Here and Now and Then
Here and Now and Then is a literary science fiction novel which focuses on family – how we can never have too much of it and how we will do anything to protect those we love.
His mind is going, his memories fading along with it. In the year 2142 Kin Stewart is a special agent for the Temporal Correction Bureau (TCB). He’s sent to 1990s San Francisco to do a simple timeline rectification when the mission becomes complicated and violent and his extraction window is destroyed. He awaits rescue but it never comes. Spending weeks and months in a time not his own causes headaches, memory loss, and disorientation. Initially, he tries to hold on to the bits of his old life he has left, creating a journal he can read through to remind him of that existence. But as time continues to pass he realizes help isn’t coming and builds a life in his new reality. He marries and has a beautiful daughter, Miranda. He works in IT and lives in the suburbs. He labels the symptoms he suffers from the time-slip PTSD, which works for the first decade or so. But as his episodes increase in intensity, they also increasingly worry his wife and daughter. He believes the physical links to his past are causing the escalating problems to his health; it is simply too much for the mind to hold memories from a time and place that doesn’t yet exist. Just as he determines to destroy the notes and items he’s hidden regarding 2142, a freak accident enables the TCB retrieval agency to locate him. They take him back to the future despite his protests and return him to a family he had completely forgotten.
Kin struggles to adjust, unable to let go of those he left behind but lacking any means of being with them or even communicating with them. His improved health and the support of the people who love him make 2142 a comfortable, delightful present but Kin finds himself unable to let go of the past. When he finds a way around TCB rules to stay in touch with Miranda, he thinks he’s figured out a way to have the best of both worlds. But he left something behind, something that should never have existed and the TCB is desperate to eliminate it – even if it means killing Miranda in the process. Kin, against all odds, must find a way back to the past in order to give his daughter a chance at a future.
The author does make some attempts to discuss the science and impact of time travel, but the concentration here is on the family dynamic. That means that in many ways, the story reads very much like Kin is a widower or divorcé trying to figure out the best possible way to be a great dad to the children of his previous union while being very present for his current family. Initially, that balancing act is very difficult. There’s a lot of rule bending (breaking) to make that possible but all of it is helped along by the support and love of his 2142 family. Penny, the fiancée of that time frame, goes out of her way to be supportive of whatever Kin needs. So does Marcus, Penny’s brother and Kin’s best friend. Everyone realizes there are no ideal solutions here – you can’t go back and fix every problem of the past even with time travel – but by working together to create the best possible outcome for all, they can mitigate some of the pain of Kin moving from one phase of life to the next. That makes for a very sweet and uplifting tale that proves the old adage that the more love you give, the more you get.
Kin is the perfect character to serve as the central focus of such a story. He’s a very average man – middle income, not brilliant but just exceptional enough to find himself in some extraordinary circumstances, a good husband, friend and father. His ordinariness makes him very relatable and helps craft a tale with fantastical elements into a book about issues most people can empathize with. The supporting cast is equally well drawn, especially Miranda. Each of her reactions to actions by Kin is typical in the best way; they are written with acknowledgement of standard human emotional responses but they capture the depth, agony and beauty that is everyday life and love. I especially appreciated that there were no villains here: just people trying to do their best in difficult circumstances.
Here and Now and Then is a novel that celebrates community and shows that no matter when and where you are, the people who love you are what matter most. It’s a good read for people who like some heart with their paranormal tales or for people who like heartfelt tales and don’t mind if they are mixed with a bit of the paranormal.
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