It is, of course the prequel to Trainspotting, and fills in the backgrounds of our favourite characters during the 1980s, including their introduction to heroin.
Like Trainspotting, and many of Welsh s other books it is written in part in Scottish dialect.
It amazes me, with the writing, how talented Welsh is to be able to have a different written form for each character For each chapter before the narrator is fully revealed, it is almost always obvious who the character is just by the formation of their sentences and word choices.
At some 550 pages, this book sat in my shelf for a long time for two reasons it is a lengthy investment in time, but importantly, I was concerned it wouldn t be excellent It could have been a shallow, or poorly constructed reverse engineering of Renton, Sick Boy, Spud and Begbie It could have done a disservice to Trainspotting, one of my favourite books of my youth Thankfully, it was none of these things.
Excellent, and 5 Stars.
As a long time Welsh fan, I suppose I could be considered a little biased but really, in all honesty, this is one of the cult Scottish author s finest efforts to date.
Skagboys revisits the sunny port of Leith and adjoining Edinburgh, and the eclectic cast of characters that made up Welsh s debut effort the drugged out classic Trainspotting All your skeevy old pals are here ever acerbic Mark Renton, sweet natured Spud, scheming Sickboy and, naturally, the delightfully psychotic pugilist, Begbie Only this time, we meet Leith s finest schemies in their early twenties just as they re developing that nasty little heroin habit which was the focal point of Trainspotting.
So yes, it s a prequel to Trainspotting, featuring characters that should be familiar to fans of the earlier book or its cinematic adaptation But, as always, Welsh is not afraid to delve a little deeper While on the surface a simple story of a hopeless descent into addiction, the novel also chronicles the sad devolution of the working class in dystopian mid eighties Scotland.
It s quite interesting, but also quite depressing, to bear witness to the slow ravaging of blue collar Scottish society, whose denizens turn to drugs and violence to numb the economic and social hardships incurred by the rise of Maggie s Farm The novel also deals with the rampant incursion of AIDS into Edinburgh once Europe s AIDS capital which spreads all too rapidly through shared needle use and illicit sex.
If you re a fan of Trainspotting, or it s excellent sequel Porno which revisits our anti heroes in their mid thirties then I simply can t recommend this read enough In the off chance you ve read some of Welsh s other works, and haven t got around to Trainspotting, then I d advise you to start here Be warned, though as with all the author s works, this is definitely NOT for the faint of heart.
Vintage Welsh It s a good thing.
PERFECT I WANT MORESo happy to be reunited with these characters Love these guys than words can describe.
Since reading Trainspotting around the time it came out I have read and, to one degree or another, enjoyed every one of Irvine Welsh s books Before writing this review I had a look round at some of the other reviews and notice that this book does seem to polarise opinion, generally though most of the readers who have enjoyed previous Irvine Welsh books have enjoyed this one though certainly not all One reviewer likened Skagboys to the extras that turn on up on some DVDs, specifically that Skagboys is the extras for Trainspotting a in depth look at the main characters on their path to drug addiction, prison etc I feel that does this book a slight disservice Skagboys stands up on its own merits, whilst probably mainly appealing to people who read and enjoyed Trainspotting and Porno.
Irvine Welsh says that Skagboys was written as part of Trainspotting, and at the same time, which makes sense It s like a Scottish literary version of the superb US TV series The Wire The book directly or indirectly touches on all aspects of the world of heroin during the Thatcher years, with the focus being on the core of working class lads from Leith During the course of the book some of the characters move from Edinburgh to London briefly to Amsterdam and a stint working on a Sealink ferry to a rehab centre near Fife and even the Battle of Orgreave during the Miners Strike.
Irvine Welsh weaves in plenty of real life incidents into his narrative I just mentioned the infamous Battle Of Orgreave, I was visiting Amsterdam in the mid 1980s when West Ham United and Manchester United hooligans caused chaos on the ferry to Holland and in the city Those events appear in Skagboys too Talk about art imitating life.
As with the other books about these characters the stories are told by different characters and from their different perspectives This is a real strength and gives the reader insights into each of the main characters, and many of the minor ones too I think the Trainspotting crew inspire Irvine Welsh s best writing Skagboys is another visceral page turner It s such a shame that he is no longer flavour of the month, as this book is absolutely superb If you loved Trainspotting and Porno , then you ll probably revel in this prequel By turns hilarious, appalling, and frequently both at the same time It s also quietly profound too Irvine Welsh gives Renton numerous opportunities to take a route out of addiction, but each time he reasons that heroin addiction is a rational response to the futility of the alternatives on offer in Thatcher s Britain, and given his own personal history The addict as the ultimate free spirited, non conformist That perhaps makes the book sound quite serious It certainly has moments of profundity but is as much about Irvine Welsh s trademark hilarious, appalling, dark, witty, insightful set pieces, scams, and stories.
This is one of the best fucking books I ve ever read 20 years ago I said the same thing about Trainspotting I ve come full circle following the Irvine train since then, and I ll always be a Welshian I may write a full review once I ve regained the ability to form sentences Or rather the sense that I ve any right or need to form them after this man puts the final dot on the page There is much to be said about this book, but I don t know that I am the one to say any of it, or if I even want to try I m still coming down I may never touch bottom read this book if it s the last thing you do.
Barry, you radge c t A seminal linguistic work on the intricacies of Scottish English and a thorough medical analysis of the perils of substance abuse 9 10 will enjoy unless a Jambo or a weedgie.
For the purposes of this review I decided to read Skagboys, Trainspotting and Porno one after another to get a true feel for the quality of each I d read prior to embarking on this epic trek through the trilogy that Skagboys is simply too long winded and meandering compared to the pithy set pieces of Trainspotting However, as a massive fan of Irvine Welsh I found Skagboys to be utterly enthralling and potentially even better than Trainspotting This is a complicated judgement though because without having read Trainspotting beforehand I don t think I would have enjoyed it so much The thrill for me was finding out so much of the background to all the characters I loved from Trainspotting the political context in particular is very interesting albeit predictable Thatcherism etc etc So despite the fact that chronologically its set before Trainspotting, I would advise those new to Renton, Sick Boy et al to read Trainspotting first I would treat Skagboys as the extras on the Director s Cut DVD, albeit a set of extras that is over three times the length of the original feature Perfect for fans.
It s been a long time 15 years since I read Irvine Welsh s Trainspotting, but its prequel, Skagboys, feels even better, at once ambitious, darker, and funnier than its predecessor Focusing once again on the same four characters Mark Renton, Simon Sick Boy Williamson, Spud, and Begbie , Welsh relates the story of how three of them first got hooked on heroin in the mid 1980s, while he simultaneously critiques class warfare, Margaret Thatcher s United Kingdom, and Scottish national identity.
Told or less in a series of vignettes, what Welsh does exceedingly well here is detail their descent into addiction especially Renton and Sick Boy as a reaction to the disgust they feel with themselves pleasurable anesthesia that distracts them from all the things they hate when they look in the mirror This level of addiction is something I ll never understand, but after reading Skagboys I kind of get it Oblivion is nice, right There s a certain appeal to knowing your only obligation in life is finding your next fix But what Welsh definitely doesn t do is glamorize heroin addiction, which was the rap against Trainspotting.
As the characters gradually become fixated on the spike in their veins to paraphrase Lou Reed , there s no attempt to pretty up the corresponding decay in the rest of their lives Welsh is, like always, not afraid to go dark, and I found myself relating to the characters Renton, especially, a college kid who really should know better with varying degrees of disgust and disappointment.
It s a rough read, but it s also laugh out loud funny in places their climactic scheme to steal a factory s worth of morphine is hysterical and horrifying at the same time , and Welsh s use of Scottish vernacular Totally skint, man, n the bread trap ay Christmas n New Year looms It s a awfay scene Mind you, everybody s in the same boat Begbie comes roond the gaff, n yuv nivir seen a rooster in such a foul mood, ken begins one chapter is as vibrant as ever I need to reacquaint myself with the rest of his stuff, but right now Skagboys feels like the best thing Welsh has ever written.
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 S 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 HeroinIt 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 S 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