A time traveler has annual reunions with his younger and older selves, with surreal—and often confusing—results.
The narrator begins the novel with “Convention Rules,” which can be construed as a pun. The “Rules” include cryptic advice such as “Elders know best,” “Try not to ruin the fun for the Youngsters” and “Never reveal the future.” In the extensive terminology created here, “Elders” refers to older versions of himself and “Youngsters”...well, mutatis mutandis. Amid the mind-boggling travels across time and space, including the Teutoburg Forest in the first century, when Teutonic tribes slaughtered a group of Roman soldiers, the traveler would invariably set his travel raft to alight in New York on the anniversary of his birthday—April Fool's Day, 2071. There, at the ballroom of the abandoned Boltzmann Hotel, he would have a family reunion of sorts with his various avatars, some of them comically recognizable through fashion statements that have become passé. The traveler identifies these selves with telling, almost allegorical, names (Turtleneck, Ugly Tie, Yellow Sweater, Spats). A tension arises when, on one of his excursions to the Boltzmann, the narrator’s 39-year-old self discovers the body of his 40-year-old self (murder? suicide?), and the Elders point out that he’s got to figure out this mystery or all of his “future” selves will cease to exist. Ferrell has a lot of fun playing out the ramifications of this paradox and complicates things still further by introducing a mysterious woman who shows up at the “reunion” for the first time.
A narrative that strikes the head more than it strikes the heart.