Man in the Empty Suit
NEW on shelves today…
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The old man’s rheumy eyes watered at me. “Welcome to the secret club of the convention, boy. Now you know. This is where you die.”
Safe time travel requires rules, and the narrator of this one sticks to his, especially when he, every 365 days, returns to April 1, 2071 at a deserted hotel in a ruined Manhattan for a reunion with his past and future selves. But when he begins to break his own rules, starting with “#3 If it broke before, let it break again.” he finds himself trapped in his own paradox which leads to not only his own death six months in the future, but also the death of a beautiful stranger — both at the hands of another one of himselves. He now must work through the clues, not knowing which of himselves to trust, or which are even tethered to his own timeline.
The first chapters of this book left me giddy. Time travel is definitely one of my favorite genres (can I call it a genre all its own?) and the fact that — instead of avoiding his past and future selves — this time traveler blatantly laughs in the face of the time-space continuum and meets with dozens of himself at a time each year, despite the fact that he tends to despise all of these other versions of himself, to whom he gives clever and often self-depreciating nicknames like Seventy, Yellow, and The Nose. His self-hatred makes him an interesting character, where he can be both the hero, the victim, the suspect, and the villain all at the same time. My mind is still trying to wrap itself around how all of the pieces fit together.
There was, however, a large (six-month long) chunk in the middle where the narrator stayed in one time period, and although necessary to the story, my attention did wane and I found myself urging the narrator to get on with it and go to the party already. There were a few loose ends that left me a bit disjointed. Some of these things can be assumed (Highlight for Spoiler: For instance, I’m assuming Sober is himself in the future, perhaps actually a year older than Suit, but with Drunk’s watch, but it’s hard to tell which incarnations are tethered to the narrator’s timeline and which are not. ) Some can also be explained away by the untethered timeline which he creates (Highlight for Spoiler: Obviously Screwdriver has a mirror image tattoo, so he’s NOT part of the same timeline so we won’t hear his side of the events), but I’d have liked perhaps a bit more tidy resolution.
Heads up: There are a few single-paragraph sexual encounters, and quite a bit of cursing and swearing.
Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy of this book!
Overall: The most mind-blowing time travel novel I’ve read, with enough paradoxes that I’m surprised the fabric of time and universe itself are still intact. My brain is still reeling.