Renton: But what did ye say tae get him tae come back inside? Cop: I just told him that no matter how bad it all seemed now, it's just part and parcel of being young. That it gets easier. That he's got to remember this and not throw it all away. That life is a gift. Renton: Does it? Get easier, I mean. Cop: Does it fuck; it gets bleedin worse...
Mark Renton's got it all: he's young, smart, and good-looking with his own flat, girlfriend, and a place at Aberdeen University. But there is no room for him in the 80s. As Thatcherism demolishes working-class communities across the UK, Renton's family fractures and he finds himself drawn deeper and deeper into the unsavory, drug-infested side of the Northern Soul scene as he succumbs to defeatism and despair. His life begins to fall apart, but nothing is ever so bad that it can't get worse.His friends aren't doing much better. Frank Begbie's increasingly unhinged and violent behavior is making him a feared name across Leith. Spud is laid off from his furniture removals job and unable to find new employment. Tommy Lawrence is unwillingly sucked into the world of petty crime by Begbie and Matty Connelly. And Simon "Sick Boy" Williamson is becoming more and more at the mercy of the inner rage which compels him to scar, manipulate, and torment everyone he can. But with bust comes opportunity...The highly-anticipated prequel to Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting, Skagboys tells the story of the disintegration of these friends against the backdrop of Edinburgh in the 1980s: a time and place of drugs, poverty, AIDS, violence and rapidly vanishing hope for the future.
Ascended Extra: Several for Trainspotting. Keezbo is mentioned on just one page in the original, where Mark reflects on how he's sadly never going to visit him in prison, but is present and has a significant role to play in the prequel. Ditto for Nicksy, who even gets narration duties with Welsh's version of Cockney.
Wee Davie, as much as a poor wee vegetable like him can be considered a character.
Sick Boy meets his Greek counterpart Andreas in London for the first time.
Charlene, who Renton briefly mentions as being present at a London party he crashes at in the original, turns out to have been a master thief who he had a short, torrid affair with in this novel.
To some extent, Matty.
Alison, albeit her role was already expanded by the time of Porno.
The menacing drug dealing ex biker, Seeker.
Retroactively inverted with Kelly. Here she's got a bit part, but as Trainspotting is the sequel to Skagboys it gives her some character development as a budding student and Mark's casual girlfriend.
Break the Cutie: Depending on how much you like their characters, arguably Renton, Spud, Keezbo, Second Prize, Alison, Leslie and Sick Boy (though this was before his Despair Event Horizon...) among others. Its not entirely clear if Matty was ever what you might call a cutie, and even if he was, he seems to have broken long before even this prequel.
Country Matters: Par for the course in a Welsh novel. However, Matty's use stands out. Much more often than not, he simply refers to everyone else as "Cunt". Its no exaggeration to say this helps to make him one of the least sympathetic of the protagonists, and that really does say something when country matters is tossed around as freely as it is by almost every other main (and peripheral) character.
Curiously, he seems to have stopped this by the time Trainspotting occurs. This could mean he's more or possibly less dead inside by then, although with all the heroin he's consumed by that point you'd probably have to go with the former.
Doomed by Canon: Anybody who's already read Trainspotting will already know that Matty and Tommy will die of AIDS. By the end of Skagboys, the final "Notes On An Epidemic" chapter lists a number of HIV positive patients, one of whom is Matty.
Door Stopper: Clocking in at 563 pages, a goldmine for Welsh fans.
Expy: Keezbo is what Juice Terry could have been if he started on heroin, supported Hearts and had ginger hair. They're both very successful with the ladies despite their weight, and have a penchant for breaking and entering.
Going Cold Turkey: Perhaps the ultimate fear of any budding Scottish junkie. Eventually they're forced to endure several months of rehab in a Fife clinic. It doesn't work in the slightest.
Hollywood Dateless: Really Mark? Shags with eighteen different girls and counting at the age of 22? Even if some were rubbish, that's still more than the average reader can hope to achieve in their lifetime. Its only by frequency comparison that he can be said to be going through a dry spell relative to Sick Boy.
Averted by Spud, who has only had three encounters by this point.
Idiosyncratic Chapter Naming: The gang's more disturbing struggles with heroin really kick off in Junk Dilemmas No. 1-4, with trademark italics. This is an important Call Forward to Trainspotting. And then you have The Rehab Diaries, intermittently charting 45 days of Renton's cold turkey at St. Monan's. Also, there's Notes On An Epidemic 1-7, explaining the myriad events leading to the skag addiction cum HIV infestation Edinburgh played host to in the eighties.
The chapter groupings include: Tempted, Falling, Cold, Thawing, Ocean and Drought, apparently using the metaphor of the spread of disease as an unfortunate accident and the tribulations of attempting to live with it inside you.
I Have This Friend: In a Call Back to Alison's use of a strap-on on Sick Boy, Sick Boy tells Renton he knows someone who did it and asks Renton if he thinks that the guy is gay for allowing her to do it. He manages to deflect it to someone that they both consider to be Ambiguously Gay.
Offscreen Moment of Awesome: The original novel informs us that Begbie and Tommy got into a closely matched fight which nearly finished their friendship. Many fans were anticipating this event's full description in the prequel, but it doesn't happen. While a friendly boxing fight (which Tommy won) is mentioned, the epic brawl seems to take place in between the books. Possibly it will emerge as a short story to be published later by Welsh.
Switching P.O.V.: Amongst a wide array of characters. Done particularly poignantly when covering Billy and the Renton parents, and also so for Alison in the light of her mother's death to breast cancer.
Francoís voice is something tae hear, itís like wi it bein Hogmanay, heís absorbed just the right amount ay alcohol n good vibes and they intersect at this wonderous vector as he briefly becomes something else, this force ay grace and soul.