Every family has issues. Most can’t blame them on extraterrestrials.
Evie Shao and her sister, Kass, aren’t on speaking terms. Fifteen years ago on a family camping trip, their father and brother vanished. Their dad turned up days later, dehydrated and confused—and convinced he’d been abducted by aliens. Their brother, Jakob, remained missing. The women dealt with it very differently. Kass, suspecting her college-dropout twin simply ran off, became the rock of the family. Evie traded academics to pursue alien conspiracy theories, always looking for Jakob.
When Evie’s UFO network uncovers a new event, she goes to investigate. And discovers Jakob is back. He’s different—older, stranger, and talking of an intergalactic war—but the tensions between the siblings haven’t changed at all. If the family is going to come together to help Jakob, then Kass and Evie are going to have to fix their issues, and fast. Because the FBI is after Jakob, and if their brother is telling the truth, possibly an entire space armada, too.
The perfect combination of action, imagination and heart, Light Years From Home is a touching drama about a challenge as difficult as saving the galaxy: making peace with your family…and yourself.
Light Years from Home is Mike Chen’s latest novel, and, in my opinion, it fits right in with the rest of the author’s portfolio. It is a sci-fi story written in Chen’s signature smooth style, with a narrative that includes family drama and alien technology, and a message full of hope. I definitely enjoyed this read.
There is always an easy connection with the characters in Chen’s books, and Light Years from Home is no different. There are many elements that go into this. All of the characters hopes, dreams, and even their hostilities are evident as their thoughts are laid bare. The reader really gets in the characters’ heads, and, to me, if done right it can be really touching. I care what happens to them, and that is crux of a great narrative, to me.
I thought the storyline was really unique. The reader comes in kind of in the middle of something, and also leaves in the middle of something. There is much left for the reader to extrapolate. I think where many authors would have taken this story and tried to turn it into Epic Space Opera, Chen gives us a snapshot in time – a couple of days out of an event that spans decades. I really love me some space opera, but I enjoy taking a break from it, too. There is something to be said for not having every detail explained, 10 different perspectives, and a thousand years of history taken into account every once in a while. Do not get me wrong, there are aliens (at least the existence of them), galactic war, and spaceships in the story, but the fact that this book singles in on a small family over a couple of days feels very intimate, and I enjoyed that closeness.
That really goes back to Chen’s writing, which I mentioned in the premise. The author has this way of writing a story that makes it feels really graceful. I find it hard to pinpoint exactly why, but I find it easy to keep going. I never wanted to stop reading, and not necessarily in an anticipatory way. More like I appreciated being in this space the author created. Even though there is conflict that needs resolved, there is this overall tone of hope. I think we need more of that right now: stories that convey a sense of positivity for the future.
The family drama was a huge aspect of this book, too, and that was both a positive and a negative for me. I did like it as a baseline for what is going on. There is a lot of history and emotion in that space, and that creates a ton of tension. Waiting for the culminating aspect of the narrative that allows that tension to release is one of my favorite aspects of the book, because I love the anticipation. At the same time, I did feel as though it got so pounded into my head that I eventually got a little annoyed with it. Definitely more good than bad with this, though, and it is such a staple of the story that I am not sure how you do it differently.
The biggest reason why this book does not receive a higher rating for me is the pacing. The overall tension is great, but I could use more mini-conflicts along the way to bring just a little more excitement. The narrative did feel flat at times, and I think some more pronounced ups and downs would do it good.
Light Years from Home is another solid installation in Chen’s portfolio. I like the closeness of it, the emotion, and the humanity combined with science fiction elements. For sci-fi fans looking for a lighter read, I recommend picking it up.