Atmospheric and frighteningly entrancing, The Opportunity is a contemporary urban fable that presents a world that is both familiar and yet totally detached from our experiences
Written from his own personal experience and brief interactions with the world of “multi-level marketing companies” The Opportunity is Will Volley’s chilling account of the life of a ruthlessly ambitious door-to-door salesperson and his gradual descent into madness. Abandoning the usual portrayal of that “profession” as humorous fodder for sitcom audiences, Volley instead depicts a Pyramid Scheme-style world of grasping aspirations, sinister manipulation and always shifting targets.
Colin has been working door-to-door with his sales team for years to finally attain his life goal – to become the head of his own sales office. On the brink of finally achieving it he is told that the terms of that promotion have changed at the last moment. Now desperate to hit a new target before deadline, Colin must also deal with Paul, the rival for his regional manager role, and a gang of ruthless loan sharks who are doggedly on his trail…
In the pages of The Opportunity, Volley brings to life an environment where lies are mantra, the daily cycle of self-deception and obfuscation is welcome routine and inter-relationships are sales strategy. As observer the reader looks on in muted yet fascinated horror at how individuals like Colin and company have constructed and blindly justified their own self-centred codes of ethics, and their morally oblivious contempt for anyone who impacts on their personal progression. It’s by establishing our hypnotic captivation with the sheer awfulness of this cast of characters that Volley deftly overcomes the difficulty of a narrative with hardly a single sympathetic character within its pages.
That’s an important factor because, not only are we unable to empathise with the cast, we also don’t even have the consolation of waiting to see them get their comeuppance – as, to all intents and purposes, they’re already living it. There’s something almost voyeuristic here, then, that makes up for our impossibility in connecting with these wretched individuals as they go about their day-to-day predatory door-knocking rituals in the name of various vague charity enterprises. Or maybe it’s just that their grasping mendacity makes us come away from the pages of The Opportunity feeling so much better about ourselves…
Volley’s dark and subtly menacing visuals perfectly complement his grim tale with an almost mainstream noirish feel to them. They’re realistic and yet moodily melodramatic. Characters like Colin’s naturalistic depiction has a strangely unreal quality to it as well: a piercing stare that even from the confines of the page looks through the reader on occasions, emphasising his obsessive commitment to his cause. In the book’s latter stages, as Colin’s life begins to collapse around him, Volley’s sudden visual loosening on the grip of reality is all the more effective in communicating Colin’s mental plight for its contrasting unyielding rigidity in the preceding pages.
Atmospheric and frighteningly entrancing, The Opportunity is a contemporary urban fable that presents a world that is both familiar and yet totally detached from our experiences; one that even in the book’s final moments we are reminded has a beguiling, addictive lure all of its own…
Will Volley • Myriad Editions, £12.99
You can buy The Opportunity online here.