South London, May 2010: foxes are behaving strangely, Burmese immigrants are going missing, and everyone is trying to get hold of a new party drug called Glow. A young man suffering from a rare sleep disorder will uncover the connections between all these anomalies in this taut, riveting new novel by a young writer hailed by The Guardian as “playful, arresting, unnerving, opulent, rude and—above all—deliciously, startlingly, exuberantly fresh.”
Twenty-two-year-old Raf spends his days walking Rose, a bull terrier who guards the transmitters for a pirate radio station, and his nights at raves in warehouses and launderettes. When his friend Theo vanishes without a trace, Raf’s efforts to find him will lead straight into the heart of a global corporate conspiracy. Meanwhile, he’s falling in love with a beautiful young woman he met at one of those raves, but he’ll soon discover that there is far more to Cherish than meets the eye.
Combining the pace, drama, and explosive plot twists of a thriller with his trademark intellectual, linguistic, and comedic pyrotechnics, Glow is Ned Beauman’s most compelling, virtuosic, and compulsively readable novel yet.
This droll, clever, and intelligent novel has an undercurrent of thriller, but it's a young man's thriller or, more accurately, a slacker's thriller. The setting is 2010 London amid a milieu of underemployed 20-somethings in search of love, raves, and drugs, most notably the "glow" of the title, a new, Ecstasy-like designer drug with an epic reputation. Protagonist Raf's primary occupation seems to be walking the dog who guards the transmitter of a pirate radio station. He's also dealing with a "non-24-hour sleep/wake syndrome" he has an abnormal circadian rhythm that requires a strict, complicated sleep regimen ("It's like his brain is wearing a novelty watch"). At a rave, he first hears of "glow" and meets the beautiful Cherish. Raf is odd, but the events happening around him are odder still, including the abduction of his friend Theo by a couple of guys driving "a grimy white builder's van." The quest for glow, and the story behind the white van, paces the novel, which grows into a complex (but vague) conspiracy story, with lengthy (but interesting) digressions into the backstories of people like Cherish. Beauman writes like a dream (bicycle couriers have a "famished muscularity"), but his plotting is nothing more than a framework supporting a glimpse into a dystopian slacker universe, as well as the neurochemistry of mind-altering substances and the global drug trade.