There is a sense that only this gang, acting as a group, could morph a fairly mundane marital-indiscretion sub-plot into a chaotic exercise in blackmail involving international organ harvesting. As with Trainspotting, the vignette-like chapters, complete with several pages of drug-induced graphic novel-style storytelling, allow the plot to caper along from multiple points of view. This is secondary, however, to wider comments about the collective past that has defined them all in different ways, and about aging ... This final book in Welsh’s self-described 'Harry Potter franchise' is as much character study as social commentary, and a sympathetic observation about how growing older doesn’t necessarily mean growing wiser.
There’s a lot of travel, a lot of violence, a lot of cartoony sex ... The characters stitch one another up, take revenge, bond again in a burst of drunken sentimentality—and rinse and repeat. It’s all wildly over the top and frequently very funny. Sensitive and inclusive, mind, it’s not ... women are, for the most part, either whining and needy or gagging for it, or both—though you could just about attribute the misogyny to the deplorable worldviews of the various narrators. Just about ... The plot, though entertaining, is even more rickety than usual. It’s bookended by a detached and oddly cursory subplot ... If you go for Welsh’s stuff, as I do, you’ll go for Dead Men’s Trousers with great enthusiasm. If you don’t … well, you were warned.
That language — that rock-mouthed, mushy, dense Scottish radge slang that made Welsh's name back in the day — works the same as it always has. It's musical, propulsive, both brilliant and maddening, sensible only when your eyes are half focused; when you hear it rolling off the page rather than trying to read it straight ... When he's at his best, Welsh spins a story of four men broken by addiction and betrayal ... It's to Welsh's credit that he gives none of them any kind of sudden forgiveness or moment of redemption that doesn't come with a thousand strings attached and a baggie of coke in the pocket because these are not good guys ... And if that'd been the whole of the book, it might've been great ... instead, there's a subplot about sex tourism and another about an illegal kidney, another about getting the clap, another about Hibs finally winning the cup. There's a whole choppy b-plot about Begbie and an L.A. ex-cop who thinks he's a serial killer, plus a murder by sword, and a whole lot about the international art-and-EDM scene ... by the end, what could've been a fitting, apt, even startling counterweight to Trainspotting has been weighed down with so much awkward sex, so many grown men on drugs and so many antic, unlikely capers, that the great idea Welsh had at the beginning has been lost.
This, apparently, is the last novel Irvine Welsh will write with the cast of his breakout debut Trainspotting. Thank goodness for that, though I doubt it. Welsh has squandered his original vision with a series of increasingly wretched spin-offs ... It wouldn’t be an Irvine Welsh novel without drugs, anal sex and intermittent violence, but it is striking that in this work there are also many paragraphs about tax regulations and systems, and how to get round them. Cynically, it also does a pub-bore version of socialism: the banks, Thatcher, the BBC, the elites—they’re the ones to blame ... There is something elegiac in all this, but in terms of the author, not the characters. I looked at Trainspotting again and it is remarkably restrained in terms of its stiletto vulgarity. Here, on one page alone, we have seven uses of the f-word and eight of the c-word. At one point I wondered if Welsh perhaps now outsourced his novels to a thousand monkeys at a thousand iPads ... Trainspotting was about Renton getting away with it; Dead Men’s Trousers is about Irvine Welsh getting away with it ... I feel soiled and sullied in my soul by reading this juvenile, Dad-dancing tripe, and would earnestly ask that no-one else should pay money to do so.
The novel...is exhausting, perfunctory and inelegant. Welsh has a habit of ascribing to his characters mini-political and metaphysical speeches that are often at variance with their natures, and which are almost always clumsily deployed. Such irritations, however, are minor in comparison to the broader concerns of the book. Like much of Welsh’s work, Dead Men’s Trousers delivers a near parodic onslaught of sexual sleaze, savage exploitation, miserable cynicism, grotesque violence and male sentimentality. Yet it does so with almost none of the stylistic precision, or satiric distance, necessary to prevent these things proving wearisome ... we are subjected to numerous instances of overwriting...and prose so unintentionally melodramatic as to be funny ... The characters brought to life with such aesthetic vigour a quarter of a century ago deserve a better valediction than this. It would be wise for Welsh to release them, and us, from our now far-from-exuberant miseries.
Raunchy, profane, violent, and frequently hilarious in its epic descriptions of drug and alcohol abuse, the continued saga is remarkable for the way it delivers the anarchic goods to Trainspotting fans while touching on the ultimate obsessions of middle age: death and the purpose of life ... Dead Men’s Trousers delivers a strangely life-affirming dose of dark absurdity, ensuring that, if this is the last we see of these characters, they won’t soon be forgotten.
More than 25 years after they first appeared in Trainspotting, all four of Welsh’s hard-living Scottish friends reunite in Edinburgh, roped into an appropriately bizarre and macabre organ harvesting caper ... much comic mileage is wrung in rehashing old grievances. Not surprisingly, the crime unfolds like a Keystone Kops version of Ocean’s 11, but with an irrevocable final result. Welsh’s entire oeuvre crackles with idiomatic energy and brio, and this rollicking novel is no different.
Welsh’s peculiar talent is finding the comedy in sex, addiction, betrayal, and death, and he handles the job so deftly that the novel nearly qualifies as comfort reading even in gross-out mode ... And scenes featuring DMT trips are rendered in graphic-novel form, an inventive touch. Still, Welsh tends toward the gassy, with detours into soccer and a weak subplot involving a cop stalking Begbie. His characters have endearingly messy lives, but the mess is often in the prose, too. Welsh still overflows with predicaments to thrust his antiheroes into, for better and for worse.