A story that leaves you wanting to know what will happen next.
Gleam is the first part of Tom Fletcher’s Factory Trilogy, but if you are suffering trilogy fatigue please don’t let this put you off starting this novel as you will be well rewarded by this interesting and fully realised world. Gleam is a world of the haves and have not’s, the world of The Pyramid is very different from The Discard and we are introduced to Alan (Wild Alan) our protagonist whose life interweaves between the two and how he manages to survive in both of these hostile environments.
Although the Pyramid is seen as the better place to live it does have its own problems, but living there means not having to face the dangers of the Discard. A person living in the Pyramid is guaranteed a job, food, and family, but on the other hand that life will be regimented to the nth degree and questions and dissent are not tolerated. The Discard is a different matter, it is unpredictable with many dangers. In the past there was a vague harmony between the people who lived in the vicinity of the Pyramid, but in the present the Pyramid is a place to be feared and envied. Life is hard in the Discard, but there is a community of sorts in the safe houses, but there is no real unity amongst people living in the Discard.
Alan is one of the most dislikeable characters I have read this year; this doesn’t mean that he is badly written, in fact he is written so well that he doesn’t seem to have a redeemable characteristic. Throughout the story you find yourself in agreement with the others who detest him and wonder why they need him. Does Alan deserve this vitriol? In my opinion, yes, Alan feels deep anger towards the Pyramid whilst he lives there as he is searching for answers to why the place he was born in was destroyed and why no one will answer for this atrocity. He is unable to forget, even though he was saved by Arbitrators and given a new home in the Pyramid. Alan is discontent with his life in the Pyramid and although he doesn’t want to leave for a life in the Discard, he has to as his reckless behaviour starts to affect his wife Marion and son Billy. Alan is like a child constantly pushing to see how far he can go.
Once Alan is forced to live in the Discard the main story starts. Alan makes a deal with an Arbitrator that will allow him to keep in touch with his family, if he can get a supply of rare mushrooms for them. Alan never stops to ask his family what they want and when they do try he doesn’t listen as it doesn’t fit within his internal narrative.
In Gleam, mushrooms are more than a food source, there are many variations of mushroom; some have medicinal purposes, whilst others are purely decadent and will allow you to escape reality for a short time. Daunt is the Mushroom Queen of the Discard and holds the major supply and distribution routes which Alan needs access to. Daunt is not a woman to be crossed and Alan soon finds himself on the run from her and various other parties.
It is not safe to traverse the Discard on your own and Alan soon finds himself with a motley crew of friends and new acquaintances, some he can trust and others he should be wary of, on their way to Dok a place rumoured to be where the mushrooms originate. Alan is joined by Churr a mysterious woman who has a vendetta of her own against Daunt and Alan’s old friend Eyes, whom he has known since he was a child, Spider Kurt a friend of Alan’s who he invites along as Spider Kurt is good at fighting. The last person to join is Bloody Nora, she is a Mapmaker. Bloody Nora is my favourite character, she has no qualms with killing people and is also enigmatic and she manages to leave the other characters feeling uneasy when they are around her, but without her they wouldn’t have a chance of making their way across the Discard.
Gleam has characters who are engaging (yes even Alan), whose stories do not feel stunted by the fact that this is the first part of a trilogy. The world has many different layers and complexities that are only hinted at in the mythologies and half truths of how Gleam became the way it is. I am looking forward to delving back in and finding out if Alan, with his lack of regard for other people will manage to a) stay alive and b) become a better man. In the case of Gleam, Tom Fletcher has written a story that leaves you wanting to know what will happen next.
Review by Michelle Herbert
8/10 from 1 reviews
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