Welcome to Diversity in Sci-Fi! Today we are reviewing Here and Now and Then, a poignant time travel novel about a man torn between his love for his daughter in the past and his loyalty to his fiancée in the present.
Title/Author: Here and Now and Then
Summary: Kin Stewart, a member of the Temporal Corruption Bureau, gets stranded in the 1990s during a mission gone wrong. He builds a life of his own and keeps his past a secret from his wife and daughter, even as he begins having blackouts and memory loss from the temporal dissonance. By the time a rescue team arrives, it’s 18 years too late, and Kin can’t remember anything of his life in 2142 – until he’s brought back there, where only two weeks have passed. Trapped between two lives, Kin is desperate to find a way to reach through time and reconnect with his daughter, even if it means breaking every one of the TCB’s rules…
Sub-Genre: Time Travel
Book Format: Paper
Length: 326 pages
As Kin recalls the details of his old life, he remembers the name of his friend, and it results in a neat piece of world-building: “Markus Fernandez. The detail awoke, along with the fact that names no longer revealed anything about ethnicity, since generations of interracial partnerships from the twenty-first century onward had rendered them meaningless. His pale complexion and sandy hair matched his accent more than his surname.” The reader similarly can’t guess Kin’s ethnicity from his surname, Stewart, but they can draw their own conclusions based on his black hair and dark brown skin. (You would initially assume that his traditionally Japanese first name would be a clue, but Kin is short for Quinoa! "When you were born, the trend was food-inspired names. You've always hated it, which is why you've always insisted on going by Kin.")
Markus, Kin’s friend, is married to a man, and they have a son named Benjamin who calls them Daddy and Pappa, which is just precious. Markus’s relationship with his family is significant, because it changes how he reacts to Kin’s desperate attempts to reconnect with his daughter. Sidebar: someone once told me, “That author only made these characters gay because she wanted to get brownie points. Characters shouldn’t be gay for no reason.” I most emphatically disagree with this. Gay characters and characters of color are allowed to exist, simply because gay people and POC exist. There doesn’t need to be some deep meaning behind it. Besides, when a straight or white writer shoehorns in a plot-significant “reason” for a character’s race or sexuality, it can come off as insulting. With that said, it’s nice to see someone like Markus, where his relationships as a gay, married man inform his character and influence the plot in some minor way.
I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about the women in this novel, since I knew it revolved around a man rescuing his daughter and tip-toeing around a fiancée he barely remembered. Both Miranda and Penny were fully fleshed out individuals, even seeing them through Kin’s eyes. I was impressed with Penny’s character arc, but I most enjoyed the snapshots we got of Miranda throughout time.
This novel turned out to be very different from what I’d anticipated after reading the cover’s tagline: “To save his daughter, he’ll go anywhere – and any-when….” Based on the description on the cover, I had the impression that the entirety of the book was going to be about Kin traveling through time to save Miranda. Instead, much of the book is spent on Kin’s readjustment to the year 2142, making for a quieter, yet still suspenseful, read. In spite of my subverted expectations, I loved it! I adore the concept of time travel in general, and I got a huge kick out of the Doctor Who references. The technology is just detailed enough to be well thought out and clever. It doesn’t drag down the plot with an overabundance of complicated details, which is a classic pitfall of hard sci-fi. It’s a touching story, and I was rooting for Kin the whole time, even when I was yelling at him for some of the choices he made! A satisfying, if bittersweet, read.