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Literature / Marabou Stork Nightmares

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"I'm coming up up up"

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Marabou Stork Nightmares is a novel by Irvine Welsh, who also authored a cheerful little book turned into a film called Trainspotting. And god, is it ever an Irvine Welsh book.

Roy Strang is a twenty-something Scot who is an adventurer in the wilderness of South Africa. He is on a mission to hunt down the evil Marabou Stork, a deadly and elusive predator that preys on the peaceful wildlife around the lake.

...but that's All Just a Dream he has created for himself. Roy is narrating from a coma in a hospital bed (for reasons unexplained at first). While the story goes on, reality keeps cutting in on his fantasy life. The real world for Roy is the miserable Edinburgh slum he grew up in, angry delusional parents and disturbed siblings, a gang of city thugs with whom he associated with, and a heavy dose of dark and disturbing memories.

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And then things get really nightmarish.


Provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Affectionate Parody: The parts set in South Africa are written as a parody of Enid Blyton adventure books. "Oh! Those insects, Sandy! How positively yucky!"
  • Abusive Parents: Ma and the auld man fling insults and attacks at each other and their kids, so often that the word "dysfunctional" is a massive understatement. Despite their behavior, they're curiously endearing.
  • The Atoner: Roy, who is tormented by guilt after he took part in a gang-rape. Later in his life, he falls into drug addiction and depression, and finally attempts suicide. This leaves him in the comatose dream-world he began the novel in.
  • Berserk Button: Roy's father does not like his last name being misspelled as Strange.
  • Break the Haughty: Broken with violent gang-rape.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Roy's parents unleash some epic swear-filled rants, equally profane and hilarious. Actually, the words "fuck" and "cunt" are used so often they are more like punctuation marks than words.
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    • "YOU KEEP YIR FUCKIN SLUT AY A DAUGHTER AWAY FROM MA FUCKIN LADDIES OR AH'LL GIT MA FUCKIN SHOTGUN AND FUCKIN BLAW YOU AWAY!! RIGHT!!!"
  • Continuity Nod: Begbie is referenced as Lexo's partner in the furniture shop.
  • Crapsaccharine World: South Africa, both the real one and the safari in Roy's imagination. It's a wonderful place to live..when you're a privileged white man.
    • At first, it's a rousing adventure, but it gradually becomes darker as Strang reveals the uglier parts of his life and personality.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Roy's family. His delusional parents are failures at life, his older brothers (one is a lisping Camp Gay, the other is a womanizer) don't get along, and his sister is a complete shallow airhead. Oh, and the latter two have Brother–Sister Incest.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Roy.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: Roy himself is sexually assaulted by both his uncle as a child and by one of the nurses while he's in a coma. The one by his uncle scars him for life, while the incident with the nurse is never mentioned again.
  • Football Hooligans: At one point, Roy joins a local hooligan gang, where he discovers his love for violence.
  • Funetik Aksent: Well, this is an Irvine Welsh book. In the real-life narrative, all dialogue is in a thick Scottish accent (or an Afrikaans one).
  • Hope Spot: When Roy reconnects with his brother and moves to Manchester. Unfortunately, it doesn't last.
  • Japan Takes Over the World
  • Kick the Dog: Roy literally does this at every available opportunity to Winston Two, the family German Shepard. In the end, Roy puts some nails into a bone, which maims Winston and later kills him by strapping fireworks to his face and setting them off.
  • Mighty Whitey: Deconstructed and parodied completely, from the depictions of heroic white adventurers rescuing the stupid black natives, to scenes of South African racism in action. At times, it verges into an Author Tract rant against colonialism and apartheid. Yes, we know it's bad.
  • Mind Screw: Of course. This is a book one has to re-read at least once, since fragments of Roy Strang's personality are scattered across the pages. At other times, he is lying to himself in an attempt to cover up the darker memories.
    • Let's just say it's a Mind Screw for both the reader and protagonist.
  • Proud to Be a Geek: Roy, who is a huge fan of the Silver Surfer and the Fantastic Four.
  • Rape and Revenge:...guess who comes for Roy in the end?
  • Unreliable Narrator: To the extreme.
    • In the end, it is revealed that Roy was the ringleader of the gang-rape and the most violent rapist.

    No I don't want to wake up yet. DEEPER
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