The Warhol Gang by Peter DarbyshireThe Warhol Gang by Peter Darbyshire

The Warhol Gang

byPeter Darbyshire

Paperback | May 24, 2011

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Trotsky works for a neuromarketing company that scanshis brain to test new products. Only his name isn’t reallyTrotsky -- that’s a code name he’s forced to use at work. Andthe products aren’t real -- they’re just hologram prototypes.Trapped in an increasingly unreal world that leaves him hauntedby hallucinations, Trotsky goes in search of something genuine.Instead, he finds Holiday, a wannabe actress who fakes accidentsfor insurance settlements but who dreams of stardom.She leads him into an underground society of anti-corporateactivists and into a series of dangerous encounters, one ofwhich turns deadly. Discovered by the media, they are dubbedthe Warhol Gang. At first Holiday and Trotsky embrace theirnotoriety and fame, but they’re forced to confront their owndesires and needs -- and differences -- when the Warhol Gangtakes on a life of its own and the body count rises.

The Warhol Gang is a black comedy for anyone who’s everbeen trapped in an endless mall or fantasized about taking revengeon everyone in the office.

Peter Darbyshire is the author ofPlease, winner of the ReLit Award for best alternative novel of the year and the Ontario Arts Council’s K.M. Hunter Award for best new book.The Warhol Gangis Darbyshire’s second novel. He has lived in Toronto, Ottawa and Vancouver. Visit him online at
Title:The Warhol GangFormat:PaperbackDimensions:320 pages, 8 × 5.31 × 1 inPublished:May 24, 2011Publisher:HarperCollinsLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1554680778

ISBN - 13:9781554680771

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Rated 5 out of 5 by from "My mind is full of other people's mottos." 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). Like Palahniuk (along with 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, 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. Darbyshire's hero is Trotsky, the moniker given to an aimless young man who has wandered into a job with Adsenses, a "neuromarketing company" that blueprints/brainwashes the minds of its employees in as frightening a manner as anything since A Clockwork Orange. Each employee is provided their own code name (Reagan, Thatcher, Nader) to "remove as much of [their lives] from the process as possible." Trotsky's life is nothing but an endless parade of consumer goods, billboards, and inexpressible greed, set in an identifiable dystopia where image and actuality share a shaky truce. His job is to sit in a pod for hours on end while images of consumer products are flashed before his eyes; his brainwave response patterns are then studied: "We study everything," Nickel tells me. "We watch your heart rate, your breathing, how much you sweat. If you get an erection, we measure it." He takes me over to one of the brains. It's mostly dark, with little spots of light that flare up here and there and then fade away. The patterns of light look random. "Is that me?" I ask. "This is you," Nickel says, tapping the dark parts of the brain. He points to a yellow spot that glows briefly on one side of the brain. "This is you thinking about the product." "That's good, right?" I ask. "It's good, but its not optimal," Nickel says. "What would be optimal," I ask. Nickel watches another flare. "Optimal would be if that was your entire brain," he says. Trotsky is a man seemingly destined for such a life, being an almost perfect indiscriminate consumer. His overarching memory of childhood is being lost and abandoned in a mall. The mall was and is at the very centre of his being. But Trotsky quickly discovers the side-effects of his job; hallucinations of the products he sees and the people he imagines using them. His manager advise him that "some people can keep it in check by buying real products." Already unhinged with a lack of identity, Trotsky begins living a new life through his products, finding in them a path back to reality and soon graduating to the next level wherein he begins looking for accident scenes to watch people die. And then, it gets strange. Trotsky takes up with a woman named Holiday, the "Marilyn Monroe of security videos," obsessed with becoming a star through news reports and snippets of tragedies and cellphone videos broadcast on the television program Panoptical. He discovers a secret society of nihilists living beneath the mall in another mall that sets itself up as a resistance, but to what is never made clear. And when Trotsky and Holiday become 'reality' stars from an inadvertent snuff film, he become the de facto face of the uprising. Part of the great frustration (and appeal) of The Warhol Gang is that a description of the plot is practically impossible with, well, giving the entirety of the plot away. Darbyshire twists and warps reality to suit his own needs, and as Trotsky descends into a new level of madness that may or may not be real, not a page goes by without the addition of another puzzle piece to his scattered psyche. The miracle is that none of this feels forced; considering its manic narrative structure, Darbyshire keeps a firm hand on his tale, with nary a scene wasted. As much as The Warhol Gang is anti-consumerism, it does not come across as a screed to the ignorant masses; indeed, it condemns the ignorant masses as well. When Trotsky admits confusion as to the ultimate cause the Warhol Gang is fighting for, Holiday comments "The Warhol Gang is its own cause." I'm sure I'm not the only reader who'll flashback to the numerous clashes between protesters and police at various G20 summits, where the point of protest appears to be anarchy for its own sake. We feel the urge to resist, but without a plan or visible enemy, all we can create is chaos. The Warhol Gang is well aware of its forebearers; echoes of Ballard, Orwell, and Palahniuk ring throughout. Such echoes are inevitable. But the story, the style, the whole of the sum of the parts; that's Darbyshire. And it is a gloriously uncomfortable, trippy trek into a world two seconds away from ours.
Date published: 2011-11-15

Editorial Reviews

?One of the finest, and most important, Canadian novels in recent memory? ? 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 ()