Audiobook Review: The Man in the Empty Suit by Sean Ferrell

6 02 2013

The Man in the Empty Suit by Sean Ferrell

Read by Mauro Hantman

AudioGo

Length: 9 Hrs 1 Min

Genre: Science Fiction

Quick Thoughts: As a tale of time travel, with its intermingling concepts of fate and free will Farrell succeeds where so many other tales of time travel fails. Its brilliantly built plot, complicated character and hints of a near future world were enough to keep my brain spinning in a dizzying euphoria. It may not have had the emotional impact of many more character driven tales, but like the best puzzles, it will never truly leave your mind.

Grade: B+

I really have a love/hate relationship with Time Travel. I love Time Travel. From the moment I watched my first Doctor Who episode, and read HG Wells, I knew I was a sucker for the fourth dimension. Some of my favorite novels of all time have time travel elements. There are lots of interesting things you can do with Time Travel, with stories as diverse as Ken Grimwood’s Replay, Stephen King’s 11/22/63, SM Stirling’s Nantucket series and Poul Anderson’s Time Patrol stories, all offering interesting uses of time travel. Hell, there have even been good time travel movies. Sure, we all had to sit through Van Damme’s Timecop, but we also got to see 12 Monkeys. I also hate time travel. I hate movies and books that place these stupid arbitrary rules on the morality of time travel. My brother and I will always fight over The Prisoner of Azkaban, but in my opinion it’s the worse Harry Potter book simply because of the stupid use of travel. Come on, it’s OK for Hermione to utilize time travel to fit more classes into her schedule, yet using it to stop people being murdered would be against the rules.  Hell, if they could travel back in time without those stupid rules, then Harry Potter never would have become an orphan, Voldemort would have been thwarted early and The Casual Vacancy would never exist, yet, they try to tell us that wouldn’t have been a proper use of time travel. We could have prevented The Casual Vacancy! Instead, Cedric gets killed, Dumbledore remains in the closet, and Rowling decided to try her hand at adult fiction. My point is, if you have the ability to travel in time, either use it, or shut the hell up. I’d totally use it.

Every year, on the 100th anniversary of his birth, a time traveler returns to an abandoned hotel in 2071, where he celebrates his existence with the youngsters and elder versions of himself. On his 39th year, he becomes the celebrated man, wearing the spiffy suit he had always envied. Yet, when he arrives he also discovers that one of the versions of him has been murdered and he has a year to prevent it, or irrevocably harm the timeline. Author Sean Farrell has created a head trippy, mind bending time travel tale that takes all the rules you think you knew about time travel and beats them down like a dead dog. It’s a fascinating set up, with the majority of the interaction taking place between the past and future versions of himself. Yet, each version of himself he interacts with has his own secrets, twists on his personality and hidden agendas. It was brilliantly plotted, yet often confusing. As a reader, I was amazed how Farrell kept it all together, creating these versions of the same character, and sending them off on an intricate dance of paradoxes, predestinations and paranoia. There is a mystery to the tale, but the kind of mystery where each clue can be overwritten, each motivation altered, and no single given aspect of the story can be trusted. There is also a girl, because there is always a girls, and a bit of a tragedy, because, with a girl comes tragedy and remorse. Yet, not everything worked perfectly. I was quite fascinated by the world that Farrell created outside of the party. It had an almost dystopian feel, blending near future technology with old world quaintness that left me feeling like I was missing a key aspect to the story. The world felt like a tease, a nonessential aspect to the story that Farrell threw in for flavor, yet with enough depth that it left me wanting to know more about it, a desire that would go unfulfilled. Also, at times, I felt the multifaceted layering of the story worked as an intellectual exercise, more that an act of storytelling. I was so involved in keeping the pieces straight that I didn’t take the time to enjoy it as much as I could. As a tale of time travel, with its intermingling concepts of fate and free will Farrell succeeds where so many other tales of time travel fails. Its brilliantly built plot, complicated character and hints of a near future world were enough to keep my brain spinning in a dizzying euphoria. It may not have had the emotional impact of many more character driven tales, but like the best puzzles, it will never truly leave your mind.

I was quite excited when I discovered that Mauro Hantman was narrating this tale. My last experience with Hantman was positive, but I felt the story didn’t offer a lot for him to work with. Here, Hantman gives a solid, workman like performance. Nothing here will blow you away, yet, I think his subtle reading style fit the narrative well. The Man in the Empty Suit offered an interesting challenge for a narrator, where the majority of the characters were different versions of the same person. Hantman handles this well, using subtle vocalizations to help delineate characters, yet keep a base rhythm of speech consistent among all its versions. I think Hantman made smart decisions when reading this. I think if a narrator tried to hard, this could have been a train wreck of a production. The story itself was hard enough to follow without the narrator distracting you with jarring voices or fluctuating pacing. Instead, Hantman sort of blended into the background, delivering the tale in a simple style, allowing the listener to immerse themselves in the story. It is not a performance that listeners will remember for years to come, but it was the right one for this story.

Note: Thanks to AudioGo for providing me with a copy of this title for review.

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6 responses

6 02 2013
Release Week: Man in the Empty Suit, Spider Robinson’s The Free Lunch, and Neal Asher’s The Departure | The AudioBookaneers

[…] we shape our own lives and the lives of those around us.” And The Guilded Earlobe has already reviewed the audiobook: “As a tale of time travel, with its intermingling concepts of fate and free […]

6 02 2013
Pam

This sounds ridiculously awesome to listen to.

6 02 2013
Anastasia

Ha! Rules of time travel are tricky things. I tend to go with the Doctor Who version where you can’t mess with super important stuff but SOME changes are okay (which explains the Harry Potter time travel rules, too. Extra classes? No big deal. Massive reconstruction of history? Not good.).

This sounds like a really cool book– a mystery where the victim has to solve his own murder is always going to be interesting, yup.

7 02 2013
Leah Rhyne

I need to buy this book. I’ve wanted to read it for a while, but your notes make me want to read it more. Plus, if you like Dr. Who, clearly we are destined to like the same books.

Nice review!

8 02 2013
DevourerofBooks (@DevourerofBooks)

I enjoyed Ferrell’s first book, sounds like I should pick this one up, too.

24 05 2013
dog eared copy/Tanya

The GIrl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Boy in the Suitcase, The Woman who Fell from the Sky… I admit that when I saw the title of this book, I pretty much ignored it, perhaps not so subconsciously labeling it as something unoriginal. I know that doesn’t make any sense, but there it is! Anyway, then I saw this: http://www.unshelved.com/2013-5-24 and I was immediately intrigued. Interestingly, the audiobook is less expensive than the print or eBook editions! I’m wary of the narrator (new-to-me and I find the sample suspiciously reminding me of a type of narrator that I don’t like) but after reading your review, I’ve purchased and dnloaded the audio 🙂

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