Welsh, Scotland's brightest young literary rebel (The Acid House, stories, p. 181), weighs in with a technically dazzling and emotionally wrenching portrait of working-class youth wasted in an emotional vacuum. Roy Strang, in his early 20s, enters the story in a coma and leaves it in even worse shape. In between, he recounts his wretched childhood in an Edinburgh housing project, introduces us to his horrific parents and abject siblings (a thug, a slut, and a homosexual), and describes his own unfortunate appearance (his ears stick out; and the family dog mauled him as a kid, leaving him with a lifelong limp). Matters get briefly sunnier when Roy's father, who loathes the sorry state of Scotland, drags the family to South Africa, where the Il-year-old Roy romps in a right-wing paradise amid a pedophilic uncle and numerous species of exotic birds, including the marabou stork, a freakish creature that preys on defenseless flamingoes. Welsh knows a writer's metaphor when he sees one, and it's this--the marabou stork--that Roy will come back, in his fevered coma nightmares, to hunt. With great agility, Welsh manages his slippery, three-pronged story as he traces the teenage Roy's return to Scotland, at the same time continuing with the surreal, ongoing pursuit of the marabou stork--a tale that the author tells in the manner of a mock-colonial narrative. In Scotland, Roy grows up to become a fair computer systems analyst and a superb soccer-gang brawler, but he loses stomach for his aimless life after joining his mates in the gang rape of a club girl. Miraculously, the rapists are found innocent, but by then Roy's had enough of Scotland: He moves to Manchester and discovers salvation in rave culture. It can't last, though, particularly with the rape victim setting out to exact grisly revenge . . . Welsh's grasp of the grim beauty that lurks in his characters' shattered yearnings is even more solid than his ear for their savage dialect. Magical, without a hint of cloying sentiment.