By Ned Beauman
Londoner Ned Beauman's other novels include Boxer, Beetle (2010) and The Teleportation Accident (2012). In 2013 Granta included him on their Best of Young British Novelists list.
THE STORY: At a rave in a South London laundromat, Raf, a graphic designer who suffers from a sleep disorder, meets an alluring Burmese American girl named Cherish and offers her a trendy drug called glow. Things start getting strange fast. Noiseless white vans abduct people; the neighborhood has a sudden infusion of Burmese foodstuffs and radio shows; online message boards are abuzz about the chemistry of glow. Raf is suspicious of Lacebark, a mining company with dealings in Burma who destroyed Cherish's native village. Could Cherish be their (double) agent? What about the hyperintelligent London foxes: are they chemically altered, too?
Knopf. 256 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 9780385352604
Los Angeles Times ****
"Ned Beauman is one of those rare novelists who can dream up intricate, incongruous plots, pepper them with historical facts, whip in biting British humor, and just like that--they become almost believable. ... Glow takes places in just under two weeks' time and reads at a breakneck pace of a who-done-it potboiler--albeit a virtuosic, unconventional one." J.C. GABEL
San Francisco Chronicle ****
"Beauman's prose is a mixture of speed, filigreed narration and Pynchon-esque social satire, yielding the funniest fiction about drug chemistry since Stanislaw Lem's The Futurological Congress (1973). ... Glow burns with inventive energy, generating a dark vision but much delight." KENNETH BAKER
Washington Post ****
"Beauman's zest for everyday comedy and a well-turned sentence is as evident as ever from the first scene. ... Although the product of Beauman's unique sensibility, Glow also is surprisingly close to a conventional thriller." WENDY SMITH
Onion AV Club ***1/2
"Beauman's writing is muscular and vivid, given to long digressions and descriptions that are outlandish while feeling exactly right. ... As Raf goes about his investigation, there are extended explanations of drug chemistry and radio engineering--too extended. They serve a purpose, but throw off the pacing." RYAN VLASTELICA
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ***1/2
"The author has a particularly nice way with dialogue, the kind that's snappy, delineates character and moves plot along all at once. ... It's a fast-paced book that rarely flags, and for readers who don't mind constant drug use and occasionally graphic sex and violence, it will captivate." SHANNON REED
Ned Beauman has made quite a name for himself, considering he is not yet 30. After the bizarre World War II time-traveling of his previous novels, Glow feels gritty and current. The Los Angeles Times appreciated Raf's "slacker chic quality" and described the plot as "a chess match of Raymond Chandleresque twists and turns." The chemistry of drugs is a theme that surely capitalizes on the success of television's Breaking Bad; reviewers also saw Beauman channeling Thomas Pynchon and Don DeLillo. Despite some "outlandish plot twists" (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) and overlong explanatory passages, the novel stands out for its dialogue and carefully thought out, if baroque, plot. Glow is not your average drug-themed thriller.
***** CLASSIC A timeless book to be read by all
**** EXCELLENT One of the best of its genre
*** GOOD Enjoyable, particularly for fans of the genre
** FAIR Some problems, approach with caution
* POOR Not worth your time