Humans are at war with the Ged, a species which is appalled by their enemy’s aggression. To defeat them, the Ged must learn to understand them. So they go toQom, where a lost Muslim colony from Earth has spread degenerated into the dark ages. TheQomhave split into two groups: the treacherous, artisan Delysian, and the honour bound Spartan-like Jelite; and are constantly at war with each other. The Ged collect six hundred Delysians and Jelites by promising them knowledge of science and weapons. The captive Humans are then placed in a walled city and denied contact with the outside, while the Ged watch the results. At first, the Humans stick their cultural boundaries and only a few attempt to learn from the Ged. Gradually order breaks down as old resentments rise to the surface and the level of violence threatens to destroy the experiment. A small band of Humans from both sides manage to cut through ingrained prejudices and join together as it becomes obvious that the Ged are not as benevolent as the appear to be.
Science fiction is often accused of not being realistic enough, of being nothing but an escape from reality. Popular films such as “Star Wars” or “Terminator” have done little to refute that opinion, and yet there is more to the genre than spaceship battles and kidnapped princesses. There is a war being waged out in space in “An Alien Light”, but the reader is not bothered with the details of it. The story is concerned with the human “condition”, about why it is that we seem to be determined to find reasons to hate each other. We are forever excluding this group or that one from our definition of what it is to be human. Yet there are a few who try to cross the barriers.