Mike Chen’s debut novel Here and Now and Then (MIRA, 2019) is a portrait of patience. The main character, Kin Stewart, waits 18 years for his employer to retrieve him from an assignment. Then, after being rescued, he needs many months to re-acclimate to his old life.
Those waits, however, are nothing compared to how long it takes him to re-connect with the daughter he is forced to abandon: more than 120 years.
Stewart, of course, has no ordinary job. He’s an agent from the year 2142, employed by the Temporal Corruption Bureau to fix anomalies in the timeline. When his retrieval beacon breaks on assignment in the 1990s, he’s convinced he’ll be stranded forever. To make the best of a dire situation, he ignores his employer’s prohibition on having relationships in the past: he falls in love, gets married, has a daughter, and settles into a quiet life in the suburbs.
Needless to say, it throws a monkey wrench in his plans when the Temporal Corruption Bureau arrives in 2014 and compels him to return to 2142, where an entirely different life—including a fiancé who thinks he’s been gone only a few weeks—awaits.
For Chen, time travel is a vehicle to explore topographies of loss and healing. Being ripped from first one time and then another, leaves both Kin and those around him despairing—until he discovers that 120 years is no obstacle to the love of a father trying to do anything to save his child.