Warhol, Trotsky, Che? The Gang’s All Here!

The Warhol Gang is one of those books that sucks you in, delving into a dystopian world that feels uncomfortably familiar. Written from the perspective of Trotsky, a reluctant participant in life, Gang shows us what the modern world could be like in the near future if we allow it.

Our protagonist lives his life in only the most literal, basic sense. His job involves lying in a “pod,” envisioning how products he is shown could be used.  He begins to hallucinate the products outside of work and, because he can’t trust what he sees, loses any lingering attachment to others and the world around him.  The fissure becomes so great that, in order to feel something genuine, he takes to attending tragic accidents. He turns on his scanner and waits for the most tragic, horrific accident, rushes to the scene and holds the hands of the dying victims.  (Macabre? Unquestionably. Logical in terms of the book? Completely.) It is at one of these accidents that he meets his girlfriend-to-be, Holiday, who…well, stars in accident footage that is broadcast constantly in Trotsky’s world. To say that that things get interesting from there is an understatement.

Gang is relentless, pushing the reader into Trotsky’s world of unadulterated and unapologetic commercialism and violence. The lengths to which he goes to try to claim his identity, to feel love – to feel anything –  and to control his circumstances get increasingly desperate and dangerous. The more he attempts to control his surroundings, the more complicated they become. As a reader, you root for Trotsky: you genuinely want him to be able to break free of the confines in which he finds himself, both physically and mentally. The story hurtles along to its conclusion and you hope for the best, but expect the worst.

Gang owes a debt to Philip K. Dick, Irvine Welsh, George Orwell and Chuck Palahniuk. Peter Derbyshire is a Canadian author who has a clear vision and who executes it flawlessly. It’s the kind of book that has a message, and a timely one at that. Nothing – names, places, items – is in the book without a purpose. The characters’ names are fraught with meaning (Trotsky, Flint, Thatcher, Reagan, Che, etc) but I didn’t feel like Derbyshire was clobbering me over the head with the point. The reason? The characters feel so real, so utterly possible. Yes, it’s an exaggerated reality but not one that’s so preposterous as to be beyond the realm of belief.  Trotsky’s word is bleak, commercially-focused and extremely violent; however, it is not without hope.

I recommend this book to anyone who’s a fan of any of the above authors. Derbyshire wastes no time in establishing the tone of the book and he propels the reader further into the madness that is Trotsky’s world. It’s not always an easy book to read and it’s not always happy. But I’m alright with that: The Warhol Gang is much more satisfying than many other, happier books. Let’s just hope that our world doesn’t too closely resemble Derbyshire’s any time soon.
Wanna read a snippet? Come on. You do. It’s easy enough: just click here!

~ by foodNURD on November 4, 2010.

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