Time travel is one of the themes most commonly found in classic science fiction. But it’s taken a back seat in recent years to dystopian novels and space opera, not to mention epic fantasy (which I don’t consider science fiction at all). Of course, time travel back to the past has no basis in known science (although relativity makes time travel forward quite easy). But the paradoxes that open up in any logical treatment of the subject offer a wealth of possible plots. That’s the opening for suspense that Mike Chen found in his promising science fiction debut, Here and Now and Then.
A secret agent for the Temporal Corruption Bureau
Kin Stewart is a secret agent for the Temporal Corruption Bureau. From his home in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 2130s and 40s, he has traveled back in time on more than two dozen occasions to track down mercenaries hired to perform jobs such as buying shares of stock on the cheap or robbing banks. But when he’s sent to 1996 to prevent a time-traveling “merc” to interfere in a Congressional vote, he runs into a problem. When wrestling with the mercenary, she shoots him in the stomach, damaging the implant that makes his time travel possible.
Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen (2019) 336 pages @@@@ (4 out of 5)
Forward and back through time again in this promising science fiction debut
Now, eighteen years later, Kin is still stuck in the past—2014, to be precise. He has long since taken up a new life. He’s happily married and has a fourteen-year-old daughter. It’s been a struggle to keep his previous life hidden, since he has blackouts from time to time caused by his inability to straddle two such different eras. But when an accident briefly reactivates the implant, a retrieval agent from the TCB suddenly turns up in his backyard. Kin is deathly afraid that the agent will endanger or even kill his wife and daughter. And thus begins a rollercoaster tale that shifts Kin forward and back through time again.
Chen does a workmanlike job telling his tale. Accept the assumptions behind the story, and the logic falls into place. And Kin’s reactions to the dangers he faces are eminently human. The novel works, and it’s a fun read.
For further reading
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- The ultimate guide to the all-time best science fiction novels;
- Great sci-fi novels reviewed: my top 10 (plus dozens of runners-up); and
- The top 10 dystopian novels reviewed here (plus dozens of others).
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