Man in the Empty Suit, by Sean Ferrell

Man in the Empty SuitIf I could only have one word to describe this novel, it would be this: Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat.

Fortunately? Unfortunately? One of those is the adverb for the fact that I have many more words about this book, most of which will probably be me talking myself through what this book even was.

Let’s start here: I made Scott pick a book for me to read off of my over-stuffed library books shelf, and he picked this one because, really, awesome cover. I started it immediately because, also, awesome jacket copy. To wit: “Sure, the party is the same year after year, but at least it’s one party where he can really, well, be himself.” Teehee! I remembered checking this book out because of previous weirdly awesome books like The Rook and The Man from Primrose Lane, and I was excited.

The story started off awesomely, with a list of rules about attending time travel parties and a great description of how incredibly excited our nameless protagonist was to be attending the party this year as The Suit, a classy version of himself that he had long aspired to be. Then things go terribly wrong and he finds himself… he finds some other himself dead in an elevator, which is a problem because a) no one likes to be dead and b) there are mysteriously several other himselfs (himselves?) much older than the dead himself still hanging around the party, hoping maybe someone will figure out what is going on. Our protag is nominated to be that someone, and so he goes around learning what he can about the dead himself but also finding out that this party is not quite the same one he remembers and that those rules from the beginning of the book are not actually unbreakable.

After getting through the first half or so of the book I realized it was quite late, and since I was at a natural stopping point I went ahead and had myself a nap. Then I got busy for a couple of days, but soon enough I was ready to dive back into this weird world. But alas! Like Heart-Shaped Box before it, this book has two distinctly different sections, and I found the second one kind of… boring. I mean, it was interesting, because the narrative leaves the time party and gets into what sort of city New York has become in this future, and how people interact with each other, or don’t, but it’s certainly not the running, jumping, climbing trees excitement of the first section. And when the story did eventually get back to the party, I found that I had not done a good job of remembering which self was which and how they all connected and Ferrell does not provide much help, which I like in theory but apparently not when I just want to know how this crazy story is going to end!

And that end… I’m still not sure what to make of it. It’s a fitting end, and perfectly reasonable given the rest of the story, but I still feel like it could have been… different. I don’t know. This seems like one of those stories you really have to read a second (or third) time to really understand what’s going on, but I’m not sure I would want to, knowing how it ends. Maybe I’ll just read the first section again, so I can figure out how everything at the party fits together (or doesn’t)? Anyway, it’s a fun ride and I’m not sad that I went on it!

Recommendation: Hmm. If any of this sounds interesting to you, I’d say read it, but definitely don’t read it in the two sittings I did! All one go or maybe a chapter at a time would probably be better.

Rating: 7/10