Reviewed date: 2023 Aug 12
Alpha Centauri is a work of Christian fantasy that is reminiscent of Narnia. But it's also unlike Narnia, in that so much of the text focuses on food, music, and the still beauty of un-despoiled nature. In that regard it reminded of Stargate by Pauline Gedge, in that both books emphasize the character's connection to nature and the environment around them, to the point that it becomes overwhelming and obnoxious. (But on that front Alpha Centauri is a minor offender where Stargate is a career felon.) It's a charming book, and it's a shame it's not better known.
Becky, an American girl from Massachusetts, travels to Britain with her father to visit his friend in Surrey. Once there, Becky makes a connection with one of the horses, Rebecca. In the middle of the night Rebecca wakes Becky up and she rides to the center of the forest. There, in a fog, they travel through the Eye of the Fog and are transported to a Britain in the deep, deep past.
Immediately Becky is captured by centaurs. Yes, this long-forgotten Britain is home to centaurs. Back at Silver Garth, the centaur village, the centaurs accuse Becky of being a Rock Mover. Becky doesn't know what a Rock Mover is, and she soon convinces them she's not one. Becky makes a friend in Lala, a young centaur girl, and finds an ally in her father Cavallos. Other centaurs, particularly Flimnos, are still skeptical of her. The centaurs decide to ask Scopas the seer for advice about what to do with her.
Scopas says Becky must go see the First Ones. The First Ones are an ancient people, and they keep to themselves mostly. To see them it is a journey of several days. Becky and a group of centaurs lead by Cavallos set out, but on the way Becky and Cavallos are kidnapped by Rock Moves.
The Rock Movers are humans, and they are bad. They take Becky and Cavallos to Longdreth (which will, eons later, be called London). Becky is trained as a palace servant, while Cavallos is tortured for information about the centaurs. The Rock Movers distrust all other races, and they seek to exterminate the centaurs, and they hope that Cavallos will reveal the locations of the last remaining centaur villages. Additionally, Cavallos is slated to be sacrificed to their god Phogros at the Feast of First Harvest.
The Rock Movers are technically ruled by a King, Rhadas, but he is a young man and the real power rests with his regent, Targ. When Targ gives Becky away to Faloor, Ack-Lonthean ambassador, to be a wife for his son Josef, Becky knows she must escape quickly or be carried away from Britain forever. She confides in a maidservant, Neetha, who brings her secretly to Rhadas. It turns out Rhadas is just as much under Targ's thumb as everyone else, and he would like nothing more than to undermine Targ's power. So he helps Becky and Cavallos escape from Longdreth.
Becky and Cavallos make their way back to Silver Garth. Scopas the seer reminds Becky that she still must go to the First Ones. Much time has been lost, and this time, Becky must go alone. She goes. It's a long journey, and when she arrives she discovers the First Ones are human, not centaurs.
Becky spends much time talking with a First One named Menos. He tells her much about the ancient history of the world. In particular he describes the fall of man, and how they brought misery to the world. (The First Ones appear to be unaffected by the Fall, and I was never sure whether they were unfallen, sinless humans, or whether they are a pre-Adamic race.) Menos talks about the Shaper (who is clearly God), the Healer (who is clearly Jesus) and the Warper (who is clearly Satan.) He also quotes a long prophecy which has several stanzas that clearly refer to the cross and the atoning blood of Christ. These things are not spelled out as such, but left as clues for the discerning reader.
Menos says also that the centaurs are not originally from Earth. They are from Alpha Centauri, and can travel there through the Path to the Stars. Under the right conditions, the Singing Stone (which happens to be nearby) opens up into a Path to the Stars. It used to open freely, but since the fall of man has not opened in generations. However, the prophecy indicates that Becky can open it one final time and allow the centaurs to return to the safety of their ancestral home. She must bring the centaurs to the Singing Stone before the season gets too late, or it will never open. She has four days.
To Alpha Centauri
Becky finds the centaurs and they agree that the Path to the Stars is their best hope. Concerningly, the Singing Stone is several days' march away, and they have women and children with them. But it's worse than that: The Rock Movers have raised an army and are chasing the centaurs. In a desperate bid, the centaurs send their women and children ahead and the warriors stay behind to lay a trap for the Rock Movers. It works. The centaurs rout the Rock Mover army. But it may not be enough. The Rock Movers regroup and pursue. In the end it comes down to a matter of hours, but the centaurs arrive at the Singing Stone. Becky opens the Path to the Stars, and the centaurs leave Earth forever to live in the sinless paradise of Alpha Centauri.
Back on Earth, Rhadas overthrows Targ, marries Neetha, and takes his rightful place as ruler of the Rock Movers. He swears off violence and hatred, and vows that his people will live peacefully. Becky returns to her own time through the Eye of the Fog.