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Warhol Gang [Hardcover]

Peter Darbyshire
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

May 10 2010
Trotsky works for a neuromarketing company that scans his brain to test new products. Only his name isn’t really Trotsky -- that’s a code name he’s forced to use. And the products aren’t real -- they’re hologram prototypes. Trapped in an increasingly unreal world that leaves him haunted by hallucinations, Trotsky goes to accident scenes at night in search of something genuine. Instead, he finds Holiday, a wannabe actress who fakes accidents for insurance settlements but who dreams of stardom. She leads him into an underground society of anti-corporate activists who live in a forgotten space in a mall. But when an encounter with a troubled cop turns deadly, the group is discovered by the media and dubbed the “Warhol Gang.” At first Holiday and Trotsky embrace their notoriety, but they’re forced to confront their own desires -- and differences -- when the gang takes on a life of its own and the body count rises.

The Warhol Gang is an absurdist tale for an age of absurdism, a black comedy for anyone who’s ever been trapped in an endless mall or fantasized about killing everyone in the office.


Product Details


Product Description

Quill & Quire

“Trotsky,” the code-named narrator of Peter Darbyshire’s sophomore novel, is a lot like the unnamed protagonist of Chuck Palahniuk’s 1996 novel Fight Club. He’s urban, disgruntled, savvy, aimless, underpaid, and deeply skeptical of the corporate superstructure that defines his life. He’s also the protagonist of an action-packed, rollicking story that serves as a biting satire of consumerism, capitalism, affluenza, and fame.

Trotsky works in the “neuromarketing department” of Adsenses, a market research company. Every day, he and his co-workers – “Reagan,” “Thatcher,” and “Nader” – are thrust into full-body MRI machines where all their reactions to holographic advertising stimuli are recorded. In an attempt to counteract the pre-fabricated experiences of the pod, Trotsky begins to seek authentic experiences. He buys a police scanner and insinuates himself into increasingly horrific accident scenes, comforting the victims, impersonating a paramedic, and eventually stealing victims’ keys and assuming their lives for a while.

Trotsky meets up with – or hallucinates? – The Resistance, which aims to jam corporate culture, and Holiday, the narcissistic self-proclaimed “star” of a series of security-cam videos. There is also an underground lounge called Social, which nobody talks about. (It’s like Fight Club without the fists.) Villains become heroes in the hyper-mediated world of Panoptical, the novel’s online disaster-video hybrid of YouTube and World’s Wildest Police Videos. In the era of reality television and ubiquitous surveillance cameras, Darbyshire suggests, we are all the stars of our own show – or somebody else’s. Trotsky, who begins walking around in an Andy Warhol mask, inadvertently becomes the face of The Resistance, which then rebrands itself The Warhol Gang.

Darbyshire’s novel, with its echoes not only of Palahniuk but of Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers and David Cronenberg’s adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s novel Crash, is an exploration of consumer culture and technology. He implies that we’re so inundated with messages about who we should be – and the products that will help us become those people – that we have lost sight of who we truly are; we no longer have an inner life. Mannequins are a recurring metaphor for what we’ve become – hollow inside. Trotsky’s travails suggest that technology, ostensibly there to make our lives easier, also isolates us and makes us more malleable to marketers’ messages.

Review

“To the ranks of such transgressive, mind-screw masterpieces as George Bataille's The Story of An Eye, the fiction of Kathy Acker and the early novels of Chuck Pahlaniuk, one must now add The Warhol Gang. ... A brilliant, brutal evocation of contemporary life, less a satire than it is a warning. ... It's an exhilarating, disturbing, occasionally nauseating reading experience. ... One of the finest, and most important, Canadian novels in recent memory.” — Robert Wiersema, Edmonton Journal

“A violent, darkly comic satire of our media-saturated society” — Globe and Mail

“Puts the dead back in deadpan” — Montreal Gazette

“A nightmare that will linger for days” — Telegraph Journal

“Entertainingly bizarre futuristic tale of loneliness” — Winnipeg Free Press

“A disorienting (and chest-thumping) take on consumer culture” — Eye Weekly

“Denis Johnson stomping Chuck Palahniuk into William Gibson while Kurt Vonnegut cheers him on” — Bookninja

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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny, disturbing dystopia May 17 2010
Format:Hardcover
Consuming and frightening and lingering. I read an advance copy a couple months ago and I still think about it like it's a transparent sheet laid down over my world. Brutal, funny, and scary. I laughed out loud at least a dozen times reading it, and winced a dozen more. For a crossroads comparison, I say Denis Johnson stomping Chuck Palahniuk into William Gibson while Kurt Vonnegut cheers him on. You have to read it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars "My mind is full of other people's mottos." Nov. 15 2011
Format:Paperback
"I wander the mall to distract myself from whatever's wrong with me. The mall's tunnels go everywhere in the city - under the streets, up through walkways connecting office towers, into bus-station lobbies and hospital cafeterias. I don't think the mall has a beginning or an end. The mall is a part of everything or maybe everything is a part of the mall. Whatever I need is in the mall. Food courts. Clothing stores. Cinemas. I never have to leave the mall."

I don't believe Peter Darbyshire to be the greatest fan of consumerism. Not at all.

Neither is Chuck Palahniuk, at least in Fight Club (a novel that, like it or not, The Warhol Gang is inevitably going to be compared to). But as fresh and unusual as Fight Club was (and still is, I firmly believe it holds up), Palahniuk's other works have slowly but inexorably drifted into self-parody, most evident in the lazy, trite, wafer-thin, oh-so-irredeemably-bloody-awful Tell-All. Seriously, I loves me my Chuck, but he needs to take some time off to re-evaluate.

Where was I? Right, Darbyshire. Like Palahniuk (along with all great satirists such as Kurt Vonnegut and J.G. Ballard), Darbyshire is frustrated with certain aspects of society, and feels the need to point out the pointlessness of our foibles. Unlike Palahniuk, however (excepting, of course, if he takes a breather and recovers his senses), Darbyshire isn't running on empty. The Warhol Gang is a vivid, bizarre, fresh, sometimes excruciatingly incisive absurdist novel that not only marks a logical progression in satire (Swift-to-Vonnugut-to-Palahniuk-to-Darbyshire?), but should serve as a rallying point for a new generation of young fans crying out for a satire to call their own.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Give This One an "AAA" Rating March 25 2011
Format:Hardcover
Three cheers for Peter Darbyshire.

The Vancouver based author has delivered a book that satisfies on three counts: it is deliciously AMORAL, thrillingly ANARCHIC and AESTHETICALLY sound. His central character is employed by a "neuromarketing company" that uses high tech methods to predict the next hot trend or product; employees are slid into a chamber and inundated with virtual images. The side effects can be dire, including realistic hallucinations that bedevil the protagonist long after working hours are over. He moves about in a detached reverie and it is in this state that he encounters a group bent on resisting the corporate name-branding of the world by staging various outrages and acts of vandalism. But then our hero inadvertently causes the group to change its tactics, becoming a terrorist organization with him as its poster boy and inspiration. The revolution, like all revolutions, is soon betrayed and it's yet another case of "meet the new boss, same as the old boss". Disillusioned, still desperate for some kind of human contact in a world where consumerism and the cult of personality hold sway, our man enacts his own personal gotterdammerung, the conclusion of THE WARHOL GANG utterly unsentimental, the novel remaining true to itself to the bitter end.

It is unfortunate that the book has already drawn comparisons to the oeuvres of Chuck Palahniuk and Douglas Coupland, for that implies it is derivative--it is most certainly NOT. Mr. Darbyshire has presented us with an original and daring work, a novel of our time, set five minutes from now. Superbly conceived and crafted, THE WARHOL GANG is a savage and uncompromising vision of our acquisitive, superficial society and the dire effects it has on the minds and spirits of those who cannot escape its enticing clutches.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Give This One an "AAA" Rating March 25 2011
By Cliff Burns - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Three cheers for Peter Darbyshire.

The Vancouver based author has delivered a book that satisfies on three counts: it is deliciously AMORAL, thrillingly ANARCHIC and AESTHETICALLY sound. His central character is employed by a "neuromarketing company" that uses high tech methods to predict the next hot trend or product; employees are slid into a chamber and inundated with virtual images. The side effects can be dire, including realistic hallucinations that bedevil the protagonist long after working hours are over. He moves about in a detached reverie and it is in this state that he encounters a group bent on resisting the corporate name-branding of the world by staging various outrages and acts of vandalism. But then our hero inadvertently causes the group to change its tactics, becoming a terrorist organization with him as its poster boy and inspiration. The revolution, like all revolutions, is soon betrayed and it's yet another case of "meet the new boss, same as the old boss". Disillusioned, still desperate for some kind of human contact in a world where consumerism and the cult of personality hold sway, our man enacts his own personal gotterdammerung, the conclusion of THE WARHOL GANG utterly unsentimental, the novel remaining true to itself to the bitter end.

It is unfortunate that the book has already drawn comparisons to the oeuvres of Chuck Palahniuk and Douglas Coupland, for that implies it is derivative--it is most certainly NOT. Mr. Darbyshire has presented us with an original and daring work, a novel of our time, set five minutes from now. Superbly conceived and crafted, THE WARHOL GANG is a savage and uncompromising vision of our acquisitive, superficial society and the dire effects it has on the minds and spirits of those who cannot escape its enticing clutches.
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