"Here and Now and Then" by Mike Chen
I am a wimp.
While I display my general cowardice in many ways, it most significantly manifests itself in a disinclination to aspire to any career that is even remotely dangerous… no matter how “cool” the job in question may be.
For example, becoming an astronaut. Even as a child, when my peers proclaimed their desires to become a professional basketball player or the Little Mermaid or a spaceman, I knew one thing for sure: I wanted to keep my feet firmly planted on the fucking ground.
The nice, solid, stable, safe ground.
Because, with my feet on the ground, there was literally no way I would float off irretrievably into space, only to die a painful death by asphyxiation when my limited oxygen supply ran out.
Another thing I would never want to hazard doing, time travel.
Yes, I know… time travel isn’t real (probably).
But, when it is, I’mma express my disinterest in participation.
Not that I think I’m the first door they're going to knock on, mind you. I certainly can’t imagine that the newly launched time travel initiative will require an extremely well-read, moderately introverted, ridiculously out of shape, championship vodka drinker to be successful… but, you never know.
The thing is, I’m just not willing to put myself in any situation where there is even the possibility that I will start bouncing uncontrollably around in time with nothing but my pithy, cigar-smoking, holographic companion to keep me company, unable to exert any real control and resigned only to hope beyond hope that my next leap will be the leap home.
Fortunately for the people at the Temporal Corruption Bureau, or TCB, a super-fucking-secret organization that forms in the 22nd century, Kin Stewart isn’t a wimp and is foolish enough to willingly risk it all, jumping back and forth through time to ensure that the new — and still secret — time travel technology isn’t used for nefarious, world-altering purposes.
A badass to the core, Kin is kind of like Liam Neeson in Taken, only, instead of traveling 5,500 miles to Paris to save his daughter from sex traffickers he has to, like, travel back in time 130 years to prevent the assassination of the father of a future president.
While on one of these missions, everything changes for Kin. His tracking device is disabled, preventing the retrieval team from finding him and taking him back the point from which he departed, 2145.
Well-versed in the rules of time travel — and truly believing in the global implications of violating these directives — Kin tries to be patient and wait it out. But as days turn into weeks and weeks into months, it becomes increasingly clear to him that he’s drifted into unchartered territory.
It appears, now, that the question isn’t when will the retrieval team arrive, but instead will they arrive at all.
Growing increasingly resigned to never being rescued, Kin — against his better judgement — violates some of the most significant precepts he promised to uphold.
He meets a woman.
Falls in love.
Has a daughter.
And, settles in for a lifelong stay in twenty-one-A — as our century will apparently be called in the future.
But time travel — or, more specifically, living in a time that predates you by a century — takes a toll on your body.
As his daughter moves through her tumultuous teenage years, Kin starts to experience physical symptoms, which he can only assume are a result of his status as an out-of-time dweller.
With crippling headaches and fainting spells that continue to increase in both regularity and severity, it seems to Kin that his rather premature death may be imminent.
But then, the unexpected: the retrieval team (or, more specifically, a retrieval agent, Markus, a man who claims to be Kin’s friend from the future) shows up insisting that he take Kin home.
Loathe to leave his family, but not really seeing any other option that doesn’t put him — and, more importantly, his family — at risk, Kin reluctantly goes.
Upon going back...to the future... Kin is faced with rediscovering the life he has almost completely forgotten and dealing with the gaping hole in his heart that only reconnecting with his family will fill.
As if this all weren’t enough to deal with, he soon learns that his daughter, Miranda, may be in grave danger and, while there is, potentially, something he can do about it, saving her will require risking it all.
So, here’s the thing with this book — I picked it exclusively because of its beautiful cover. As previously mentioned multiple times, I judge the fuck out of books by their covers. Don’t @ me.
Honestly, I typically don't even really read sci fi — except dystopian because I guess I just like to watch the world burn.
I mean. F.U.C.K.
This book has me rethinking my life choices.
Because it was so. very. good.
One of the reasons I don’t usually read sci fi is that I don’t particularly enjoy all of the nuanced techy shit — which is surprising as considering that I am literally the principal of a science academy, but… whatever.
But, the thing with this novel was that it wasn’t even really about the science.
Sure, there was science...and technology.. and futuristic shit that is as impressive as it is terrifying.
But that's not what it was really about.
It was about the people.
Specifically, about Kin.
And, as a protagonist, I must say he was effective AF.
Like, I was deeply committed to him and his happiness.
Even now, I'm still kinda worried about whether it all worked out for him which is silly because:
The conclusion of this novel was pretty fucking conclusive and
As a sentient being, it shouldn't be this difficult for me to truly realize that he is a fictional human.
Compounding my enjoyment of this book was the pacing of the plot.
As annoyingly cliché as it is, reading this novel was like riding a roller coaster — a weird, emotional, time-travel-y roller coaster.
The ups and downs and unexpected twists absolutely kept me engaged from start to finish. Ultimately, it was these twists — this uncertainty — that really cemented my investment in these characters and transformed this novel from words on a page to a universe in which I was fully immersed.
Usually, this is the point in the review where I would list a few — usually minor — criticisms.
But, in this case, I can’t.
As I read it, I became entirely absorbed in this novel and, having now finished it, I absolutely cannot come up with any legitimate criticism.
Coincidentally, the same day I entered the world of this novel, my nine-year-old son mentioned some junk news he had heard — Something about a time traveler who had come from a distant time to dispense a warning.
Because you should set your book down when your children — who won’t be children forever — try to talk to you, I did.
And, as I set the novel aside and started to engage in this discussion about time travel, I realized that, now that I’m a grown adult, there is another thing compelling me to actively resist dangerous jobs... Including, the currently fictional (I think) occupation of time traveler.
Because, like Kin — and, probably, TBH, like any parent — I think that the ache associated with missing my children would do me in way before the time-travel-related maladies that weaken my muscles and hurt my head.
Ultimately, I am terribly grateful that they slapped a stunning cover on this novel, because I never would have found it otherwise — and I’m so glad I did.
It earns an exceedingly enthusiastic 5 out of 5 cocktails.
What genres do you usually read? I tend to stick to YA, mystery/thriller, women’s fiction and maybe some lit. fiction — if I’m feeling bougy and smart. Tell me about your preferred genres in the comments, below.
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*I was provided a gratis advanced release copy of this title by the publisher for review consideration.