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Skagboys by Irvine Welsh

Skagboys (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Irvine Welsh

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256944,720 (3.9)20
Authors:Irvine Welsh
Info:W. W. Norton & Company (2012), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 544 pages
Collections:British Fiction

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Skagboys by Irvine Welsh (2012)


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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Review: Skagboys by Irvine Welsh.

Well, I really tried to read this book with some kind of pleasure because so many people liked it. However, it just didn’t spark for me. I read it to the end but I was more dissatisfied with myself when I finished the book. I’m one person, who has a hang-up with so much swearing, and sexual innuendos page after page. I know the book had a story to tell and the subject mater about Drugs, Aids, and Death among other issues doesn’t bother me but I feel this type of book just kept eating at me and I literally felt sick at times and appalled at myself because I didn’t stop reading the book. I have OCD with some things and making sure I finish a book is one. (The OCD won).

As I read I thought my judgment would change but it just got harder to read. The Scottish slang didn’t bother me, the characters were well suited and getting the message that Irvine Welsh was mastering was greatly informative. With characters like Renton, Skag boy, Spud, Begbie, I did feel for them and what they had gone through, it made me feel like I wanted to help them. Although, I felt the author (good writer) pushed too much on the repetitive dialogue and behaviors then the what and why issues of the message he was coming across with….It is true that this is how some people live but the porn type of writing didn’t settle to well with me…

I was disappointed with a few scenes especially a fetus being thrown down a garbage chute in a building, and a sixteen yr old raped by the man who killed her father and other shocking scenarios that I felt were just to show how horrific and depraved the underclass live. So, I will say Welsh got his message through but did he go to far……?

( )
  Juan-banjo | May 31, 2016 |
Couldn't do it, love Trainspotting but couldn't get into this one ( )
  jimifenway | Mar 14, 2016 |
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 |
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'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
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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:18 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Mark Renton has it all: he's good-looking, young, with a pretty girlfriend and a place at university. But there's no room for him in the 1980s. Thatcher's government is destroying working-class communities across Britain, and the post-war certainties of full employment, educational opportunity and a welfare state are gone. When his family starts to fracture, Mark's life swings out of control and he succumbs to the defeatism which has taken hold in Edinburgh's grimmer areas. The way out is heroin. It's no better for his friends. Spud Murphy is paid off from his job, Tommy Lawrence feels himself being sucked into a life of petty crime and violence the worlds of the thieving Matty Connell and psychotic Franco Begbie. Only Sick Boy, the supreme manipulator of the opposite sex, seems to ride the current, scamming and hustling his way through it all. "Skagboys" charts their journey from likely lads to young men addicted to the heroin which has flooded their disintegrating community. This is the 1980s: a time of drugs, poverty, AIDS, violence, political strife and hatred but a lot of laughs, and maybe just a little love; a decade which changed Britain for ever. The prequel to the world-renowned Trainspotting, this is an exhilarating and moving book, full of the scabrous humour, salty vernacular and appalling behaviour that has made Irvine Welsh a household name.… (more)

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