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Here and Now and Then: 03/02/19

Here and Now and Then

Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen is a time travel story set in 2014 and 2142 San Francisco. Quinoa "Kin" Stewart is a programmer in San Francisco. He's suffering from blackouts and debilitating headaches. He knows its from time travel; his wife and daughter think it's PTSD. All that changes when his best friend and handler from 2142 finds him and orders him home.

Time travel here works with the premise that the body can't handle different times. Memory loss or time induced amnesia as well as the headaches and heart damage are part and parcel of time travel. There are drugs and implants to help ease the process. Kin has taken out his implant and his long spate of time in the past has made travel more dangerous for him.

Travelers are supposed to lay low and avoid interacting with the past as much as possible. Kin has broken those protocols in the most extreme way imagined by marrying and fathering a child. The bulk of Here and Now and Then is the aftermath of having a family in the past and then leaving them there.

Looking at the cover art one can see visual similarities with Paradox Bound by Peter Clines (2017). Both sport a lemniscate road. Paradox Bound's cover has a car which obfuscates the romantic couple, while Here and Now and Then sports a man running on the top, and a woman at the bottom along side the San Francisco skyline, which implies a romantic couple, when in fact the woman is his daughter left behind in 2014.

Placement comparisons between Paradox Now, Here and Now and Then, and a hypothetical Here and Now and Then told from Miranda's point of view
Placement comparisons between Paradox Now, Here and Now and Then, and a hypothetical Here and Now and Then told from Miranda's point of view

As this novel is entirely from Kin's point of view, the narrative falls lower on the spectrum than Paradox Bound. Both are in the horror part of the spectrum but Chen's novel is more so than Clines's because it focuses so heavily on Kin's horror at what happens to Miranda, his daughter, after he leaves.

Kin as a time traveler, a rather elite and semi-secret position puts him at the bottom of the spectrum for traveler types: privileged (00). The destination coming and going is a change in time, or uhoria (CC) to a real, mappable location (San Francisco). The route is one that starts and finishes through an offroad path (hiking up Mount Tam or similar nearby hiking trail) (66). All together it's 00CC66 compared to Paradox Bound's 33CC33 (Couple uhoria blue highway).

Had this novel instead been from Miranda's point of view, it would have set much higher in the spectrum. Miranda as an orphan (due to her father leaving and her mother dying) would have access to orphan magic. Even though the world is set up so that people in the past can't have access to the technology, she would have managed to either reverse engineer the process from following her father's tracks to one of the tethered travel spots, or she would have ended up inventing the technology (paradoxes be damned). If that were the case, Miranda's story would be an FFCC66.

That said, Here and Now and Then was still a fun read. It's just a very male centered, man as maverick and hero type of novel. Miranda's story would have been more interesting.

Four stars

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