Light-Years From Home
Written Insomnia Press (June 30, 2022)
Reviewed by Andrew Byers
Given Michaelbrent Collings’ prolific and wide-ranging output, I never quite know what to expect when I open one of his novels. Light-Years from Home is significantly different from anything else Collings has written that I’ve come across. I would describe it as a young adult science fiction novel (not Collings’ usual psychological/supernatural horror in other words) and would compare the essential premise with The Last Starfighter, Flight of the Navigator, and Galaxy Quest with a modernized version of Tom Swift thrown in for good measure. Though this one’s markedly different from Collings’ usual fare, I had a lot of fun with it. It certainly brought me back to the 1980s when teens/pre-teens got together and saved the day without an adult in sight.
In Light-Years, four young people—Max, budding genius; Noah, his more athletically inclined best friend; Leya, Noah’s cousin and Max’s romantic interest; and Chloe, Max’s awkward but funny younger sister—are just supposed to go to a forest and collect some samples for a school science project. Things rapidly spin out of control when they’re abducted by aliens. These aren’t your typical little grey aliens who want to conduct…experiments on their unwitting human test subjects though. These are slightly friendlier aliens than that, though they’re biologically and culturally unique, and happen to be on the losing end of an intergalactic war, one that threatens their species’ (and eventually Earth’s) very survival. They need some help, and Max, Noah, Leya, and Chloe are just the Earthlings to provide that aid.
There’s lots of tension throughout because the kids first have to make sense of their new surrounds—and their alien captors, who they do eventually befriend—then figure out how they’re going to survive the alien war they find themselves embroiled in, then, not incidentally, find their way home and save Earth along the way. The aliens we encounter are truly alien in terms of their outlooks, biology, and technology, and that’s always appreciated. It’s very wholesome and should be fun for tweens, teens, and adults. Good action-adventure and problem-solving in a sci-fi setting.
Because Light-Years From Home is fairly far afield from Collings’ usual fare, I was interested to learn that he wrote this novel as an adaptation of another writer’s screenplay. I don’t know if this story will ever be filmed, but I will say that under the right direction and with a big enough special effects budget, this could be a very solid, family-friendly summer blockbuster.
If you, like me, need to occasionally intersperse your dark and brooding horror reading with some lighter, family friendly fare, or have any nostalgia for the days when a group of kids can truly save the day, then I think you’ll enjoy Light-Years From Home. Recommended.