The Man in the Empty Suit follows an unnamed time traveller as he attends his 39th birthday at the Boltzman Hotel. While your mind is probably imagining a lavish party with friends and loved ones, you’d be mistaken. The only people in attendance happen to be multiple versions of the protagonist who all travel to this date and location every year – the year 2071.
Things are going swimmingly until a future version of the narrator is murdered. The present narrator isn’t sure who’s behind the dirty deed but is almost certain it has to be himself, albeit either a past or future version of himself. Author Sean Ferrell asks the question: how can you solve a crime when you’re the victim, the suspect, and the detective?
I really had to work at this book to get to the end. That isn’t a knock at the quality nor the author’s ability to structure a narrative, it was just a difficult read. With The Man in the Empty Suit, I couldn’t tell you the amount of times I had to tell myself to stick with it; to stay with the author because everything will eventually fall into place. The truth is, I’ve always struggled with non-linear storytelling and with this novel, reading it was like trying to force open my skull and cram information into my brain that didn’t immediately make sense, kind of like your body rejecting a recently transplanted organ.
And things do eventually settle down. After the murder, when the narrator decides to kill time before his next birthday (and death-day) bash, he bums around the ruins of 2071 New York City, waiting for his chance to confront his would be assassin. While the sordid state of the Big Apple is never explained, I kind of like it when authors do that sort of thing – “here’s the end of the world, good luck guessing how it happened!” I enjoyed that section of the story over the chaotic beginning – here, the characters and setting have room to breathe and grow.
This was an interesting read to say the least seeing as I do love me a good time travel yarn.