Monday, 10 March 2014
Book Review: Glow by Ned Beauman
This is a tricky review to write because I'm not really sure how I felt about the book. Glow tells the story of Raf, a young man from south London. Raf fed up with his lot, he has a sleep disorder - non-24-hour sleep/wake syndrome causing his circadian rhythm to be out of sync with the rest of the world, meaning he can't keep a regular job, has recently split from his girlfriend and is living on the fringes of society. He spends his time working on computer programmes, looking after a guard dog for a pirate radio station and searching out the latest street drugs. Then his boss disappears and Raf turns investigator.
What follows is an international tale that involves dodgy multinational companies, missing Burmese people, a mysterious girl, silent white vans, the drug Glow and lots of foxes. It manages somehow to be entirely believable whilst also seeming completely ludicrous; the book covers in-depth pharmaceutical chemistry, the sudden industrialisation of a remote village thanks to the arrival of a mining company and even the internal conflict in Burma, meaning the story whilst not always easy to follow always feels confidently erudite. The oft-used metaphors are sharply observed too,
"At first dilapidation would reveal the differences, but later it would begin to elide them: the two worlds would diverge and then converge, in the way that two half-siblings might look the same as kids, different as adults and the same again as skeletons."
However, somehow it never really grasped me and I'm not entirely sure why. I liked Raf, enjoyed the writing and generally found it an intriguing plot. I just never felt the tension, it struck me as thriller without the thrills. I was waiting for the heart-racing moment and although it came close it didn't quite deliver. I liked it but I never had that "I need to find out what happens next" feeling and I could go a few days without wanting to pick it up.
Ultimately I guess it's a bit like the old Blind Date days when a couple would meet and really get on but there was no romance. I did enjoy Glow but for me it just didn't have that spark. I'm sure many people will feel differently though and I hope it gets the readers and acclaim it deserves.
I received my copy of Glow from Netgalley in return for my honest review.
Glow will be published in the UK on May 8th 2014 by Hodder & Stoughton.