Review: Noble Conflict / Author: Malorie Blackman / Publisher: Doubleday Childrens/ Release Date: Out Now
Noble Conflict is the latest offering from noted author and recently appointed Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman, known for her dystopian settings which help to discuss wider social issues. This time the topic is terror.
In a future world in which the detonation of nuclear weapons within the Earth has left parts of the world deserted and barren, society has been split amidst those sympathetic to the Alliance, a peaceful society protected by the non-violent Guardians, and those sympathetic to the Insurgents, the terrorist faction that lives in the barren lands and looks to carry out atrocities on beacons of the Alliance, such as Capital City.
We are introduced to Kaspar, an Alliance recruit who, upon graduating from the Academy, is flung into a terrorist attack at the graduation ceremony. However, this is merely a distraction whilst Insurgents get themselves into the Admin annexe to read about Calliston Water. Kaspar, now hailed as a hero for saving the esteemed Brother Simon, begins to suspect that something else is going on. Kaspar then thwarts a lorry hijacking in which no civilians are harmed but an Insurgent kills himself; the mystery only just begins for Kaspar...
Noble Conflict is a very enjoyable piece of literature. Whilst it must have been very tempting to draw from other dystopian fiction and cinema, Blackman instead draws more from taking the idea of terrorism and exploring how it might actually evolve in the future. This set up allows for a very interesting cat and mouse narrative. When this is coupled with extracts from Alliance ‘literature’ such as The Origins of the Insurgency and Towards a New Morality the line between terrorist and freedom fighter becomes more and more blurred.
The book also benefits from a strong protagonist. Kaspar is well developed as a character throughout the novel; we see his unflappable loyalty for the Alliance become doubtful as the novel progresses yet Blackman keeps him likeable throughout.
However, because Kaspar is so central to the book, other characters sometimes don’t feel as meaty; whether it is Kaspar’s fellow Guardians or the true villains of the novel, they sometimes don’t feel as if they have their own existence unless Kaspar is present.
Nevertheless, Noble Conflict is a very entertaining book; it takes a very relevant topic and, with a strong narrative and lead character, allows the reader to question the arguments of each side and judge who the real villains are. However, it would have been nice to see it through the eyes of more than one character and not just the lead.