First edition cover
|Series||Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri|
|Publisher||Simon & Schuster|
|Publication date||November 28, 2000|
|Media type||Print (Paperback)|
|LC Classification||CPB Box no. 1911 vol. 15|
|Preceded by||Journey to Centauri|
|Followed by||Dragon Sun|
Centauri Dawn is the first book in the trilogy novelization of the popular computer game Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri. The trilogy was written by the game's story developer Michael Ely and describes the struggles of the colonists on Chiron - a habitable planet in the Alpha Centauri system, after their colony ship Unity suffered major damage and the survivors were forced to land in colony pods (this is described in the short story Journey to Centauri, available for download from the official website).
Several decades pass since Planetfall. Each colony pod becomes a colony, initially independent. After contact is made between several colonies, trade relations are established, but are strained because each colony develops its own ideology. For example, the Gaians' belief that Chiron (AKA Planet) is alive contrasts sharply with the Morganites' complete disregard for ecology in favor of heavy mining. Tensions increase between the factions, particularly between the Peacekeepers with their UN-like attempts to maintain peace at any cost and the Spartans who believe strength is the key to survival. The discovery of a Unity Datalink lights the fuse on the brewing conflict. Initially found by the son of Colonel Corazon Santiago - the leader of the Spartans, the Datalinks are taken by the Peacekeepers who discover that they contain technology to make nerve gas. Convinced that such technology cannot fall into the hands of the Spartans, Commissioner Pravin Lal of the Peacekeepers refuses Santiago's demands.
The conflict between the two factions is inevitable, as the Spartan forces enter Peacekeeper territory and lay siege to their main base - United Nations HQ. While the Peacekeepers fight valiantly, they are greatly outnumbered and outgunned by the warlike Spartans. Because of Lal's reluctance to use nerve gas to obliterate the Spartan forces, United Nations HQ falls, and Lal's wife, son, and grandson are killed in the process. Santiago's own son also dies during the siege.
This story is as much about the children of Pravin Lal and Corazon Santiago as it is about the two leaders. While neither of the two leader's sons wants war, they are thrust right in the middle of it, leading up to the final confrontation between them, in which Lal's son kills Santiago's on the battlefield. Infuriated, Santiago sends a team of her elite troops to storm the Peacekeeper base, while she herself finds her son's murderer and kills him in front of his father. Thus both men pay the price for a disagreement between their respective parents. Also, Pravin Lal's wife was hurt before planetfall and he's been keeping her in suspended animation until he finds a way to cure her. Her stasis pod is damaged in the fighting, and she dies completely. The UNHQ is sacked, but some of the population escapes to safety in Gaian territories, including Pravin Lal.
While the exposition is drawn from the plot of the computer game, much of the siege and subsequent events draw heavily from Homer's Iliad. Some concepts are drawn directly from Iliad; Santiago's personal guard detachment bears the name of Myrmidons, referencing the soldiers under the command of Achilles. A representation of the single combat between Achilles and Hector is mirrored in Centari Dawn's battle between Victor Santiago and Jahn Lal, although in this version, the "Hector" analogue is victorious. The conclusion of the story is taken intact from Iliad, as the aging Pravin Lal, father of the slain Jahn, enters the Spartan camp to beseech Santiago for the body of his son.