If you imagine Al Pacino in Scarface at the Mad Hatter’s tea party, you’re about half way to understanding the basic plot of Gleam.
Part one of The Factory trilogy explores the lead character’s expulsion from the Pyramid, a haven of wealth and safety, to the Discard, filled with horror and crime. In an attempt to save his family from the brutality of the Pyramid, our protagonist must bribe the Arbritrators with the Gleam equivalent of cocaine: mushrooms.
This takes us on a quest through the Discard, with the lead character performing music, making love and getting wasted on mushroom tea in order to get by.
It’s an interesting story, and an interesting story deserves interesting characters. Fletcher supplies these in abundance, but with such a variety of fascinating characters with equally curious names, it seems a bit daft, then, that our brazen protagonist goes by the moniker of Alan.
It’s almost comic, and at times it’s rather off-putting that such an ordinary-sounding character is bedding the baddie, stealing from her and being stalked by a Clawbaby.
Disconcertion over our lead character’s name aside, the plot is incredibly engaging, with wit and dry humour woven seamlessly throughout. Fletcher intersperses potentially tedious moments with comedic timing from animated characters and it really adds to the story.
On top of this, there’s true passion in every written word, particularly in scenes where Alan performs with his band. The tension and nerves of the band are almost tangible, and there’s a real sense of euphoria when the performances begin.
There’s certainly no faulting Fletcher on the first of his Factory trilogy. With such deep, authentic characters and a storyline that promises much more in its sequels, Gleam is definitely not one to discard.