Man in the Empty Suit by 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… (via Goodreads)
Time travel. It’s basically a set up for narrative failure. Usually, a paradox is involved. A paradox is defined as “an argument that produces an inconsistency, typically within logic or common sense.” Those are things that a writer tries to avoid when writing. Time travel stories are usually saved by their fantasy quality. The technology is so far out that belief is pretty quickly suspended. Really, as long as a time travel story isn’t overly confused or obfuscatory, I’m good with it.
Sean Ferrell does a really good job writing a fairly complex time travel story without it getting muddled. For the first third of the story, the only character is the main character–or rather versions of himself. Yet, interactions between the character are clear and surprisingly interesting. Similarly, events that are repeated are given enough of a twist to keep them fresh. Ferrell is at his best when writing tense, paranoid, cat-and-mouse interactions. Basically, this book is most enjoyable when its being a noir mystery. After the first third, the book takes a bit of turn–out of the shadows and into the sun, if you will. It’s narratively important to move on to this, but not quite as interesting. There were points in the story when I really wanted beat the main character with a bat, but the ending of the book is good.
Man in the Empty Suit is slated for release on Feb. 5th from Soho Press.
(First book I read this year, third review.)
Genre: Sci-Fi Noir
Why did I choose to read this book? Saw it on NetGallley, sounded interesting.
Did I finish this book? (If not, why?) Finished! It was the first book of the year.
Craft Lessons: It’s okay for a character to be unlikeable as long as what’s going on around him is interesting.
Format: Kindle eBook, read mostly on my Kindle