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February 12, 2013 / Leslie

Review: The Man in the Empty Suit by Sean Ferrell

Man In The Empty Suit by Sean FerrellThe Man In The Empty Suit
by Sean Ferrell

Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Soho Press
Publish Date: February 5, 2013
Format: Hardcover | 300 pages

Suspend your belief. You’re a time traveler. You’re bored. You’ve been everywhere throughout human history. You crave a little entertainment. So every year on your birthday you travel to an abandoned hotel in 2071 New York and party with … yourself!

Every year you arrive at the party and all the guests are versions of you at different ages: older versions, younger versions, but still all YOU. There’s a set of rules spelled out that you need to adhere to so nothing gets messed up in the timeline. But this time something does get messed up. The year you turn 39 you encounter the dead body of your 40-year-old self. Later a women shows up at the party and the only guests that should be there are YOU. Now you have a year to figure out went very wrong, and all your lives hang in the balance.

Are you still with me? Science fiction fans and anyone that wants to read something very, very, very different, stick around.

This is not a time travel story in the traditional sense. This is reality-bending, mind-twisting time travel filled with more paradoxes than you can even begin to count. It brought to mind Michael Moorcock’s Dancer’s at the End of Time, or most anything by P.K. Dick, known for his surreal fantasies.

The first hundred pages were confusing and I felt like the story was going in circles. I didn’t like the guy in the suit (who never does give us his name) and all of the characters at this point were different versions of him, some more appealing than others. There was frustratingly little detail about the world of 2071. Infrastructure was breaking down, but I wanted to know why Manhattan was mostly deserted. Why was it in decay? And then there were all the parrots. Twice I almost gave up and abandoned the book in confusion, but it was such an interesting premise and had so much potential that I persevered. And I’m glad I did.

At about the half-way point things get interesting, and I was finding it easier to understand what was going on. Our man jumps back in time to six months before the party to prevent another death, a couple of new characters are introduced, and we get some background on Lily, the woman who showed up at the party but didn’t belong there, and there was more about those parrots, too. More pieces begin to fall into place during the six months preceding the night of the party, but ultimately we end up back where the book began, at the birthday party.

I tend to give science fiction a little more leeway on plot and world building. The writing is good, but the reader is kept deliberately disoriented and perplexed, and while I liked the story and loved the concept, the confusing nature of the plot at times left me unsatisfied. Perhaps if I re-read the book I’d pick up a lot more detail and insight, and maybe someday I will.

This book is not for everyone. It takes a little work to read, but if you enjoy a complex, mind-bending plot with a little mystery, thriller, and science fiction mixed in, then I recommend giving this book a chance.

Source: Review copy.
© 2013 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.


Leave a Comment
  1. Leeswammes / Feb 12 2013 1:56 pm

    Well done for reading it all the way. I gave up about half-way as you know. I think it was a little too experimental for me. At the least I wanted some more world building and a bit more background on the guy (what was he doing when he wasn’t at his party, i.e., the rest of the year?).


    • Leslie / Feb 12 2013 2:45 pm

      Even when we think we knew something about him, it changed, or had the potential to change by doing or not doing something the second time he visited the party. It was very surreal. And now I’m wondering if there was more than one reality and I … maybe… missed it? And I’m still not sure I completely understand the parrots. A book group discussion on this could go on for hours.


  2. BermudaOnion / Feb 12 2013 3:43 pm

    This is probably not for me but I suspect my sister would love it.


    • Leslie / Feb 12 2013 4:06 pm

      No, I don’t think you would last very long with this one. If your sister does read it I’d love to hear her opinion.


  3. Suko / Feb 12 2013 4:50 pm

    It sounds as if you’d really need to concentrate on this one to really “get” it–which is not a bad way to read or listen to a book! Excellent review, Leslie! The book sounds complex and quite worth reading (or listening to).


  4. stacybuckeye / Feb 13 2013 6:45 am

    This looks like to much work forme, but I bet my husband would love it!!



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