Somewhere in Tokyo there’s a tiny basement cafe with no windows, three clocks telling different times, Mocha coffee, and has a special seat with a ghost that sits in it reading a book while drinking said coffee. Once a day the ghost needs to go to the toilet and while she’s away from the seat anyone who sits in it can be served a coffee and travel back in time: but there are rules.
Rule 1: nothing you do in the past will ever change the present.
Rule 2: you cannot leave the seat.
Rule 3: you can only meet people who were in the cafe at the time you go back to.
Rule 4: you only get to use the seat once, no second chances.
Rule 5: you must finish the coffee before it gets cold.
If you don’t drink the coffee before it gets cold you become a ghost. It doesn’t say whether you replace the existing ghost or if that’s how the existing ghost came to be, just best not let the coffee get cold.
The book is divided into 4 chapters, each with it’s own time travel escapade. The character list is quite small as it only involves the staff and customers of the cafe — which is a very small cafe — this gives us a much more intimate relationship with each of them and their problems.
As the book builds so does the emotional level of each journey, getting deeper and deeper until the very last journey which i found to be quite a damper of ones eyeballs.
The main point of these stories seems to be that if you could go through time to meet someone but meeting them wouldn’t change a thing in the present what exactly would be the point? This is where most temporal sci-fi falls flat on its face because we always get to the paradox of you wouldn’t have gone back in time if you changed the reason for going back in the first place: this book doesn’t make those temporal mistakes.
All in all, very enjoyable and emotionally moving.
My only gripe: why’s there a cat on the cover when there isn’t a cat in the book?
And the journeys don’t end in this book, there’s a sequel, Tales from the Cafe, which has another 4 characters and their respective journeys in time: maybe the cat gets a mention in this. I’ll be sure to write a review when i get around to reading it.