Book review: Glow, by Ned Beauman


This book is available in bookstores nationwide. 

Ned Beauman’s latest novel, thriller Glow, ranges from gritty South London to a mine in Burma/Myanmar, from a Pakistani police station to an Icelandic fishing wharf, and a few places in between. It features an almost encyclopaedic description of modern Class A drugs and their effects; an investigation into the ethics of multi-national companies; foxes that are smarter than the average bear; and the underground radio broadcasting and rave scenes of London.

Our hero is Raf, an underemployed sufferer of non-24-hour sleep/wake syndrome (yes, it really is A Thing), which makes his love life hard to manage but allows for a great plot device – Raf is awake at all sorts of weird times, which helps to move the plot along. Beauman has sectioned his novel into small chunks based on a day and time stamp, so we get a real sense of the problematic nature of Raf’s syndrome. Along with his best mate, Isaac, and a mysterious beauty, Cherish, Raf finds himself being sucked into events he doesn’t understand, involving unexplained disappearances, foxes behaving unnaturally, a jittery self-serving whistle blower, and white vans that don’t make engine noise.

fantastic_mr_foxTwo things really impressed me about this novel. The first is Beauman’s use of language. Reading Glow is like watching a world class gymnast perform – you’re not quite sure how he pulls it off, but it’s something spectacular to watch. As I read, I kept finding passages I wanted to share; this one, describing a vicious hangover, made me laugh out loud:

“What he hates about whisky hangovers, he thinks now, is the synthesis they achieve between the spiritual and the gastric, as if your soul needs to throw up or your stomach has realise life is meaningless. And there’s more moisture between his toes than in his mouth.”

The second thing that impressed me was the descriptions of a sinister “marketing” tool being used by big business, •ImPressure. Using everything posted on social media, and CCTV, a company can target influential individuals and trend setters in a to change their thinking and behaviour. It’s Big Brother to the nth degree, and it’s very realistic – it was probably the most scary thing in the book, and I’m not sure where the line between fact and fiction lies. More towards fact, I fear.

Glow is a page turner, and an enjoyable read. I didn’t leap to the same conclusions as Raf as he tried to untangle the web he found himself in, and couldn’t see how he was working things out, but that was much better than having plot twists telegraphed chapters ahead as sometimes happens in thrillers. The scene setting was realistic and rang true, particularly in London, although the repeated discussions about neurochemistry got a bit tiresome. At 249 pages it is easy to devour over a weekend or a short plane trip, or on your commute.


Reviewed by Rachel Moore

by Ned Beauman
Published by Sceptre
ISBN 9781444765526