Man in the Empty Suit
Sean Ferrell

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. As the older versions of himself at the party point out, the onus is on him to figure out what went wrong–he has one year to stop himself from being murdered, or they’re all goners.

As he follows clues that he may or may not have willingly left for himself, he discovers rampant paranoia and suspicion among his younger selves, and a frightening conspiracy among the Elders. Most complicated of all is a haunting woman possibly named Lily who turns up at the party this year, the first person besides himself he’s ever seen at the party. For the first time, he has something to lose. Here’s hoping he can save some version of his own life.

Man in the Empty Suit book cover

The idea behind this book sounds great, the synopsis, when I sent it to two people, got an instant “I want to read that” response from both. Add my own desire to dive in and you’ve got a pretty convincing book jacket…

Unfortunately, the way the description paints the picture is rather different from the story. You go in expecting humour, expecting paradox and interesting time conflicts, and a damn good party – and things fail on all those counts and several others to boot.

There is an interesting sense of a future world, but none of it is explained satisfactorily. There’s potential in the time travel, but any guessing games about what must happen because it already has or what needs to happen to make something else happen that needs to because it already did; the lifeblood of this sort of thing, is conveniently avoided by the concept of untethering – i.e. that the current “him” of the work does something to divorce himself from the other “Hims”, rendering any actions he may or may not choose to pursue moot.

It’s cerebral, to a point. Interesting, perhaps requiring a degree of cognitive capacity I was unprepared to invest. But By any measure, it’s way overpriced for its size and even more so for its potential. Sorry, Sean.

Published by Sean Randall

I am an avid reader, technologist and disability advocate living in the middle of England with my wife, daughter and pets.

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