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78 of 81 people found the following review helpful
on November 22, 2003
Finally. I no longer have to worry about buying a new paperback copy of this book every three months or so; this has always been a book that I've frequently enjoyed going back to multiple times after finishing...and now we've finally got a version that is built to last.
Most likely you've already seen the movie before deciding whether or not to read the book. Be forewarned, however; John Hodge's screenplay is a masterful job of bringing continuity to a series of stories that are in fact only loosely related. The book "Trainspotting" is comprised of a series of short stories previously published independently in various periodicals over a stretch of time...the stories deal with the same core of characters, but that is really all that ties them together. You will probably find that Danny Boyle's job of directing the "Trainspotting" movie looks even more impressive after reading even a quarter of the book.
The book does focus on a set of wrong-side-of-the-track friends involved with drugs, alcohol, petty crime, and anything else they can find to take their minds off their completely unfulfilling lives. An added challenge (and a fair extent of the book's charm) is that the book's dialogue and first-person narrative are written in the author's native Edinburgh dialect, making the book perhaps more accessible to Robert Burns scholars than the average non-Scots English speaker. However, there is a glossary in the back of the book that is rather helpful...and my personal recommendation is to read the book out loud whenever possible (I don't know why, but whenever I did this, the written words made more sense when heard as an audible accent).
If you liked the movie at all, the book is for you. As with most books that are adapted to the screen, you'll find a level of depth in the book that the film simply could not attain due to time and budgetary constraints; Spud onscreen is presented as a cross between Spud and "Second Prize" in the book, and there are book characters who aren't even introduced in the film (yet who also bring added depth to a world that is portrayed as rather one-dimensional in the film). Choose life, choose a job, choose a career..but most importantly, choose this book. It will add a whole 'nother level of appreciation to the "Trainspotting" experience.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on March 20, 2000
I'd seen the movie, but didn't know if I could bring myself to read the book. I had heard that it was even more graphic than the film, and was unsure of my capabilities to understand the Edinburgh dialect that Welsh had written the book in. However, after a visit to Glasgow, Scotland, I was reintroduced to the novel. I nearly bought it while I was there, but realized that it would not have the glossary that the American edition has. Upon my return, I immediately bought it, and finished it within days. The book is about a group of characters who are all somehow touched by the heroin culture of Edinburgh. Many are users, some are just friends of users. All the characters in the book are somehow linked together. They each tell at least one story through their own eyes. The reader is taken through a journey, shown the ins and outs of these people's addiction, attempts to kick the addiction, and their ultimate failures, either through death, or just through keeping on in their drug use. The characters are vivid and their situations are made quite real for the reader. By the end of the novel I was quite used to the Scottish dialect, and I was rather attached to the characters. I did not want the story to end. Though it is graphic at times, and the dialect is a challenge at the start, I definitely urge everyone to read this harshly entertaining and highly engrossing novel.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
You've seen the movie, now read the book (or vice versa). Despite the phantasmagorical nature the film adopts at times, the book is even more whacked out--in a good way-- not to mention rougher in many senses. Although it flows chronologically, the novel is plotless, skipping from vignette to vignette, told by a wide range of people. The main characters from the movie are the main characters in the book, but there are a number of stories narrated by more minor characters as well. This makes the whole thing more impressionistic and loose, and of course, allows space for many more entertaining stories. There are a few scenes that get really nasty, such as a scene where Renton has sex with his just-dead brother's pregnant wife in a bathroom after the funeral. The guys are also a fair bit older than the movie makes them out to be, Begbie is a good deal nastier, etc... It's actually rather amazing they found a movie in all the stories in the book. In any event, don't be intimidated by the dialect and slang, it's great fun once you get into it.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on October 3, 1997
Welsh's use of dialect and the first person seem to immerse the reader at once into a strange and lurid new world, but his weaknesses as a writer are apparent if one looks for them. They are most prominent when he tries, and fails, to keep up the inertia in the third person, or even when he drops the slang (as in the tiresome "Bad Blood.") A closer examination of Trainspotting reveals just how much Welsh relies on the gimmick of dialect to keep the reader interested: "translate" a few sentences into plain english, and see how uninspired the prose is. Phonetic mispellings does not a masterpiece make; if Welsh's story was truly as universal as people say it is, it wouldn't need them.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on May 24, 2004
This is, quite simply, the most brilliant book I've ever read. Here's why.
1. The Randomness. There is no plot. This is a book about real people, and real people have no plot in their lives. Especially not these people. And by switching POV, you get to see everything. The movie attempts this with Begbie's throwing-the-glass sequence, but it does no justice.
2. The Phonetic Spelling. Granted, this book is hard to read, incomparably. But this facet holds up the entire book. You can't get to know a person until you know how they talk - more than that, how they SPEAK each and every word. Also - the slang! You will talk better than any cat you ken, likesay?
3. The Personality. You really get to know at least 4 or 5 people in this book, and you like them. Renton the most, then probably Sick Boy, then Begs, then Spud, and the rest of the motley crew. The constantly-switching narrative never says upfront who's speaking, so you learn to identify the gang by speech tags - Hombre for Begbie, Catboy for Spud, the man Sean Connery in general for Sick Boy, and . . . well, let's just say that by the end of the book I could TELL when it was Rents talking. I knew his voice.
4. The Cult Nature. It's everywhere...underground. Lots of online fan bases. It's fun.
5. The Subculture. Face it, how many of us have shot up heroin in a moldy flat in the slums of Edinburgh? With a really intense accent? This book painstakingly shows you a whole new world, literally. And you come out knowing a lot more about drugs.
6. The Message. Trainspotting is a multiple choice question. Here's what happens if you do, here's what happens if you don't. The only judgements in the book come from the characters themselves. Irvine Welsh the author has successfully disappeared - if his skag boys are his "mouthpieces", then he's completely hidden that fact.
In conclusion, read it. This book is the face of modern literature and yes indeed, it deserves to sell more copies than the Bible.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on August 27, 2005
Written in a phonetic Scottish-English hybrid, this book is a challenge on the reader and soon bogs down the eye-brain connection as we sound through words the same way we once did in Sister Mary-Elizabeth's kindergarten class. Although this is not exactly the dead-on same story as the movie of like name, anyone whose seen and loved Trainspotting on screen will be glad to find Renton, Sickboy, Spuds, the sociopathic Francis Begby, clean-living Tommy (and Lizzie!) and all the rest of the gang here in the novel that inspired one of the freshest, grossest and funniest movies of the mid-1990's.

For those who do not know, Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting is set in Scotland in roughly contemporary times, and tells the tale of Mark Renton, a twenty-ish philosophical junky and his band of mates, as they run, walk and crawl through a sometimes dismal, sometimes upbeat life in a post-industrial, pre-future society. Among their adventurous efforts to keep themselves in heroin (supplied by a colorful man called Mother Superior--on account of the length of his habit) Renton and the others joyfully rob American tourists, steal TV's from old age homes, and generally push onward through an existence that holds no promise of a tomorrow. Along the way, some extremely strange events come to pass. Renton unexpectedly finds himself with a thoroughly jailbait girlfriend who is roughly thirteen going on thirty; Begby goes on the lam after a violent crime goes bad; and as he passes thru a vicious episode of the DT's, Renton looks on aghast with horror as a dead baby slinks in accusatory fashion over the ceiling above his head.

In case you can't guess, this is one strange novel.

Trainspotting is worth the effort of dissecting the meaning of the odd, Celtic-flavored words Welsh uses to tell this tale of a crew of heroin-using Scotsmen in a pessimistic society that has seen better days. Like the film version, it's funny, it's imaginative (to say the least) and it's more than a little sick at times. It's a challenge to read, but hey, the road less traveled and all that, right?
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on July 20, 2000
Trainspotting the movie was full of great details and funny dialogue that has to be tasted and thought about which like good wine gets better with age.
The companion interview with Irvine Welsh is a real treat. The man is articulate, funny, and has a lot to say. It is seldom one can get inside the author and his feelings on a movie that is made.
There is also a preface written by John Hodge himself that details his process of from writing Shallow Grave and how that movie got made and then how the others convinced him to make trainspotting although he was terrible reluctant. That in itself was an amazing story.
I loved his note to the readers about how he was sorry he didn't put our favourite bits of the book in the movie and how he didn't get to put his own favorites bits himself. He also comments about the liberty he took with the text, and explained some of them. As an Irvine Welsh fan I felt placated and had a new respect for Hodge.
As for the screen play itself. You can read about Sick Boy's ideas about Sean Connery, personal thoughts of renton, his relationship with Diane, in detail. Everything in the movie is amplified. A small detail and a big scene takes the same importance on the page.
I love picking it up and reading my favourite bits. As an avid Irvine Welsh fan I could really take the time to see what John Hodge added to the film and apreciate it.
Watching the movie again takes about two hours of your time, and replaying your favorite bits is never the same. This screen play allow you to do just that without much effort. It is short and easy to read, and hey to be honest, I didn't hear what was said in the film because of the accents. Here I can read exactly what was said. If you love the book and/or the movie god this is a great companion to go with it.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on October 22, 2000
This is the story of Scottish heroin junkies and their friends. Drugs, HIV/AIDS, drugs, sex, drugs, welfare, drugs and more healthy fun is what you'll find in this exquisite novel.
Trainspotting is often compared to A Clockwork Orange... For one thing, they both write in slang (it takes a while to pick up but after a wee bit you'll find yessel typing the same wae, likesay... daft draftpaks) and are both very explicit. Still, they are different. Trainspotting is a little more "real," dealing with the present, while ACO warns us of the future. Trainspotting revolves around a group of characters while ACO is about one protagonist (who is actually an antagonist too, if you're keeping score). In any event, it's safe to say that if you liked one, you'll like the other.
For people who are familiar with the movie but not the book: A few years after I saw the movie for the first time, I decided to read the book... And I must say, the book is much better. If you enjoyed the movie, you will LOVE this. Granted, the book is harder to follow. It's written from different points of view (not just Renton's), and thus includes many scenes/characters not in the film. Don't say "I saw the film, let's move on to something else..." READ THE BOOK!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 28, 2001
I picked this book up second hand with some notion of what it was about--I had seen the movie. Whatever energy the movie had was nothing compared to the raw edge of Welsh's novel. The dialect, which is at first hard to follow, becomes easy to understand and adds a huge measure of authenticity to the pages. While I don't think that this book "should sell more copies than the bible," it is successful on a number of points: 1)drug addicts aren't monsters 2)escape,escape,escape 3)drug addicts are monsters 4) no escape, no escape, no escape. Forget the film, read this book and enjoy the ride.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
There are two reasons to pick up John Hodge's screenplay for "Trainspotting," based on the novel by Irvine Welsh. The first is because you have trouble understand English spoken with strong Scottish brogues and you cannot figure out how to use closed captioning. Admittedly, this is the minor reason. The second and major reason is to appreciate how well Hodge transformed Welsh's novel into a solid screenplay. After all, the novel was a collection of loosely related short stories about several different characters that neither aspires to nor reaches a complete narrative form. Also, the key to the characters comes as much from their internal monologues as it does from anything they say or do. Of course the solution was to focus on one character and make him the "narrator" of the film. This becomes Mark Renton, the unrepentant drug abuser who does not seem to be as hell-bent on self-destruction as the rest of his mates.
This volume includes an introduction by Hodge, who explains how he came to be coerced into writing the screenplay. The screenplay is indeed the screenplay, and not a transcript of the film, so there are plenty of changes in dialogue and editing if you actually do sit down and follow along while watching Danny Boyle's film. Notations tell you want scenes or bits of dialogue were cut from the film and there are plenty of black & white photographs of the various scenes (but just Ewen McGregor coming OUT of the toilet...). The Afterword consists of a brief interview with author Irvine Welsh, conducted during the penultimate week of the shooting of the film (Welsh was doing a cameo performance as the drug dealer Mikey Forrester). Welsh speaks candidly about the transformation of his novel into a film and how the drug scene in Scotland has changed since the book's original publication. However, for those who have actually tracked down and read the novel, reading the screenplay soon afterwards will give you a greater appreciation of how excellent a job Hodges did with this adaptation.
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