Tom Fletcher’s The Ravenglass Eye was one of the Hothouse’s favourite literary chillers of 2013. Fletcher’s latest Gleam is quite a departure from the horrid happenings in the northern village of Ravenglass.
Gleam is the first part of the Factory Trilogy. Set in a future Earth, Gleam is a huge factory Pyramid. The workers have no idea what their purpose is in Gleam. Days are spent in mindless labour and regular bleedings are carried out as part of Gleam’s religious observances. Keeping order are the Arbitrators, a bunch of armoured paramilitary thugs.
Outside is the Discard, a harsh lawless environment of grown over industrial sites, where biker gangs, thieves, and mushroom abusing drunks hang out in the sprawling bars and brothels. A place where dog or cat is a delicacy, but most residents subsist on a diet of toad, snake and snail, and seek oblivion with cheap whisky.
Our hero Alan, was born in the Discard, but raised in Gleam. Married with a kid, Alan has a problem. He just can’t knuckle down, be a good boy and get on with the daily grind and keep his mouth shut. When the Arbitrators threaten his family Alan is forced out of the Pyramid and the only way to keep his son safe is to supply the Arbitrators with rare hallucinogenic mushrooms. Having fallen out with the local supplier Alan has no choice but to put a team together for the journey to the land of Dok to find a new source of the hallucinogens.
So, essentially what we have here is a quest novel set in a future dystopia. As the quest progresses, Alan and his gang encounter monstrous creatures, powerfully dangerous villains and an eccentric collection of incidental characters, not to mention a vengeful killer robot who really does not like Alan. Gleam isn’t as immediate fun as The Ravenglass Eye since Fletcher has to spend time creating his fictional world, but once the momentum of the quest kicks in the book becomes a bit of a rollercoaster as it careers towards its conclusion. As with Ravenglass, the characters are all a bit broken, but then so are people in real life. Alan is arrogant, angry and rather too fond of the Discard’s rotgut whisky for example. Alan’s sidekicks are beautifully grotesque and Fletcher isn’t too precious about keeping all of them alive, which I find quite refreshing in this sort of book.
The first part of promising broken world trilogy I give Gleam a 555/666.
Gleam is published by our friends at Jo Fletcher Books and available as a hardback price £17 or an e-book price £11.04.
Review by Simon Ball
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