Review by John for The Way Inn by Will Wiles (Advance Readers Copy).
John’s quick take: Intriguingly different novel – a surrealistic nightmare in the most mundane of settings.
John’s description: Neil Double has an unusual job. He is a conference surrogate, attending industry conferences on behalf of his clients so that they don’t have to. He attends events for them, picks up all of the relevant material, talks to people they should have talked to, and reports back to them on things that they should have learned - all the while hiding the fact that he is a surrogate. He spends his life travelling and staying at mid-range hotels located in business parks and exhibition centers. In particular he ends up spending an inordinate amount of time in Way Inns, a huge hotel chain with locations all around the world.
While attending a conference for conference organizers at the recently erected MetaCentre exhibition complex, he stays in a brand new Way Inn hotel situated next door to the complex in the middle of what is essentially a series of large building sites. While things start out as they normally do for Double, in short order things start to go awry. He once again meets a woman that he met in very unusual circumstances at a previous event. He is then “outed” by one of the conference organizers who hates the fact that conference surrogates are eating into his business and enabling potential attendees to stay away. He then finds himself banned from the event and unable to get away from the Way Inn.
Then the rather strange woman starts to hint at something weird and astonishing about the mundane hotel chain. In turns attracted, puzzled, bemused and scared, Double finds himself increasingly drawn into the Way Inn. But he also comes to realize that there may be no way out.
John’s thoughts: This was a bit of a slow starter but then really drew me in – a pacing and style which I suspect was intended. First you get to learn about a professional conference attendee who is attending a conference about the conference business, which is being held at the aptly named MetaCentre. But this is not quite as dull as it may sound, as Wiles writing has a nice sly humor to it and some of his observations are sharp.
After a while the story gradually starts to twist and turn, then develops some nicely surreal aspects before descending into a sinister nightmare. Imagine the movie Up In the Air mixed with the song by the Eagles Hotel California and a liberal sprinkling of H.P. Lovecraft – stir the three together and you end up somewhere near to The Way Inn.
I have to say that it was a combination that I liked. It did feel just a tad too slow in places, but the surprises and novelty of the story kept me engaged. Who’d have thought – a surrealistic horror story about the conference business? It worked for me. I’d rate this four stars and recommend it to anyone who likes stylish and subtle horror stories or who likes to try something a bit different. And have you had the “pleasure” of attending a lot of business conferences? If so, you may find this an entertaining read.
ARC | Harper Perennial | 09/16/2014 | Pages: 352