To those who are somehow put off by the subject matter and assumptions of what to expect from SKAGBOYS either because of the author's reputation, that of his books or even the book's title, I urge you not to deprive yourself the joy of reading a masterly writer whose years have only improved his skill.
Scotland in the 80s, a time of mass unemployment which fed into a heroin epidemic, rising despondence and violence effecting young Scots, particularly those who grew up in the government subsidised housing schemes is not an attractive subject matter ( Edinburgh became known as the AIDS capital of Europe), but Irvine Welsh manages to look at these issues with surprising subtlety, sincerity and humour. The use of phonetically spelt Scottish accent and schemie lingo (from the housing schemes) definitely works to this end, it may take some pages to get used to, and some words may elude you for quite a few more, but this is my favourite thing about the book, you'll catch yourself thinking in schemie accent and lingo and develop a sudden bias for all things Scottish.
As usual Welsh provides a great cast of characters, whether their presence throw the grimness of the environment into the background like like party boy Keezbo or simply adds a menacing edge to it like psychopath Franco Begbie.
Many of the actors Welsh invites onto his set you'll recognise from the TRAINSPOTTING movie or book if you're familiar, this is no repeat and while TRAINSPOTTING is deservedly a cult classic SKAGBOYS is larger than it's predecessor in scope and purpose. In it are hints of social reportage (I'm thinking Orwell influence), chapters which are reports, informative articles and rehab journal entries give us something which feels more complete. Regardless of your own views about Irvine Welsh' depictions, politics and the world his writing inhabits remember that he is first and foremost a very talented writer who has produced a very worthwhile and readable book.