cover image Man in the Empty Suit

Man in the Empty Suit

Sean Ferrell. Soho, $24.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-61695-125-2

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.)