Kafka updated to the 21st century.
Neil Double has an unusual profession—he’s a conference surrogate, so he spends his life substituting for those who either cannot attend or are not interested in attending conferences. While his life is not carefree, he is able to revel in the relative anonymity of lobbies, hotel rooms, canned music and superficial social encounters. His particular favorite place to stay is a chain of nearly identical hotels called “The Way Inn” (like Double’s name, a self-conscious pun), and the latest conference he’s 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. Laing then publicly rails against conference “pirates” like Double who attend conferences on behalf of others and whose “doubling” can actually replace several other attendees and thus hurt business. Double feels he’s been had, especially once he 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.