Title: Man in the Empty Suit
Author: Sean Ferrell. He is the author of a previous novel, Numb.
Genre: Sci-Fi, Mystery
Summary: Say you’re a time traveler and you’ve already toured the entirety of human history. After a while, the outside world might lose a little of its luster. That’s why this time traveler celebrates his birthday partying with himself. Every year, he travels to an abandoned hotel in New York City in 2071, the hundredth anniversary of his birth, and drinks twelve-year-old Scotch (lots of it) with all the other versions of who he has been and who he will be. Sure, the party is the same year after year, but at least it’s one party where he can really, well, be himself.
The year he turns 39, though, the party takes a stressful turn for the worse. Before he even makes it into the grand ballroom for a drink he encounters the body of his forty-year-old self, dead of a gunshot wound to the head.
Read If You Enjoy unusual, abstract and mind-bending reads.
When I read the synopsis of this book from the publisher, I was intrigued. Writing time travel novels is very complicated, and I was curious to find out the author, Sean Ferrell’s, perspective in all the interwoven elements of a novel. I wanted to be challenged intellectually while being entertained.
This book didn’t disappoint. While following the main character’s adventure through time, readers are able to face the questions and complications of time travel head on. These challenge the brain, but do not overwhelm, letting the reader enjoy the book as both a brain teaser and a novel.
The main character has issues with himself and others, and he learns from life as he lives it. Because of this, though he can travel through time, I found him to be pretty easy to relate to, though incredibly selfish. The story kept me enthralled while reading, but the book keeps me thinking and imagining still. While the book isn’t perfect, Ferrell did a great job with the characters, writing, and time travel.
Mary Liz Bio
What just happened? Was that a dream? Sean Ferrell’s Man in the Empty Suit is as much of a mystery to me on the final page as it was on the first.
The story begins with an action packed section that has you racing along trying to keep up with all of the new character introductions and bits of information each one drops about a murder that has taken place. Just when the drama is at its peak the story takes a dramatic turn and you are no longer reading a sci-fi time traveling murder mystery but a dystopian romance. While this middle section sucked me in and kept me wanting to know more, it was completely different from the beginning of the book. Everything from the pacing to the tone had changed. Unfortunately, the unsatisfying ending and not the shifting style of the prose became the most disappointing part of reading the Man in the Empty Suit. I love a good puzzle of a story but I felt like I needed a missing secret decoder or perhaps Dr. Who to help me figure out how to put the pieces of this book together.
In the end, it was like waking up from a dream where people you vaguely know are just dropping over the biggest hill on a roller coaster then suddenly and inexplicably are in a car driving down a country lane in spring. While you were in the dream it was lovely and entertaining but reflecting back on it nothing quite fits together. The Man in the Empty Suit is a quick and enjoyable read with some interesting characters and imaginative settings but generally it left me confused and with many unanswered questions.
It took me awhile to decide if I liked this book or not. I am not a fan of Science Fiction and I really not a fan of time travel books. The writing was great and the story moved along nicely. At times I even felt “The Man in the Suit’s” anguish and frustration at not being to change the future. But the paradoxes of time travel and the barrage of characters that were the same person at different ages was annoying to me.
In deciding if I liked it, it came down to would I recommend this book to others or reread the book? And I decided yes to both. I don’t think the book is for everyone but if you already like sci-fi and books on time travel then you should add this book to your to be read list. And I would reread the book, I liked “the Man in the Suit” as a character. The story was new to me and I found it intriguing. Once I got past the mental hump I was having with the characters I enjoyed reading the book.
The Man in the Empty Suit is a challenging but rewarding read that comes across as the love-child of Phillip K. Dick, Junot Diaz and Charles Yu deciding to write a novel together. That would be quite a trick, as Mr. Dick is dead, but then again, so is the nameless time traveling main character in the story. Well, or at least “He” (who apparently must remain nameless) will be once He visits the 60th (or so) Annual Birthday Party “Convention” He throws for himself in an abandoned hotel in a largely abanonded New York City 60 (or so) years from now.
If you are jaded on time travel books, Sean Ferrell will surprise you. Not only does Mr. Nameless manage to whip up several new time travel conventions, including 21 “Rules” that the author uses as an index, not in any particular order, to the events in the book. These Rules are honored not only in the breach, but also in the observance as Mr. Nameless first experiences what should be yet another “just like last year” party with 60 (or so) iterations of himself, but instead finds that his world is crumbling as each of the Rules is broken. The accumulating broken rules soon lead to one of his “selves” killing another self, and all the different versions of Mr. Nameless wondering if they are about to cease to exist due to a time traveling paradox, while the “initial” Mr. Nameless tries to find the killer (himself) and prevent the murder (of himself).
Just like in Diaz’s Oscar Wao, the prose will keep you entertained as you are navigated through this murder mystery. Just like with Yu’s Science Fictional Universe, Mr. Nameless is fascinating if hard to relate to and not the easiest or most enjoyable read until you get through the first few chapters. Man in the Empty Suit is written in an (ultra) first-person shooter style perspective that will treat you to a type of time travel where you experience what it would have been like if you would have chosen not get up this morning and what it would have been like if you did.
It’s always interesting to read time travel fiction that addresses head on the issue of what happens when the traveler encounters past and present versions of himself. The Man in the Empty Suit actually might have the best-explained base of time travel logic I’ve ever read, even though the structure of the mystery Ferrell lays on top of that base has some gaping holes.
While I enjoyed the story as an intellectual exercise (aside from the plot holes), this was not the most pleasant read. The unnamed main character’s emotional self-flagellation reached painful levels in the slow middle third of the book, and the plodding time spent filling in the backstory of another major character would have been much better spent developing the main character’s history. These flaws aside, the story has great bones and is a quick, smart read.
Read Instead: If you’re looking for a better rounded emotional story with a time travel setting, read The Time Traveler’s Wife again.
Man in the Empty Suit will be released on Tuesday, February 5th. Thanks to Soho Press for providing our readers with access to e-galleys of this book. You can find author Sean Ferrell on his website or on Twitter.