28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
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.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on June 1, 2004
Well, it's ten years after Mark Renton stole the loot the Trainspotting boys made off the drug sale and Begbie went to prison and his other "friends" Sick Boy and Spud are up to their normal routines. Sick Boy decides to leave London and go back to Leith and quickly falls in with a friend who's into porno. Sick Boy sees a career (and a ton of money for himself) and begins the scam to make himself rich. He digs up Renton and talks him into returning to help him and soon they begin scamming each other. Finally, Begbie gets out of prison (it hasn't mellowed him) and he's looking for Renton and his revenge.
The book is a high energy romp through a segment of the pornography business and Welsh keeps ratcheting up the tension as time goes on and the book approaches it's climax. Despite that, he continues to approach the topic (and his characters) with a good deal of humor. This is a real page turner and deserves to be picked up.
I've heard rumors of a movie being planned which would be great. Don't let the title mislead you, the book is not primarily about sex but rather the industry, the deals, and the crazy lives of the players. Many old Trainspotting favorites turn up (some briefly but often memorably) and the new characters are interesting to follow as well.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on November 19, 2005
"Porno" is a rambunctious, high-energy, coked-up and stressed-out sequel to the much bleaker (and much better) junkie opera "Trainspotting", a story of a gang of Scots trying to make ends meet- perpetual losers, screwups, abusers, junkies and sluts that they are- in despair-ridden urban Scotland. This time around, Welsh takes us on a globe-hopping trip through the bright-n'-happy streets of London to the decadent Red Light District in Amsterdam, all the way to a French film festival, letting these whacked-out sociopaths roam free in a guilt-free environment. This is one metaphor for the change in the book- gone is the heroin-addled pathos of "Trainspotting", "Porno" embraces a sillier, stranger tones with dollops of surreal humor and the same working-class Scottish dialect Welsh fans have come to know and love. There are still some moments of heartbreak and disgust, as with any Welsh novel, but ostensibly (as one reviewer described it) "Porno" is "Seinfeld" on hard drugs, let loose in the ghettoes of Scotland. Which might not be such a bad thing after all.
After a sizeable hiatus from his grime-ridden criminal roots, Simon "Sick Boy" Williamson returns to his hometown of Edinburgh to start up a pub. With business as slow as ever, and cocaine, ecstasy and birds taking up his every breathing moment, thus preventing our scheming hero from getting anything done, Sick Boy gets a flash of inspiration: make a porno film, build an empire and make tons of cash. Our sleazy chum starts recruiting nubile young stars for his film "Seven Holes for Seven Brothers", including fantastically endowed local drunk Juice Terry Lawson, student-type raver Rab Birrel and a pretty young thing named Nikki Fuller-Lawson, whom Simon strikes up an affair with. Sooner or later, however, problems arise when Mark Renton makes his way back onto the scene, with a cache full of the money he stole from Simon and his mates ten years prior. And yet, its Spud Murphy, that sweet-hearted, but essentially dimwitted smackhead, now an aspiring novelist, and the cold-blooded, sexually and verbally abusive sociopath Begbie, now fresh out of a prison sentence full of "poof's porn", that may be the ones to watch out for.
"Porno", like many other Welsh works, runs the gamut of emotions from sick humor to depraved desparation to keen political and social commentary- there's actually some rather witty satire on the status of labor unions, feminism and the adult film industry to be found here. Mostly though, it's a chance for Welsh to show off his well-honed skills in dialect and storytelling, including many riotous set pieces, not the least funny of which has a junked-out Spud desperately trying to fix a crying woman's dishwashing machine. And yet we find that sooner or later, these events dissolve into tragedy and sadness, as Mark Renton intends to make off with the money, Sick Boy uses and abuses those who work for him and Franco Begbie goes buck-wild with bloodthirsty, savage rage, personified in a chilling rape scene perpetrated on a street prostitute. All in all, "Porno" is about the friendship of that same old group of losers, propelling themselves with loving longing to the day that it would all go wrong, and ranting, raping and raving in the midst of the sick pleasure of it all. It may not be "Trainspotting", but it comes damn close.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 6, 2003
"Porno" picks up ten years after Trainspotting leaves off, with all of the characters that we know and love in a state of flux. Sick Boy (now preferring to go by his proper name, Simon David Williamson), has reinvented himself as a pornographic film "entrepreneur". Spud, still the bumbling and wasted (but always loveable) smackhead, has set out to write a proper history of Leith's working class. Begbie, newly released from a long prison sentence, is still as paranoid (and deadly) as ever. And Mark Renton is making a go of kicking "the gear" and starting a new life as a club owner in Amsterdam. Along with this familiar cast Welsh introduces many new characters (there's even a cross-over with some of the characters from Glue), the most interesting of which is Nikki Fuller-Smith, a bright college student who becomes a foil for Sick Boy.
Unlike Trainspotting, which was mainly Renton's story, "Porno" belongs to Sick Boy. This is his last (or just latest?), best scheme for finally making it. Like many of the characters here, Sick Boy has grown older and more jaded since the Trainspotting days. By convincing his friends to write, star in, film, and co-produce a porno (the hilariously cliched "Seven Rides for Seven Brothers") with him, he sees a final chance to capture the glory that's been eluding him for so long. But scams like this are never as easy as they first seem, and Welsh has some surprising twists in store...
"Porno" has all of the crackling dialogue and hilarious/scary situations that fans of Welsh have come to expect. The story is told in a traditional first person format, with each main character serving as a narrator in different chapters (some chapters are even replayed from a different character's perspective). This technique keeps the book fresh and allows each character's unique view to shine through. Like all of Welsh's novels, many of the characters in "Porno" speak in a thick Scottish accent, which Welsh approximates in writing. In addition, Welsh liberally includes Leith vernacular which may be unfamiliar to many new readers (e.g., chib, gadge, blether, bairn, etc.) As difficult as it can be to understand some of the characters at times, Welsh's use of this technique is nothing short of masterful; it truly enhances the reader's appreciation of the characters, allowing oneself to become fully immersed in their lifestyle. Twenty pages into the book, you'll easily have the hang of their speech patterns. Don't worry too much about words that you don't fully understand; context helps a lot and once you see an unfamiliar word used in a couple of different places, you'll start to guess at its meaning (Welsh's novels are very similar to A Clockwork Orange in this respect).
I initially approached "Porno" with some amount of trepidation, since it was billed as a sequel to Trainspotting; it's difficult to capture lightning in a bottle twice, even with the same characters and setting. However, Welsh mostly succeeds in writing a worthy follow-up. Yes, the book is overly long and some of the situations aren't as fresh as they once were in Trainspotting. Welsh also has minor problems keeping all of the characters active and engaging--Mark Renton seems to be forgotten for most of the book, only really coming alive in the final section. But there's a lot to admire here: the wit, the sparkling dialogue, and of course the characters (especially Nikki, who feels like Welsh's first "real" female character). It's fun to enter this world again and see what "the mates" have been up to in the intervening years.
One final note: it's possible to read this story without having read Trainspotting, but you'll get much more enjoyment out of it if you start with Trainspotting. You may even want to read Welsh's Glue before "Porno", since Terry Lawson and Rab Birrell (both originally introduced in Glue) are important characters here.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on August 9, 2003
This is the first Irvine Welsh I've read. At first glance I thought I was rereading A Clockwork Orange. The slang is heavy, particularly with Spud's and Begbie's narratives and I had a love/hate relationship with it at first. But stick with it, it becomes easier as the book goes along and it makes for part of the books charm.
I would easily pick up another Irvine Welsh. This is one of the few books where the characters are so well written, you really don't care where they are going. Never once did I ask "What's the point?" Welsh has the ability to make the most unsympathetic of his mates human, and makes nothing black and white. No one gets off clean and the author doesen't apologize for it, which makes the book that much better.
Coming from someone who has only seen the movie Trainspotting and not reading the book, I did not feel lost. The book manages to tell just enough to get you up to speed. So movie fans should be fine. As it did with me though, the book Trainspotting is going to be on your must read list. I have read some reviews saying that this was not the authors strongest work. I cannot wait to read what some consider better. Now, if I only knew what Grassin' really means.....
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on September 26, 2002
Welsh managed to create a great book with a well fitting Title. The cover alone will embarrass you while riding on the train to work, but at the same time grip you with its intensity and that of its characters.
Viewing the story from the perspective of all main characters in turn, the reader gets sucked into their heads, learns what makes them tick, shares their dreams and ambitions. Despite their disgusting immorality, abuse of people surrounding them the readers still learns to develop sympathies even for the worst kind of characters like "Begbie", the foul mouthed, brutish, paranoid thug terrorizing the Leith neighbourhood after a brief spell in prison.
The nymphomatic, cool & intelligent Nikki and her escapades as a student of film & media and Scottish literature certainly eclipses most readers experience at university. She will painfully experience exploitation, but eventually gain a sweet revenge.
Renton, Sick Boy, Spud and the other colourful characters certainly bring some smiles on your face, whith their exploits when they are "pished", high or sexually intoxicated.
I particular enjoyed the cunning and successful scam played on Ranger supporters. It could work!
But readers be warned! The foul language and explicit scenes, combined with Scottish spelling may pose a great challenge to people not used to it!
In the final analysis I think it was an excellent read. Not pleasant, but hugely enjoyable. Don't wait for it to come out on film - it is to explicit and I cannot imagine Obi-wan Genobi to star as an Amsterdam Rave organiser!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 8, 2005
I found "Porno" to be a fantastic book in its own right, and an emmensely pleasurable follow up to one of my favorites, "Trainspotting." For those who haven't had the pleasure to read "Trainspotting" (and I strongly recommend that you do), never fear...while "Porno" deals largely with the same cast of characters ten years later, the work easily stands on its own, with an entirely separate plot. Moreover, it consistently fills readers in on all crucial past material without any 're-hashed' feeling or unneccessary explanations...the work as a whole is seemless and casual. For those who have read "Trainspotting," it's a wonderful visit to unforgettable, strangely likable characters involved in a new and engaging set of scams and shams.
Irvine Welsh has a marvelous way of capturing the essence of characters and communities without any sign of false introspection, and with an honesty which avoids unrealistic redemptions or full resolutions. Perhaps best of all, "Porno" gives a great, subtle account of the nature of friendships and acquantence-ships in the long-term, and just how simple and complicated those relationships can be (again, those familiar with "Trainspotting" as a novel or film can appreciate this on a second level--the further understanding of relationships we already have a notion of).
In sum, it's fun and frisky, occasionaly harsh but also light and funny. Though not by any means "heartwarming" in plot or in the traditional sense, I was still left with that sensation, perhaps because you can sense the author's fondness for his creations, or perhaps because...whether you have past dealings with the characters or not...you get that feeling from having witnessed a reunion, kinks and all.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 22, 2004
Irvine Welsh is one of my favorite writers. His last few books GLue and Filth were difficult to get into, even though they were risky books to write. They were funny and strange. They were a walk in the fields. Porno is more in line with Trainspotting, Acid House, and Ecstacy. Porno even takes the characters of Trainspotting and meets them ten years down the road. Like Faulkner wrote about his little town and used some of the same characters, one gets a feeling that Welsh will be writing about Renton, Sick Boy, and Begbie until they die. In this book, Sick Boy and Renton are still up to their underworld lives. Sick Boy is making a porn film. Begbie is out of jail and seeks revenge. The comedy starts then. It is one of Welsh's best books.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on November 20, 2002
Nice to see the gang back, but 420 pages was entirely too long. Trainspotting's brilliance lay in it's tightness -- nothing was wasted. Here, entire chapters cruise by with little being accomplished. Welsh is a brilliant writer, and he has his moments here -- notably as he writes through his most horrific creation, Franco Begbie -- but the pace is too languid to provide the energy and brilliance of his earlier work.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 26, 2002
I almost wish the characters of Trainspotting had been left alone. Almost. "Porno" brings back the gang as well as some key players from Glue, another recent work. Sick Boy is more or less the leading character this time, with the plot loosely revolving around the production of a porno movie. As usual, Welsh provides some keen insights on human nature and some amusing low-brow jibes, but I felt the story dragging out a bit, with a lot of the developments seeming to be perfunctory checklist items (the inevitable conflict of Begbie and Renton). Not as funny as Filth, not as groundbreaking as Trainspotting, not as deep as Glue...nonetheless Porno will provide a Irvine Welsh fix for those who deem it essential.