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Alumnus Brendan Noble recently self-pub­lished fiction novel about a dystopian society. COURTESY | Brendan Noble

“The Frac­tured Prism” offers a complex account of a futur­istic and dystopian, socialist America through the eyes of 21-year-old Ivan 181375.

2018 alumnus Brendan Noble’s recently self-pub­lished book is set 99 years after the Third American Civil War. In this fic­tional world, a third civil war destroyed an American monarchy and divided the People’s Demo­c­ratic Republic of Northern Mis­sis­sippi into color-coded fac­tions. These fac­tions are deter­mined by the “Prism Test.”

“In theory, the Prism Test was meant to determine how ‘ben­e­ficial to the col­lective’ you were through a series of physical, oral, and written exam­i­na­tions. After you took the test on your six­teenth birthday, you were fil­tered into one of six colored tiers based on your results,” Ivan explains in the book.

Each citizen must wear properly-colored tag ear­rings as a way of dis­tin­guishing status. The lowest ranking members of society are “Red Tags,” gov­ernment slaves. In increasing order of rank, there are Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, and Purple Tags as well. The “Whites” are royals and do not wear any tags.

Red Tag Ivan, though a slave to the gov­ernment, is also a lieu­tenant in the rebel Militia, acting under the codename “Coyote.” But Ivan’s life shifts dra­mat­i­cally after he saves the life of Princess Julia Hughes and in return is hired as her per­sonal body­guard, much to the dismay of her roy­alist father, King Hughes.

What starts as the two exchanging flir­ta­tious smiles and subtle laughter turns into a budding, yet for­bidden, romance.

Paying tribute to his time at Hillsdale, Noble even adds a ref­erence to Aris­totle in the early episodes of Ivan and Julia’s flirting.

“[Julia] giggled. ‘I thought you were sup­posed to be some back­water rebel kid, not Aris­totle,’” Noble writes.

Because of his loyalty to both the rebels and royalty, Ivan fears one day he will have to choose “between [his] two loy­alties.” Julia begs Ivan to give up his role as Coyote, but Ivan cannot bring himself to abandon the Militia. This con­flict of pur­poses comes to a head in one of Ivan’s night­mares in which he watches help­lessly as Coyote kills Julia, and Ivan finally realizes that he cannot keep living two lives.

Throughout the novel, Noble also develops Ivan’s neg­ative attitude toward killing to show that though he is a rebel, he still has a con­science: unlike his fellow Militia members, Ivan does not take pride in killing people. This theme is present in various fighting scenes where Ivan has the oppor­tunity to kill an attacker, but chooses not to.

The Militia’s belief that it is working to change a corrupt a system is upheld throughout the book as a worthy cause. Ivan reflects: “Each of us was ready to die for what we believed in so that this ter­rible world could change… we were making the sac­rifice for the greater good, or at least, I hoped we were.”

Through her rela­tionship with Ivan, Noble also holds up Julia as a vir­tuous char­acter who uses her status to defend uni­versal prin­ciples about humanity and truth. She is willing to jeop­ardize her rep­u­tation to pre­serve her rela­tionship with Ivan and to call for political reform.

Unlike the other royals, Julia rec­og­nizes the injus­tices that the Secret Police of the United People’s Front commit against Red, Orange, and Yellow Tags in this corrupt society, and responds with apparent uni­ver­salism.

“Everyone is so fake. I hate it,” she says. “The world seems to care more about status than who we are. So many people don’t seem to get that we’re not all that dif­ferent, you know? White, Purple, Red, whatever. We’re not that dif­ferent.”

Noble addresses current social issues throughout the novel, such as the problem of hidden sexual assault and the resulting #MeToo movement, which appears when Ivan con­fronts a rapist.

“At the very least, I could deliver a sliver of justice to the cruel unjust world that we lived in. Not just for Alexandria, but for all the women who felt helpless and aban­doned after attacks like that,” Ivan thinks to himself. “The law had failed. I gave it a push.”

Noble even briefly addresses social media and the news media through Julia’s obser­va­tions that “There’s so much igno­rance, rein­forced by the media.”

In addition to these social issues, Noble also empha­sizes the impor­tance of living a tem­perate and modest lifestyle.

During a party, Ivan observes, “the guests became drunker and drunker, filling the air with senseless noise, the smell of fruity liquor, and heavy cigar smoke. Julia mean­dered through the crowd, sipping on her one cocktail while others drunk them­selves into oblivion. Smart.”

Although some of the descrip­tions and dia­logue feel less natural, most of the char­acters Noble created for his debut novel are ones readers can sym­pa­thize with. Unpre­dictable actions from some char­acters throughout the novel keep the reader inter­ested. While some scenes seem perhaps over-dra­ma­tized, the overall structure is well-paced: Noble offers a nice balance between scenes packed with dia­logue, where the reader learns important infor­mation, and action scenes which deliver sus­pense and excitement.

As only the first book in his series the Prism Files, Noble ends the story in chaos, leaving the reader to wonder about the future awaiting this fragile society.