The Line-up: The Way Inn by Will Wiles

The Way InnI liked the imaginative title. I had high expectations and maybe that was the trouble. My expectations for this novel far outstripped its ability to deliver. The narrator seemed like a weak choice. Neil Double bridged a slight gap between unlikable and irrelevant. His name was slightly obvious given his job as a conference surrogate and interestingly considered to be an unimaginative alias by an antagonised conference organiser.

I had trouble with Neil’s almost constant justification of his job as a conference surrogate. When he repeated for what felt like the tenth time what he did and why he did it, as if I might fail to understand a very basic idea, I was reminded of a young child asked what they want to be when they grow up. Neil wants to be a conference surrogate not because he likes conferences, but because he likes anonymity of hotels. Unfortunately, Neil’s justification was as unconvincing as his backstory; his dad was a philandering auto part salesman who was away often and died leaving Neil with cash and less of a wanderlust and more a desire to escape into oblivion.

The spectral references to Adam early on the book were initial enticing. I completely expected Adam to be a William Wilson or Tyler Durden character. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Considering that Neil is the main character, you can imagine how my ability to enjoy and progress in this book was effected.

The first half of the novel is focused on Neil’s professional problems and his conflict with the conference organiser. You are thrown into an oblivion of description as Neil encounters awkward social situations. It was a classic and completely effect case of create your character and then undermine everything that they believe and hold important. The disavowal of Neil’s job as a conference surrogate by the conference organiser, a drink in the face from an old flame because he couldn’t even remember her name but still wanted to hook up with her. Come on Neil you end up saying. You’ve got to do some of the work. It was a refreshing change from what initially seemed like it was turning into a wish-fulfillment novel, except it was all a little boring.

And then, about three quarters of the way through the novel it starts to get interesting. The whole world is undermined and we are given a glimpse of a different reality. Unfortunately (and I seem to be saying that a great deal), it speeds to a conclusion and ends.

My final judgement for the novel? It is a quick enjoyable read. Not a classic to be returned to, but a book to take to the beach and finish in a couple of days.


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