Books

Book Review: Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen

This is one of those books that bends the lines between genres. It’s a literary sci-fi story about family, time travel, and trauma. I went in without reading the synopsis, remembering having seen the book everywhere when it first came out. So I didn’t have a clue what the story was about except for time travel and thinking there were Catch-22 elements. I was pleasantly surprised that there was a layer of family, and not in some cheesy way. There was conflict, love, hate, anger, and all the other emotions involved when it comes to having our past, future, and who we are tied to blood we never actually chose. So an unlike sci-fi story brave enough to bring family in all its messiness into the forefront.

It took me time to relinquish the idea of time travel with the Catch-22 scenario and just enjoy the ride. However, the story is still about time travel, what problems it might create, and the perimeters we as humans might have to work with if it ever came possible. As you know, time travel will create great paradoxes, and here the book will inflict that on a family level and not just as a gimmick I have seen done tons of time. So what is going on then? Kin Stewart is stranded in time and has acquired a life in 90s San Francisco. Then his past as a time-traveling secret agent comes knocking, making already tough family life even worse. Kin tries to survive and manage the situation the best he can.

As I said, I appreciated wholly the family and time travel aspect combined with the trauma (Kin suffers from PTSD) involved. I loved the prose. The characters were multidimensional, except Penny. She was a tad too simple and one-sided for me, sweet though. Also, the book kept bringing food up at every turn, and at first, I was like a nice touch, but then it became annoying towards the end. I get it was used as a thread throughout the story to tie everything together, but sometimes it took the immersion out, and it felt like the writer was writing in their voice and not as the character. In addition to the foodstuff, sometimes the constraints of the time travel or how the bureau Kin worked for functioned was there to stall or make the immediate story difficult rather than feeling like actual thought-out restrictions of time travel. I could be wrong, and the objections might be about how I view time and what time travel demands, but it didn’t matter. All my annoyances were passing and easy to shrug off. They were a minor part of the whole picture.

That’s about it, my complaints. I enjoyed the book immensely. It’s a welcomed change to stuffy sci-fi stories, which feel removed from reality to these situations that don’t consider the full spectrum of what is to be and live as a human being.

Thank you for reading, and have a beautiful day ❤ If you stumble into time travel, you have my permission to spook the future or past me or both.

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