as Chen’s deft plotting and world-building is, he never forgets that his characters must remain centre stage.

Character-driven story

Leading man Kin Stewart is highly personable and his emotional struggles feel authentic. His flawed honesty, intrinsic goodness, heroic stoicism and loyalty to family, are each in isolation traits we might aspire to.

But the gap between the quiet affection he felt and the deep adoration and love that should have been there stretched to an endless, impossible distance.

Chen’s female characters also exude a wonderful mix of feisty strength and vulnerability. I think it is this layering and nuance that make Kin’s relationship journey with each such compelling reading. While quiet humour peppered throughout deepens characterization and reader investment in their plight.

We’re all different people all through our lives, but that’s okay, as long as you remember all the people you used to be.

This is a time travel tale a cut above the rest — at times heartrending but ultimately uplifting. Mike Chen’s Here and Now and Then is a page-turner brimming with heart.

BOOK RATING: The Story 5 / 5 ; The Writing 4.5 / 5  — Overall 4.75

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About the Author, Mike Chen

Mike Chen is a lifelong writer, from crafting fan fiction as a child to somehow getting paid for words as an adult. He has contributed to major geek websites (The Mary Sue, The Portalist, Tor) and covered the NHL for mainstream media outlets. A member of SFWA and Codex Writers, Mike lives in the Bay Area, where he can be found playing video games and watching Doctor Who with his wife, daughter, and rescue animals. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram: @mikechenwriter

His next novel called A Beginning at the End is scheduled for publication in January 2020.

* Receiving a copy for review did not impact the expression of my honest opinions above.