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Man in the Empty Suit

3.13  ·  Rating details ·  2,849 ratings  ·  611 reviews
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 ( ...more
Hardcover, 306 pages
Published February 5th 2013 by Soho Press
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Average rating 3.13  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,849 ratings  ·  611 reviews

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Feb 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
chapter 1 - ok i'm hooked. damn that was effective.
chapter 2 - already picturing David Lynch directing the movie version
chapter 3 - most genius chapter ever since the dawn of chapters.
chapter 7 - cracked book open a couple hours ago and might have to call out sick tomorrow so i can finish this.
chapter 9 - my brain has never hurt so good. total mind F*.
chapter 12 - i'd suck at time travel, i could not handle this. this is a lot to handle.
chapter 15 - whoa. wait ... what?? whoa. i can't ... i can
Andrew Smith
Feb 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A real surprise this one, I loved it.

It's one of the most original time travel books I've read (and I've read a few). A thoughtful tale of a time traveller who returns to a hotel on his birthday where the only other attendees are himself, at different ages, some older and some younger than his current 39 years. What happens next is perplexing, confusing and utterly compelling.

I'm not sure I understood every plot twist or even followed the story that accurately, in fact I found myself regularly
May 19, 2013 rated it it was ok
Time travel stories live or die by their adherence to internal rules. This book never establishes how time travel functions, so anything can and does happen, and it is enormously unsatisfying. Also, moritorium on using the phrase "entered her" as a euphamism for sex. You can do it (tee hee!), at most, once per book. ...more
Nethra Ram
Mar 01, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A very interesting premise ruined by sloppy narration that gets boring with every other page. I didn't particularly want to finish it. The book is based on the grandfather paradox but the plot doesn't make it intriguing in the least bit. Too many copies of the hero, who is a self-proclaimed selfish, careless whiner, occupy every page and if that doesn't get annoying in a while this fact certainly will lead you to it -one or other of these copies keep ordering another to do something, copy X rude ...more
Jun 16, 2015 rated it liked it
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 d
Feb 10, 2013 rated it liked it
I really wanted to love this book, but I didn't. It had ingredients that I normally delight in: time travel, mind-bending paradox, creepy/weird semi-abandoned future city. What a cool premise: a man invents a time travel vehicle, and leaps forward a century to throw a party for himself. Every year, he goes to the party, so the place is packed with versions of him of all different ages. But what happens when he (view spoiler)? How can he stop the chain o ...more
Jan 27, 2013 rated it really liked it

My brain feels something like this after reading this novel: full of explosions. The Paradox Problem has always been an issue when a good author takes on time travel. Sean Ferrell not only takes on the Paradox Problem, but throws it in your face. The book has a little bit of a Doctor Who in Pompeii feel to it.

A time traveler, whose first name is never given (correct? Unless I missed it somewhere) decides, when he's 19, that every year on his birthday, he is going to travel to 100 years after the
Sam Sattler
Jan 25, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: time-travel
Time travel novels, despite the well-known paradoxes associated with the theory of time travel, generally make for fun reading. For example, how could a person go back in time and accidentally kill his own grandfather when that means that he would have never existed to be able to time travel in the first place? But that kind of mind-twister is all part of the fun.

Sean Ferrell's Man in the Empty Suit puts a complicated, mind-bending twist on that old paradox. But Ferrell's story, while it is cert
Feb 10, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: sci-fi-fantasy
This story is based on the interesting premise of a time traveler gathered at a convention of himself at all ages, and it presents the possibility of being interesting--but it's not. The protagonist has the emotional appeal of a robot and despite the fact that there are literally hundreds of versions of himself, we know nothing about him. We don't know his interests, his philosophy, his beliefs, or his likes or dislikes. We never find out why he decided to set up this party in the first place, a ...more
The Man in the Empty Suit is book that is so extraordinary that I am having trouble finding the right words to describe it. I was blown away by this book. Cool and awesome just don't cover it, and amazing doesn't either. Unique is clearly part of it, but doesn't do it either, imaginative is part, but not all. You know, I could string adjectives here for days and not really put together how I feel about this book. Reading was a truly unique experience for me. It was a new type of book – a type of ...more
I thought that perhaps I wasn't appreciating this time travel novel in the proper way and should try to read it while imbibing alcoholic libations like the main character seems to do so much of. And I was right; the weird was nearly sane with a bit of a foggy brain and kind of matched the atmosphere of the book. But, at the end of the day, I just didn't care for this novel. The main character is loathsome. He time travels year after year to get drunk at the same party where the only guest is var ...more
Feb 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
Well this was a fun book.
That seems to come across disparagingly. Like watching a Michael Bay movie instead of going to see that smart, low budget indie. Maybe you wanna eat Cheezey Bacon-Ranch Zingers instead of the grilled salmon, I don't know...
I digress, but I assure you this book is much much better than eating deep fried bacon ranch cheese balls while watching Transformers.
The story is that of time traveling narrator who meets up with himself every year on his birthday. To celebrate his
Allen Adams
Feb 08, 2013 rated it really liked it

Ferrell has created a richly complicated world that explores the idea of time travel paradoxes in a fascinating way. His narrator is trapped between wanting to follow the script that has long been established and needing to make the changes required to save his own life. When these shifts occur – he calls it “untethering” – it creates uncertainty, which the narrator has never had to deal with since inventing the time machine. He’s never sure if what he’s d
Sean Ferrell's Man in the Empty Suit takes the idea of time travel and possible paradoxes to a whole new level. His Time Traveler has a major dilemma. Every year he travels to an abandoned hotel in the New York City of 2071 to celebrate his birthday. It's an exclusive party--just for him....and his past and future time-traveling selves. Nothing really extraordinary ever happens until the year he turns 39. He's on his way to the grand ballroom to get a celebratory drink when he encounters his 40- ...more
Tasha Robinson
Jan 01, 2014 rated it liked it
Great start, muddled resolution. The plot features a time-traveler who returns to the same hotel every year of subjective personal time, in 2071, which would be his 100th birthday: The result is a time-traveler's convention where he's the only guest, rubbing shoulders with dozens of copies of himself. The plot hook is that one year, he encounters a corpse: His own, a version of him from six months in the future. So it becomes a murder mystery, with the narrator as the detective, the victim, and ...more
Jessica Woodbury
I spent a long time trying to think of the third piece of the formula that makes up this book. I had the first two parts: Paul Auster plus Raymond Chandler plus... who? Luckily someone else read the book and gave me the third part.

So this book is Paul Auster + Raymond Chandler + Philip K. Dick. It has Auster's sense of disorientation and detachment, Chandler's twists and turns that don't always make sense, and Dick's tendency to take sci-fi conventions and turn them on their head.

Telling you tha
Stephen Ormsby
Oct 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
This is one mind-bending, mind-blowing experience. I absolutely loved it. Being lost in a sea of me’s was fascinating, confusing, complex and funny. Every character is a older or younger version of the narrator as they attend a birthday party – for himself.

This is like trying to read Philip K Dick, where every turn of the page reveals another complexity in the miasma of I’s. this id the kind of book that I would love to read.

If you like your time travel paradoxes, multiple versions of the same
Feb 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013-faves
This time-travel novel twisted my brain and I had to stop a few times to contemplate the utter coolness of what was happening. I also wanted to throttle the main character (the version of him that we follow around--you'll know what I mean when you read it) a few times, but he feels like a real person so I suppose that's realistic. So interesting how (and this is not a spoiler; we learn this in the beginning) the main character creates a time machine but doesn't want to sell it or make money off ...more
Feb 28, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
Since the book's about time travel, you dutifully put on your thinking cap and hope for the best. Surprisingly, the best is exactly what you get. You are glued to the page. Feverish. The non-stop excitement doesn't let up until you're halfway through and by then you're fucked. Because the second half falls apart in lots of places (and by "falls apart" I mean "bores the shit out of you"), but at that point, there's no turning back. You're too invested in the outcome, so you slog through all that ...more
Clarissa Simmens
Feb 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I'm a time travel freak so eagerly began reading the book. Hmmmm, if you are a stickler for a minimum amount of paradoxes, this is not the book for you. In fact, it's not really about time traveling, at least to my way of thinking. Thought-provoking? Definitely! What is the theme? There have been many terrific reviews so I do not want to repeat anything, but I would like to quote a line from Ferrell's book that is important, in its simplicity: "But right now you've got to move forward with your ...more
Sean Randall
Feb 12, 2013 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 13, 2013 rated it it was ok
This was a fairly unusual instance of a great cover hiding a dissapointing book. It could just be the way my brain is wired, but I'm not crazy about time travel paradoxes. Sure, it makes for fun movies like Terminator, but also for frustatingly convoluted reads like this one. While fairly well written, the story was just too warped and tortuous to be enjoyable and none of the characters (most of whom more accurately versions of the same one) were particularly engaging. The overall story was blea ...more
Andrew Shaffer
Jul 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
With "Man in the Empty Suit," 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. A serious mindfuck. I wish I could travel back in time and write this book myself. ...more
Jun 02, 2017 rated it it was ok
The idea of a time traveler who celebrates his birthday with all the other versions of himself from ages 18 to 70 sounds really intriguing, and is the primary reason I decided to read this book (the secondary reason is because I liked the cover haha). I told my brother about it and he thought it would make a great movie, but, aside from the visual of one guy at different ages all in one room, what makes that a good story? I don't know, and I don't think the author knew, either.

There was a romant
Jan 15, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Self-loathing ran in both directions, I realized. I could hate both who I had been and who I would become. It was efficient.”

A murder mystery set at a time traveller’s party, where the victim and every suspect is him.
I liked the concept more than the actual experience of the book. But I think those that enjoy the character development more than plot might enjoy it more than I did.
Sarah Morvay
Mar 29, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club-reads
I was pretty disappointed in this book. The concept sounded so interesting and exciting but I couldn't wrap my mind around the logistics of the time travel and multiple versions of one person being 'tethered and untethered'. I liked the writing style though and I wasn't bored reading it, I was just waiting for that "ah-ha" moment where everything clicks and my mind is blown - and it never came. ...more
The actual craft of the writing of this book was worthy of more stars, but the story drove me crazy with its inconsistent logic.
In this one, a frankly dull and annoying man seems to have been the first to invent time travel. Possibly as a result of his own nature, his travels to the past come across as dull and unbelievable, but the story centers on the future, where he has his annual birthday party. The same one every year, with all of his annual selves invited. For reasons never made clear, th
Jon Schjelderup
May 07, 2021 rated it liked it
One of the most original premises I've read, but I'm not sure it delivered. Still, enjoyable and engrossing read. ...more
This book is why I read outside my literary fiction comfort zones. A time-traveling, dystopian murder mystery with a main cast of one, this book basically blew my mind. I am sitting here, wondering about it all, unable to read anything else.
At first, the premise sounded way too good to be true; no one has ever (to my knowledge) written a novel like this before. When things started getting hairy- and there is no other word I would pick to describe the mess the narrator found himself, in his own l
Feb 11, 2013 rated it liked it
Okay, I've been thinking about this a lot. I originally gave this one two stars but that's really not fair.

Here's the deal, there were sections of this book that were very much two stars. Continuity issues (talk to me about the damn snow), some story lines that felt left hanging or man handled, and lack of any discussion of why the world had gone to shit. Although, the feral parrots were quite cool I thought.

But, there were some story lines that were absolutely lovely and so well written that
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What's the Name o...: SOLVED. Time travel-guy met a lot of himself in a bar. [s] 10 453 Aug 06, 2019 01:05PM  
similarity to a great book? 1 4 Mar 22, 2019 11:41AM  

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Sean Ferrell lives and works in New York City. He writes novels and picture books.

His novels include Man In The Empty Suit and Numb: A Novel.
His picture books are I Don't Like Koala and The Snurtch.

Sean has been published in several literary journals, including The Adirondack Review which awarded him the Fulton Prize for his short story "Building an Elephant."

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“If we place the books randomly, how are they ever found again?'

She smiled. "The books just seem to know to go where they'll be found.”
“The future vibrated with uncertainty. I had failed. I had ignorance. I had hope.” 3 likes
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