Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Brief Thoughts 32

It's been some time since I've done this. I figured it was about time to bring it back. 

Dead Men's Trousers by Irvine Welsh

Billed as the "grand finale to the Trainspotting saga," this book takes place several years after Trainspotting and its sequel Porno. Renton, Begbie, Sick Boy, and Spud are all middle-aged men with kids and careers. Well, except for Spud. Spud hasn't accomplished much. Renton's career isn't going so hot either. He's a manager for DJs, except he's down to just one who actually makes him any money now. Sick Boy runs an escort service and, as usual, seems to be going out of his way to destroy his personal relationships. Surprisingly, Begbie seems to be doing the best out of all of them. He's reformed from his violent ways, happily married with two kids, and living in America as a successful artist. 

It almost goes without saying, this book is really only for people who liked Trainspotting enough to want to see the characters again. It's helpful, though not completely necessary, to have read Porno and The Blade Artist before this. While I hadn't read the latter, and Begbie's story in this directly follows after the one in that book, I still enjoyed this very much. 

It takes the humor and the antics of Trainspotting and Porno and amplifies them, at times going into outright farce. This includes a convoluted plot that results in Spud getting his kidney removed by a podiatrist in a dilapidated building who is following a YouTube tutorial. Another hilarious scene is Begbie making plaster casts of the heads of Renton, Sick Boy, and Spud. This ends in Begbie walking in on them stumbling around blind like the Three Stooges. 

Despite all the humor, there's still an emotional center at seeing the crew long past their addictions to heroin, but still struggling to really adjust in career and family. It's especially touching to seeing a character like Begbie really find happiness despite his struggles with his explosive anger and how's he's (mostly) learned to channel it in healthy ways. 

Most of the Trainspotting books don't have the formal experimentation that something like Filth does, but there are bits of it here. The drug DMT plays a role in the plot and when the characters take it, their trips are told through brief one to two page comics. While it doesn't add much to the book, it doesn't detract either. 

I would highly recommend this if you've read the other Trainspotting books. I believe it brings the lives and misadventures of its characters to a satisfying conclusion. 

Mayhem at the Museum by Regina Watts

Luther is a misfit boy. He doesn't get along with his classmates, especially because he insists on bringing his stuffed wolf, named Paine, everywhere all the time. On a field trip to the local science museum, he meets an odd but intelligent girl his age named Miranda, a daughter of an eccentric rich family. To Luther's surprise, Miranda is one of the few people who can see Paine is really alive and not just a stuffed animal. When both wander away from their class groups, they discover a bag of guns in the janitor's closet. 

Watts's novel is a mixture of parody, Splatterpunk, and a little bit of fantasy. Luther and Paine are obvious stand-ins for Calvin and Hobbes and Miranda is one for Wednesday Addams. There are also references to other characters from Calvin and Hobbes and The Addams Family

There are differences. Luther is much meeker and less prone to flights of fantasy than Calvin, Paine is much more aggressive and is explicitly alive in more than just Luther's imagination, and Miranda is more malevolent than most interpretations of Wednesday Addams. 

For a book with as goofy a premise as this, you'd think most of the violence would be cartoony. There are certainly aspects of that, but some of the violence is actually pretty brutal. There's a scene towards the beginning where the museum janitor, having abandoned his plan to shoot up the museum, tries to commit suicide. He accidently spills acid in his face and ends up dying very slowly that way. I actually cringed pretty hard (in a good way) at this. 

The book is a good time. While not quite weird enough to be bizarro proper, it reminds me of the energy of proto-bizarro horror books. It's creative, over the top, and just plain fun to read. It moves fast and has a lot of entertaining action. 

Understanding all the things the book references isn't necessary, it's just a nice bonus for a bloody story of kids in a fucked up situation. I definitely recommend picking this up if you're looking for a cracked up thriller. While I've known Watts for some time, this is the first full book of hers I've read, and I'm looking forward to more. 

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