Friday, October 12, 2007

Alpha Centauri

Title: Alpha Centauri

Author: Robert Siegel

Genre: Mid-grade (8-12) fantasy

Excerpt from Chapter 1, “Canters,” of Alpha Centauri:

As their headlights rose and fell on the fog, Becky strained to see beyond the edge of the road. It was an hour since they’d dropped down off the motorway into pockets of fog, which soon spread to a blanket. The glittering cat’s-eye markers were missing from the roadside, and only an occasional ghostly tree or fence showed they were still on course.

Two hours ago they had left London for the wilds of Surrey. The suddenness with which the English landscape changed was exciting to an American. One moment you were in the heart of a modern city and almost the next in country that looked as it had hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years ago. Especially in the fog! Becky flinched a little as an enormous black limb reached out for her. Things didn’t look the same in the fog. Trees swept by in grotesque postures. Hills and houses stared sinisterly at their passing car. At times the car seemed to float in an ocean which cast up before it shapes and faces from the depths of time.

She was glad when her father broke the silence: “I hope Charlie leaves the lights on, or we’ll miss the place.” Charlie was an old friend of her father’s, a fellow American who had settled in Surrey years back. She’d met him briefly in London. A month ago, Charlie had asked them down to his farm for this weekend, but since then they’d heard nothing from him.

A young American girl rides back in time to ancient England and the impending destruction of centaurs.

The Writing: Alpha Centauri is a clean, straightforward story. No phenomenal twists, no fabulous characters. Not that either of these aspects is bad. The characters are likeable… but predictable. What you see is what you get.

Likewise, the plot is pretty conventional. The beginning is very slow pace, but gradually picks up tension before slowing again past the book’s mid-point. One set of tests for the protagonist between that and the end is rather anticlimactic. Nonetheless, tension is regained and the ending is appropriately satisfying.

The Story: There is not much to say about themes, and the spiritual thread is nearly nonexistent (which isn’t all bad, since it eliminates preachiness). The story, since it is about centaurs, is steeped in mythology, and as a consequence, has some questionable retellings about the beginning of the world and the rise of evil. It has is a bit heavy-handed on the common environmental thought that man is evil and nature is good, even though the later is also been corrupted by sin. However, it’s not prominent enough to weight heavily against the story.

Summary: It’s an interesting afternoon read, but don’t go out of your way to find it. And despite the concerns listed above, I consider the story safe reading for mid-grade readers (8-12 years) and up.

Rating: 3.3 of 5

No comments: