The product description for Wee Rockets put me off reading the book for several months. “Does for Belfast what Irvine Welsh did for Edinburgh.”
For me, this wasn’t a great endorsement and puts Brennan’s book into a category of book in one’s mind that it simply doesn’t merit being in.
Welsh is skilled in putting detestable people in crass and darkly humorous situations and making you cringe and laugh at their exploits, the whole while knowing that you’re sharing in their badness, just a little merely by laughing.
Scottish and Irish fiction is littered with stereotypic, ‘wee Ned’ characters, shoved in front of the readers or viewers to be sneered at from middle-class living rooms.
The worst as a heavy-handed scum-monger, Irvine Welsh managed one sympathetic novel in his masterpiece Glue, in which he fleshes out some real and sympathetic characters. It took Welsh four books to achieve this kind of writing, Brennan did this with seeming ease straight from the off with this book.
With Wee Rockets, Gerard Brennan gives you complex characters to pity, yes, but also to cheer for, shake your head at and relate to. Most importantly he lays their motives bare without judgement and allows the reader to empathise rather than marginalise.
That he conveys such a strong set of characters without asking the reader to judge them, or ridicule the very real people he’s created in any way, is testament to his skill as a writer.
There’s no morality tale here, merely a very good writer lifting the curtain to reveal people trapped in a tiny world of expectations (low) and dreams (big).
Brennan shows us the worst and best of his characters, without making them caricatures or victims; in this alone he surpasses Mr Welsh. Add in a wonderfully descriptive narrative, hugely grounded and believable characters and spot-on dialogue and you have one of my favourite new authors.
Wee rockets is available at Amazon uk