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Brian has a Jekyll & Hyde personality
Isn't it a bit odd that Brian gets into two separate predicaments as a result of someone dying or coming close to it in his presence? In Brian's Return, it is revealed that he can get pretty violent. Perhaps, in the first book, he snaps as a result of the stress surrounding his parents' separation and attacks the pilot in a fit of rage. After dealing with the trauma of being stranded in the wilderness, he (reluctantly) returns in The River, where the government researcher is nearly killed. Could Brian have suffered some kind of panic attack returning to the wilderness where he attacking the pilot? Was it lightning, or was it Brian, that resulted in the man's serious injuries?

Brian's Return happens because he stayed too long in the wilderness in the alternate timeline
  • It's established that in The River that Brian has adjusted fairly well to normal life if with a few understandable hangups about the trauma. In that timeline, he was only in the woods for 54 days according to the end of Hatchet. While that is a long time and felt like an eternity to him, being alone for nearly half a year in the winter was much worse for him in the case where the transmitter didn't work. Due to his Go Mad from the Isolation spell, he isn't used to people at all.
    • pretty much confirmed with the original book's epilogue, as it showed he stayed in civilization, but with a hightened sense of awareness of the world around him.

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