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Skagboys by Irvine Welsh
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Skagboys (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Irvine Welsh

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165772,171 (4.03)18
Member:AndrewFairley
Title:Skagboys
Authors:Irvine Welsh
Info:W. W. Norton & Company (2012), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 544 pages
Collections:British Fiction
Rating:****
Tags:None

Work details

Skagboys by Irvine Welsh (2012)

Recently added byprivate library, jlid, meiloslyther, T.A.Mackay, Opinionated
  1. 00
    Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh (falkman)
    falkman: for obvious reasons
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The "prequel" to Trainspotting, although of course it can't really be that. For a start, Mr Welsh is a better writer than he was then, although perhaps not as an exciting one, and secondly the more mature writing of the author leads to the younger versions of these characters feeling more mature than the older ones. But its grand to meet them all again. The depiction of Renton is most successful - he is the most intelligent, the one who most needs to escape his environment, something he attempts many transformations in order to do - punk, soulboy, university student and finally and definitively, junkie. Most of the other characters feel much the same, although there's a lot more of Ali in this which is to the good.

Skagboys prints a grim, and in my memory, accurate picture of the early 80s and how relatively pure, white, heroin originally sourced from a local opiate manufacturer, started the heroin flood in Edinburgh, in contrast to the cheap, brown heroin of Pakistani or Afghan origin available in most of the rest of the country. He is uncompromising as to why heroin caught on - it was just so good. Renton makes no bones as to the reason for his increasingly dependent relationship with heroin - its the pleasure and the escape it gives him; he's well aware of the negative consequences but naively believes he can handle it . Mr Welsh also seems to want to make a point about AIDS but that point never seems to come through with any force

As always, a lot of this is very funny. An episode with Spud and an ageing Dutch chanteuse (who sounds very much as though she is based on Nico) had me laughing out loud. Ali feels the need to date a man who manages to set himself on fire at a barbecue her hilarious experiments in lesbianism having been something of a failure. Renton deals with racist neighbours with amusing viciousness -although there are consequences. Giro the dog finishes off the wraps of speed

But a lot of it is very dark; not just the descriptions of junkie desperateness, deviousness, and dilemmas - Welsh portrays the dank, squalid world of the junk sick user brilliantly, because he also makes you understand why they want to continue. But you're expecting this - we've all read Trainspotting after all, or we wouldn't be here. But there are plenty of other horrors; some of these include Sick Boy living up to his name in a myriad of ways, but especially in the grooming and corruption of the 15 year old Maria; one of the most grimly depressing story arcs I've read for a while. Renton, and his relationship with his autistic (and that's putting it mildly) younger brother, wee Davie. Renton choosing heroin over a girl he genuinely seems to love (although as we find out later, its more complicated than that), the whole folly of rehabilitation and the depressing cynicism with which the Leith crew exploit it, Begbie's atrocious treatment of a girl who is pregnant to him and many others

Welsh gets the little details right too; he is bang on with the music of the time and bang on about the miner's strike and football hooliganism. I don't know that his depiction of London accents or Newcastle accents are as successful as his Leith accents though...

All in all this is excellent, probably the best of the trilogy. Essentially, its Renton's book and we get to learn a lot more about him. But all the characters retain their essential rogueish loveability - it would be great to know how middle age is treating them, if in fact they made it that far ( )
  Opinionated | Jul 26, 2014 |
Indulge me a moment: when talking about the film "Prometheus," Damon Lindelof said that he wanted to write a film that wasn't 100% a prequel to "Alien," but was instead its own movie. He said that he didn't think the math should always add up. Now, because of that, "Prometheus" failed its audience. I feel a bit that way with this book, too. Don't get me wrong--it's still Welsh at his finest, tightest, and most mature. But does the Mark Renton at the end of this book add up to the Rentboy at the beginning of Trainspotting? I have to say no--this Mark Renton feels more-than that one. He's deeper, more spiritual, in fact, than the Renton that appears in Porno. And I think I get it--Welsh may be pointing to that very thing: what is lost from skag over time never comes back. Still, as a reader, the book feels more complete than the others, the characters seem more mature. I honestly have a hard time thinking of this Renton as the youngest one.
I have to be honest and say, too, that this book needed a stronger editing hand. It needed to be about 200 pages shorter. Here, again, this could be Welsh's point--the endless droning in if the cycle of poverty and self-destruction, but by about page 400, I said out loud, "Okay--we get it!"
All of that said, a 4 star Welsh novel is equal to a 5 star book by just about anyone else. I recommend it. Just don't feel disappointed if the math doesn't seem to add up completely with where you know Trainspotting starts. ( )
  JWarren42 | Oct 10, 2013 |
Has the distinct feeling of being either a contractual obligation and/or written for the money. While it is nice to get back to familiar characters, it just has a very light weight feel. It would have been nice to get a little more depth of character development. Why and how these guys ends up the way they did. Still a decent read, given Mr. Welsh's talent, just not even close to being his best work. ( )
  hhornblower | Aug 8, 2013 |
Really enjoyed Renton's recollection of the miner's strike during Thatcher reign; also treatment was a beautifully awful depiction. Sorry it had to end. ( )
  Joshuamurphy | Mar 29, 2013 |
This is the best book I have read in some time, I loved all the characters and at the same time found them appaling. It made me feel like I was there with them on their escapades both exciting and droll. This book is so real and the characters could be people I knew many years ago. I couldn't put the book down and even when I finished it the stories were alive in my head hammering on my skull. ( )
  pseymour | Oct 12, 2012 |
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Epigraph
'There is no such thing as society.'

Margaret Thatcher
'That Calvinistic sense of innate depravity and original sin from whose visitations, in some shape or other, no deeply thinking mind is wholly free.'

Herman Melville
Dedication
In memory of Alan Gordon, 'the leader of the team',
and Stuart Russell and Paul Reekie,
the real leaders of the opposition in England and Scotland
First words
Even the plank-stiffness of this old, unyielding settee can't arrest my body's slink into deliverance.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393088731, Hardcover)

Prequel to the best-selling phenomenon Trainspotting, this exhilarating and moving novel shows how Welsh’s colorful miscreants first went wrong.

Marked by Irvine Welsh’s scabrous humor and raw Scottish vernacular, Skagboys transports us to 1980s Edinburgh, where the Trainspotting crew is just getting started. Mark Renton has it all: the first in his family to attend university, he has a pretty girlfriend and a great social life. But when economic uncertainties and family problems intervene, Rent succumbs to the defeatism—not to mention the drug use—that has taken hold in Edinburgh’s tougher quarters. His friends are responding according to personality. Laid off, Spud Murphy is paralyzed in the face of long-term unemployment. Sick Boy, supreme manipulator of the opposite sex, is scamming and hustling for money and drugs. And meanwhile, psycho Franco Begbie is scaring the hell out of everyone. Darkly humorous, Skagboys gives a gritty and gripping portrait of a time, not unlike ours, when money was scarce, unemployment was high, and drugs seemed the answer.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:32:41 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Chronicles the misadventures of Mark Renton and his friends as they cope with economic uncertainties, family problems, drug use, and the opposite sex in 1980s Edinburgh.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 4 descriptions

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