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Man in the Empty Suit Hardcover – February 5, 2013

3.2 out of 5 stars 66 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Ferrell, whose first novel, Numb (2010), followed a man with amnesia, ups the offbeat ante with this unique time-travel story. For the past 19 years, the unnamed narrator has been traveling back to New York City in 2071, where he gathers in a deserted hotel with various other iterations of himself, from the past and the future, and celebrates his birthday. But this year a body turns up dead, shot in the head, and it looks like the narrator is going to die, too. The book is part murder mystery and part mind-bending time-travel story. Consider this wrinkle: if the narrator is going to die in the very near future, then how can the very-much-older versions of himself still exist? And what about all those very-much-younger versions who are suddenly at the party? And who the heck is the woman named Lily, and how did she get there? Full of imagination and head-scratching conundrums, the novel may be too unusual to attract a mass audience, but it should definitely appeal to those who enjoy offbeat sf and mystery fiction. --David Pitt


Praise for Man in the Empty Suit

"Ferrell's humor and invention will draw you in, and the real emotion in his writing will keep you reading. A clever premise that deepens into a surprising and moving story about fate, identity, and how we shape our own lives and the lives of those around us."
—Charles Yu, author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe

“A tour de force. Ferrell's skill in plotting is matched only by his ability to bring fully-formed characters to life. A moving and brilliantly-executed puzzle of a novel.”
—Emily St. John Mandel, author of The Lola Quartet

"Ferrell makes a strong case to be the Kurt Vonnegut of his generation. Man in the Empty Suit is alternately funny, sad, and thought-provoking.... I wish I could travel back in time and write this book myself."
Andrew Shaffer, bestselling author of Fifty Shames of Earl Grey

"Man in the Empty Suit is a marvel: a complicated, soul searching, entirely riveting piece of work."
Marcy Dermansky, author of Bad Marie

“An arresting setup—the same character is simultaneously the murder victim, suspect, and investigator—and Ferrell exploits it carefully... [presenting] the reader with some ugly truths about life and owning up to who we really are. Ferrell himself has jokingly called it the time-travel book of 3102, but I wouldn't suggest waiting that long.”
The Atlantic

“[Man in the Empty Suit has] an ingenious setup....Both Looper and Man In The Empty Suit track the trajectory of a pained, lonely man who learns what it means to sacrifice for the sake of another’s well-being.”
The A.V. Club

“Ferrell’s novel satisfies as both a tale of a four-dimensional conspiracy and as a stark meditation on solitude.”
Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“An exceptional read for any sci-fi fan who enjoys a challenge.”
—The Maine Edge

“Ferrell (Numb) has written a brain-teasing, paradox-defying, time travel mystery in the tradition of such pretzel-bending-logic classics as Fritz Leiber’s The Big Time and Robert A. Heinlein’s 'By His Bootstraps.'”
Publishers Weekly

"Engaging and thought-provoking...It will also appeal to readers of Stephen King’s 11/22/63."
—Library Journal

"Full of imagination and head-scratching conundrums... It should definitely appeal to those who enjoy offbeat sf and mystery fiction."

"Man in the Empty Suit has a clever enough premise that it could be straight out of a Philip K. Dick or Kurt Vonnegut novel.”
—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“Out of this intriguing premise Sean Ferrell proceeds to spin a dark hybrid of Paul Auster and the film Memento, complete with a mysterious love interest... Best of all, however, is the evocation of mid-21st century New York as a melancholy, dilapidated place high in entropy, cluttered with ruined buildings, and weirdly infested with parrots.”
—The Toronto Star

"Man in the Empty Suit is a rich, complex novel.... a slightly sinister, brooding tale of death and lost love."

“A most unusual murder mystery.”
—Mysterious Reviews

“Enter a mysterious woman with parrot tattoos, a post-apocalyptic Manhattan, Vonnegut-sharp humor and Hemingway-spare prose, and you’ve got some seriously good sci-fi. VERDICT: Buy, you fools!”
Book Riot

“A cerebral, noirish, and very unusual novel … a challenge for me to put down. This one made me think about it long after I was finished.”
My Bookish Ways

“This is trippy book; a great read... Ferrell spins a web of lies, deceit, and self-loathing, sprinkles it with intelligent humor and wit, a dash of love and loss, and presents it to the reader on a silver platter.”
—The Examiner

“[Man in the Empty Suit] is tickling the Dr. Who parts of my brain, but in a really dark kind of way.... As you can imagine, this has one hell of an opening line: It is unfortunate for me that I am, by most any objective measure, a genius. Quite the set up for an interesting story.”
—A Home Between Pages

Praise for Sean Ferrell's Numb

"Ferrell's eye-catching debut is a mordant take on contemporary culture."
Kirkus Reviews

"Offbeat.... The book has a lot of heart."
Publishers Weekly

"A masterwork of transgressive fiction."
David Brown, writer for The Week, The Atlantic, and Mental Floss

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Soho Press; 1st edition (February 5, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616951257
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616951252
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,322,522 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
It's difficult to pull off a Grandfather Paradox story, although many have tried. The paradox is often resolved by having the paradox-creating event give birth to a parallel universe, which strikes me as a copout. Kudos to Sean Ferrell for constructing an intricate time travel mystery thriller that puts a fresh spin on a familiar theme. I'm not sure Man in the Empty Suit resolves the paradox (although, to be fair, a true paradox is by definition irresolvable), but Ferrell uses it to advance an interesting, offbeat story.

Ferrell's version of Dr. Who's TARDIS is a raft that floats through time. Every year on his birthday, a time traveler attends a party on April 1, 2017 at the Boltzmann Hotel in a decayed, dystopian Manhattan. He is the only person in the ballroom, but since he does this as a tradition, there are many of him, one from each year in which he has made the birthday trek. He names his different selves -- Yellow, Seventy, the Nose, the Drunk, the Inventor -- although we never learn the traveler's true name. His younger selves ("the Youngsters") mock his older selves ("the Elders") although most of his selves of every age devote the evening to drunkenness. The alcohol fueled fuzz assures that the party will seem fresh every year.

The story begins on the traveler's 39th birthday. The party proceeds as expected until the next oldest version of the traveler dies in an elevator. The Elders don't understand the paradox of their continued life after their obvious death. They do understand that their memories are becoming unreliable. The 39-year-old traveler (known at that age as the Suit) is tasked with investigating.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"Man In The Empty Suit" is a sometimes delightful and sometimes frustrating murder mystery and thriller predicated on time travel and the paradoxes and anomalies it encompasses. Our protagonist has used his time travel "raft" to visit exhaustively the times and places in the stream of history but masochistically elects to return to an old seedy hotel in Manhattan each year to celebrate his birthday surrounded by multiple iterations of himself at every age since his time travelling began. The unnamed protagonist remembers himself in the past and future by one-word names such as the Suit or 70 or Screwdriver or the Nose or the Body or The Drunk or Savior or Yellow et cetera.

However, during his visit on his 39th birthday, anomalies begin occurring, most notably the murder of the Suit (himself a year from now) and the appearance of a woman at his party for the first time ever. What is causing these anomalies that are beginning to "untether" him and others from the remembered stream of experience? He has one year to investigate the murder and its apparently concomitant anomaly in order to prevent its reoccurrence next year on his 40th birthday which would apparently destroy any future forms of himself. Whew!

As in most time travel sagas, small changes in the past can result in major time space differences. Time travel theory posits that if something, no matter how small, is changed in the past...it will change dramatically how things evolve in the future with events spinning out of control and each individual affected suddenly feeling untethered.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
One of the first things our protagonist tells us is that he's a certified genius and that he invented time travel. He has to tell the readers this, since he doesn't seem to have an awful lot of people to talk to about it. He mentions his travels back in time, but apparently he likes to just blend in there, or just observe.

You'd think he could really let down his hair at his annual birthday party, a/k/a the "Convention," where he celebrates with all his selves, but that group is a real downer. The young ones (the "Brats") get drunk, pull juvenile pranks and complain about how boring their elder selves turn out. The elders mostly drink a lot, too, but they're more circumspect and they are irritated by their Brat-era selves.

Now it's 2071, the 100th year since the narrator invented time travel, and our 39-year-old narrator parks his time-travel raft in Central Park and makes his way through the largely deserted and crumbling Manhattan to the Boltzmann Hotel for the Convention. He's excited about this year's party, because this year he's "The Suit;" wearing an extremely dapper suit he found in Chicago and that all his selves have admired at every birthday party he's attended.

This year becomes far more remarkable when the Suit meets his six-months-older self (who shouldn't even be there, since it's not his birthday), and Mr. Six Months shortly thereafter is shot and killed by an unseen assailant. Uh oh. The Suit is quick to figure out that he'd better solve--and prevent--this crime in the next six months or there won't be a Convention for him next year. And hey, why is there a woman at the Convention this year, when there never has been one before?

That sounds like a pretty lucid setup, right?
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