Man in the Empty Suit

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Man in the Empty Suit

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this literary excursion into sci-fi, a time traveler has celebrated his birthday every year for almost two decades with past and future versions of himself in an abandoned Manhattan hotel in 2071. What makes his 39th birthday different is the fact that he stumbles across the corpse of his 40-year-old self. Because of a temporal blackout in their memories, none of the future versions of himself, known as Elders, knows what has happened, so they charge the time traveler with finding out how his 40-year-old version will be killed. Further complicating the mystery is the surprising presence of Lily, a lone female party guest. To understand her presence, the time traveler goes back in time to locate Lily at a previous point in her life, in a transformed, postapocalyptic version of the city, ultimately following her back to a hotel, where their entwined fates are revealed. 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.” But with a limited cast of characters, the reader eventually tires of being trapped in this hall of mirrors with a necessarily narcissistic protagonist, who, in the end, is less than the sum of his many selves. Agent: Janet Reid, Fine Print Literary Management. (Feb.)
From the Publisher

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."
—Booklist

"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."
Verbicide

“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

Library Journal
In Ferrell's (Numb) second literary novel, a time traveler gropes his way through a maze of clues and suspicions in an attempt to prevent an event from happening, without creating a paradox in the slipstream of time. The traveler celebrates his 100th birthday every year by traveling to 2071 as a 39-year-old man, to a party attended only by other versions of himself, young and old. But this time, he sees his 40-year-old self murdered. Without the cooperation of his Youngster or Elder selves he must solve the murder by his next birthday. The traveler challenges the conventions of time travel to accomplishwhat seems to be an impossible task. VERDICT For readers willing to jump on for the ride, this fascinating novel is engaging and thought-provoking, requiring concentration and commitment. It will also appeal to readers of Stephen King's 11/22/63.—Susan Carr, Edwardsville P.L., IL
Kirkus Reviews
A time traveler has annual reunions with his younger and older selves, with surreal--and often confusing--results. The narrator begins the novel with "Convention Rules," which can be construed as a pun. The "Rules" include cryptic advice such as "Elders know best," "Try not to ruin the fun for the Youngsters" and "Never reveal the future." In the extensive terminology created here, "Elders" refers to older versions of himself and "Youngsters"...well, mutatis mutandis. Amid the mind-boggling travels across time and space, including the Teutoburg Forest in the first century, when Teutonic tribes slaughtered a group of Roman soldiers, the traveler would invariably set his travel raft to alight in New York on the anniversary of his birthday--April Fool's Day, 2071. There, at the ballroom of the abandoned Boltzmann Hotel, he would have a family reunion of sorts with his various avatars, some of them comically recognizable through fashion statements that have become passé. The traveler identifies these selves with telling, almost allegorical, names (Turtleneck, Ugly Tie, Yellow Sweater, Spats). A tension arises when, on one of his excursions to the Boltzmann, the narrator's 39-year-old self discovers the body of his 40-year-old self (murder? suicide?), and the Elders point out that he's got to figure out this mystery or all of his "future" selves will cease to exist. Ferrell has a lot of fun playing out the ramifications of this paradox and complicates things still further by introducing a mysterious woman who shows up at the "reunion" for the first time. A narrative that strikes the head more than it strikes the heart.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781616951252
  • Publisher: Soho Press, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 2/5/2013
  • Pages: 306
  • Sales rank: 1,005,331
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Sean Ferrell
Sean Ferrell

Sean Ferrell's story "Building an Elephant" won the Fulton Prize from The Adirondack Review; his short stories have appeared in Bossa Nova Ink, WORDS, Uber, and The Cafe Irreal. He lives with his family in Brooklyn, New York. Numb is his first novel.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 5, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    When I picked up NUMB, Sean Ferrell¿s debut novel, I had no idea

    When I picked up NUMB, Sean Ferrell’s debut novel, I had no idea what a treat was in store for me.

    In much the same way, MAN IN THE EMPTY SUIT was a complete surprise to me in all the best ways. I knew going in that it was about time travel, but as with all great works of fiction, it’s not really about time travel. I’m almost afraid to say much of anything substantial in this review for fear of unwrapping your gift instead of allowing you to peel the tape off yourselves.

    MAN IN THE EMPTY SUIT follows many incarnations of the same character—from his youth to his old age—as they meet once a year in the same time/place to celebrate their birthday. Birthdays mean little, as you might imagine, when linear time no longer constricts you, but our main character is a thoughtful man. Instead of sharing his glowing triumph with the world he chooses to spend his time traveling along, but knowing all the versions of the man he has been and will be creates an intricate self-loathing. The year he supposes will be his best, based on observations over many years, arrives with all kinds of surprises…including the first guess at his private party that’s not, well, himself.

    Then there’s the slight issue that the man one year older than he has been murdered, and if he can’t figure out what happens between now and then, the rest of his life will disappear.

    We follow the man as he pursues the answers to his own mystery—along with the mysteries we’re all hoping to solve: what have we learned, who will we be, and is it possible to change our chartered course once we’re already on the tracks.

    I would recommend this thoughtful novel without hesitation to anyone who enjoys a delightful combination of mind bending plot twists and thoughtful ruminations on the lives we lead…and the ones we want to lead.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 28, 2013

    This is trippy book, but it¿s a great read. The idea that a part

    This is trippy book, but it’s a great read. The idea that a party is attended every year by different versions of yourself can be staggering. 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 main character has no name, which allows the reader to insert his or herself into the story with ease. Even the love interest has more than one name, making it difficult to pin her down. This is a complicated story that doesn’t end where you think it will, which makes it all the more intriguing. If you like to be challenged, this is a book for you.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 2, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    This book is a lot different than most books because the main ch

    This book is a lot different than most books because the main character is never given a name. He is just known as "the suit." As some point of his life he invented the raft, which allows him to travel through time. On every birthday, he travels to the year 2071, which is 100 years after his birth year. There he has a party at a New York hotel with only different versions of himself as the guests.
    The suit is not normally a very sociable person, so who better to have a party with than himself (or selves).

    The suit has different names for the different ages of himself such as the inventor, screwdriver, the nose and seventy. This is how he distinguishes himself as each age. The book also has a list of rules that the suit insists on always following one of the main things is to never let a younger version of himself know what will happen.

    The suit arrives at the party on his 39th birthday and all of a sudden, things are different from his last visit including having young versions of himself that shouldn't be there and there is a mysterious woman named Lily. The rest of the book involves the suit trying to solve a mystery that will befall his 40 year old self and to learn the truth behind the mysterious Lily and to figure out who is responsible for everything.

    Though the book sounds interesting I had several problems with it. First it is written in a way that makes it difficult to follow until the reader is well into the story. The book also drags in several places. Lastly, there are several unexplained paradoxes. The future New York is interesting but there is virtually no technology discussed that doesn't exist now.

    If the book weren't so slow in parts, I would try rereading it to see if I could get better answers for my confusion. I give this book a little more than two and a half stars

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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