Ned Beauman has had an exciting career to date. At only 29 he has already been named as one of Granta’s Best Young British Novelists, had a novel longlisted for the Booker, another shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award, and he has won the he UK Writers’ Guild Award, the Goldberg Prize for Outstanding Debut Fiction, the Encore Award, and a Somerset Maugham Award. Pretty impressive stuff by anyone’s standards. And on the strength of his debut, it was easy to see why. Boxer Beetle was an anarchic and comedic look at history and its effect on the future. The writing was exciting, original, and seemed to signal the start of something special. Then came The Teleportation Accident. To me, at least, this novel felt like a step back. It felt almost as if the success of the debut had lessened the work that had gone into the follow up. But, it still showed promise.
So, what of Glow? Beauman’s third novel is the first one he has set in the present day. In London, there is a new drug on the club scene. Glow sounds like an amalgamation of ecstacy and LSD, producing a loved up feeling and a propensity to stare at lights. Raf and his friend Isaac are excited to try this new drug, but before they can get hold of any they begin to notice some strange occurrences in their city. A friend goes missing. White vans that make no sound begin to follow them. They find a suspicious soundproofed warehouse with blood on the floor. When Raf meets Cherish, a beautiful half Burmese girl, he is sucked into the strange world of glow – and the company that is trying to gain a monopoly on its production.
It’s an intriguing premise, and for the opening few chapters it looks like a return to form for this much lauded author. Unfortunately, though, the novel soon slips into some of the same traps that The Teleportation Accident did. Almost every character that enters the story is given a long, and often slightly pointless, back story. Chapters are taken up with information that could have been fit into a single line. The interesting story that pulses through the novel’s centre gets lost in meandering and long-winded explanations that kill the pace and dull the interest. It’s a shame because, as with his previous works, Beauman shows a knack for creating good characters, injecting serious stories with humour, and researching his subject well. He just seems to like to stick a load of bloat beside all that.
Any Cop?: Unfortunately, I’d probably have to say no. I don’t want to, because there’s something about Beauman that screams promise. He is different, and he’s not afraid to try and be fun as well as serious. But he does seem to be afraid to edit. And if he doesn’t win the bad sex in literature award this year, it will be a travesty.