Man in the Empty Suit - Sean Ferrell 3.5 Stars This review originally posted at The BiblioSanctum.

So every once in a while, I'll come across a book that's just so extraordinary and bizarre that I find myself struggling for the right words to describe it. I both love and hate it when this happens. Love, because chances are it's probably something really unique, and as a reader it's always a joy to find a book that surprises me. Hate, because chances also are I would also be completely torn as to how to rate it.

Man in the Empty Suit is one of these books. Even now I find it hard to sort out my feelings for it. The intellectual theorist in me has her mind blown and wants to praise this book for daring to be different and a little strange, for having the guts to spit into the face of time travel paradoxes and say, "I just don't give a damn." The casual reader in me, however, feels there's something integral missing from the experience.

The book's description about its time traveling protagonist was what initially caught my attention. Every year, our narrator travels to a dilapidated New York City hotel in 2071 (the 100th anniversary of his birth) to party it up with all the versions of his past and future selves. And every year, it's the same -- until the year he turns 39 and becomes "The Suit", named for the dapper outfit he wears to the celebration. This time, the unexpected happens. He discovers "The Body", the 40-year-old version of himself, dead from a gunshot wound to the head. Clearly, something has gone terribly, terribly wrong here.

From that brief summary, I figured I was going to be in for an easy, light and humorous read, but it turned out this book wasn't what I thought it would be at all. Sure, it has its funny moments, and while its relatively short length means that it shouldn't take you longer than a few days to complete, this book was also more cerebral than I expected. I remember telling a friend of mine that if you're the sort of person who likes debating brain-melting plot holes and time paradoxes in movies like Looper, then this book might be for you. Or, you know, maybe not. On the other hand, it probably has just as much potential to utterly frustrate you and make you want to tear out your hair.

I think on some level, even when things seemed to make sense, I had to accept while reading this that ultimately the story would go where it wanted, and that the author had purposefully taken certain time travel tropes and turned them all on its head. Some of the paradoxes went far beyond what I was willing to ponder, but I was also more than happy to sit back and go with it. I've been told many times by friends that that's probably the best attitude to adopt if you want to enjoy time travel stories. That definitely applies here.

Still, something prevented me from embracing this book completely. I believe it was the lack of context the story provided. I felt like I was thrown into the narrator's world without any explanation as to who he is or where he came from or when he came from or how he got there and what is going on. The book's NYC in the future is a very strange place indeed, but we have no idea why it is that way, why everything in the city seems rundown and abandoned, why its citizens live the way they do. There were just so many questions, so many gaps left unfilled. We don't even get to know the time traveler's real name.

I suppose in the bigger scheme of things, none of that stuff matters or is central to the plot. This book is about our main character trying to puzzle out the murder of his future self at his party and not about his time traveling adventures (though, more about his various trips through time would have been interesting), or how he built his time-traveling raft in the first place. I totally get that. Still, knowing more of the details would have gone a long way for me to ground myself to the story.

That was the main thing that bothered me. Otherwise, this book probably deserves a lot more attention than it has gotten, more praise than I have given it. Like I said, it was very difficult for me to rate this, and I have to wonder how much of that is due to its esoteric nature. However, in spite of everything, I have to say I admire and love the way Mr. Ferrell played with the time travel idea in a fun, clever and different way, and yet somehow still made it all work. Very impressive.