20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
All the young junkies...
, 24 Dec. 2002
This review is from: Porno (Paperback)
Before you read this book, you definitely must first read Welsh's first novel Trainspotting, and you should probably also read his last one, Glue. Porno is a direct sequel to Trainspotting, bringing back virtually all the characters some ten years later, and it's a semi-sequel to Glue, adding some of that book's characters into the mix, most notably "Juice" Terry Lawton and Rab Birrell. Porno will lack a great deal of depth and resonance for readers not familiar with those earlier books and their characters and settings.
And therein lies both Porno's attraction and minor disappointments. If you loved Trainspotting, reading Porno is very much like the experience of having seen a great band in a tiny club when they were just starting, and then seeing the same band ten years later in a large venue when they are more popular. They may still be amazing and play your favorite songs, but inevitably they've mellowed a touch, the intensity is isn't the same, and you get a little wistful. And to a certain extent, that's exactly what the book is about, aging, maturing, and getting over one's past. It's totally unfair to expect another Trainspotting from Welsh, an author can only write that passionate and electric a book once, and it's usually the first book they write. In any event, readers have had ten years to get used to reading Scots dialect and it's hard to conceive of what Welsh could write about that would be equally shocking as his heroin underworld.
In any event, Porno is a carefully plotted and constructed story, told in alternating first-person chapters by Sick Boy, his new lady Nikki Fuller-Smith, Spud, Begbie, and Renton. The central character is Sick Boy, who's seeking to reinvent himself as post-millenium entrepreneur, starting by making a porn film with his circle of acquaintances. Eventually this intertwines with the reappearance of Renton and the question of what went down in London ten years ago when he cheated Sick Boy, Begbie, and Spud on a heroin deal and skipped town. Cynics will no doubt say that Welsh is looking to ride the sequel bus to potloads of money, which is, again, unfair. Clearly the Trainspotting crew were the characters closest to his heart, so of course he's going to want to revisit them and it seems churlish to suggest that an author who uses characters twice is a sellout.
Foe most part the characters are exactly as they were in the earlier books, although to varying degrees, most realize they're getting older and need to change. In this regard, Spud's story is the most poignant and affecting of the lot. And of course Renton's attempt to settle the past and lead a normal life is hard not to empathize with, which is why mad-dog Begbie is such a menacing presence throughout the book. Ultimately however, this is a comedy, lacking the darkness of Trainspotting, or Welsh's severely underrated Filth. It's a wonderful sentimental adventure full or wacky hi-jinks, and comuppances aplenty.
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