We in publishing love our “comps” and Harper’s marketing department calls this Up in the Air meets Inception. That’s not far off the mark. Wiles is a Brit with a deadly, deadpan sense of humor and The Way Inn is the story of a “convention surrogate”—someone who attends professional meetings in your place so that you don’t have to. It’s a hilarious conceit for anyone who regularly has to attend such things. And that’s just the beginning; Wiles’ take on life in hotels is surreally accurate, narcotizing and sinister. And that surreal tone opens the door to a plot that drops our hero down a rabbit hole worthy of Inception.
“[T]he latest conference [Neil Double is] attending is with Meetex, a conference about…conferences. Trying to drum up some business, Double has a conversation with a Tom Graham, eagerly explaining how conference surrogacy works, but it turns out that Graham is actually Tom Laing, event director of Meetex….[Neil] returns to The Way Inn and finds out his conference pass has been voided, so he can no longer access his room or the bus that ferries conferees to the MetaCentre where the Meetex conference is taking place. Double finds out how quickly he becomes a nonentity when he no longer exists through his laminated pass, and his attempts to unvoid’ his pass become both comic and surreal. Meanwhile, he’s trying to track down a woman named Dee, whose interest lies in photographing the abstract paintings on the walls in various Way Inns because ‘they are an approximation of what a painting might look like, a stand-in for actual art.’ Wiles has a guileful—dare one say wily?—intellect and provides a telling commentary on the emptiness of much of modern culture as Double and Dee find that The Way Inn has the same infinite structure of nightmare as Kafka’s Castle.
“The Way Inn is funny, clever and thrilling, its central conceit disturbing enough to demand that you read it outside, if you can.”
— The Guardian
The Way Inn (9780062336101) by Will Wiles. $14.99 trade paper original. 9/16/14 on sale.