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The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon

The Speed of Dark (2002)

by Elizabeth Moon

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,576None4,623 (4.03)134
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  1. 80
    The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (tortoise)
    tortoise: Both are well-written novels with a first-person autistic-spectrum narrator. The Curious Incident has a better-constructed plot (the villain in The Speed of Dark is a bit cartoonish), but The Speed of Dark is I think more interesting as a commentary on autism.… (more)
  2. 60
    Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes (infiniteletters)
    infiniteletters: Charlie is definitely not like Lou, true. But their experiences and perspectives have the same mental effect on readers.
  3. 00
    The Island Keeper by Harry Mazer (MyriadBooks)
    MyriadBooks: For not knowing enough yet.
  4. 00
    This Alien Shore by C. S. Friedman (MyriadBooks)
    MyriadBooks: For the exploration of human intelligences and mental health.
  5. 00
    A Wizard Alone by Diane Duane (2wonderY)
    2wonderY: One of the young wizard's is autistic. For comparison of viewpoint and choices.
  6. 00
    Too Late to Die Young: Nearly True Tales from a Life by Harriet McBryde Johnson (infiniteletters)
  7. 00
    The Multiplex Man by James P. Hogan (infiniteletters)
  8. 01
    My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor (infiniteletters)

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» See also 134 mentions

English (72)  French (2)  Hungarian (1)  All languages (75)
Showing 1-5 of 72 (next | show all)
Wonderful, moving novel. A fantastic read. ( )
  DarylReads1 | Apr 7, 2014 |
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

In The Speed of Dark, Elizabeth Moon blends science fiction, neuroscience, and her own experience to speculate about a future in which scientists have nearly eliminated the symptoms of autism. Lou Arrendale’s cohort is the last of the impaired autistics. Thanks to early intervention programs, Lou and his colleagues are verbal, take care of themselves, and work for a pharmaceutical company that makes use of their savant abilities, yet they lack the social understanding needed to integrate into “normal” society. But that could all change because Lou’s company has just received approval to begin clinical trials on a procedure that may cure them of their disorder, and the boss wants to use Lou and his co-workers as the first guinea pigs.

Because Elizabeth Moon has a teenager with autism, a background in science (and science fiction), and has done a lot of research, The Speed of Dark feels like an authentic account of an autistic man’s cognitive processes. I was completely fascinated by Lou’s revelations about the way he thinks, the things he understands and remembers, the environmental stimuli that he either doesn’t notice or can’t ignore, and the way he uses music and motion to help him integrate and regulate sensory input. This was really well done (except that I feel pretty sure that Lou wouldn’t use the term “object permanence” to explain “shape constancy”). Few readers could fail to become emotionally attached to Lou and to root for him as he struggles to understand who he is and how he fits in, tests his strengths and challenges himself to excel, makes friends and enemies, falls in love, learns how his brain works and, most importantly, decides who he wants to be.

The focus on Lou deprives the other characters of some depth, but perhaps they seem this way because we view them mainly from Lou’s perspective. Marjory, the girl Lou has fallen in love with, exhibits very little personality, and Mr. Crenshaw, the “villain,” is so completely over-the-top that I kept thinking of Mr. Waternoose from Monsters, Inc. In fact, in Brilliance Audio’s version, the reader, Jay Snyder, sounds just like Mr. Waternoose (who was played by James Coburn). By the way, I highly recommend this audiobook because the novel is written in the first person and Snyder’s voice, which so perfectly captures Lou’s social awkwardness, adds to the emotional impact and makes Lou’s stilted language not only easier to “read,” but actually quite charming.

The Speed of Dark, which won the Nebula Award, is one of those novels that makes you feel the whole spectrum of emotions, changes the way you think, and stays with you forever. Its portrayal of a devastating behavioral disorder is all at once beautiful, humorous, enlightening, heart-wrenching, poignant, and hopeful. ( )
  Kat_Hooper | Apr 6, 2014 |
This is a mind-bending novel. It's the job of fiction to let us in to other people's minds, and reading fiction has taken me on many fascinating mental voyages. "The Speed of Dark" took me on one of the strangest and most gripping. Ms. Moon's hero Lou Arrendale is a very high functioning autist, who is given the opportunity to risk an experimental reversal of his condition. Almost all of the novel unfolds from his point of view, which means we share not just what he thinks but the way he thinks. For me, this made the patterns of autistic thinking and perception far clearer and far more vivid than they have ever been before. At the same time, Lou emerges as a lovable and highly individual personality -- as another character says, a good man -- who is many things in addition to autistic.

"The Speed of Dark" isn't just an adventure into a different kind of mind. It is a novel with a compelling story (and substories) that kept me reading full time until I finished it. I did find the ending troubling in some respects, but I don't think that is a fault in the novel. The choice that Lou faces has upside and downside whichever alternative he chooses. Kind of like life. ( )
  annbury | Feb 26, 2014 |

It's a rare thing to find a book that is written with so much compassion and empathy and for that alone this book has nudged itself in amongst my favourites.

The book's main character is one of the most human characters I have encountered in fiction and his story is beautifully rendered.

( )
  StigE | Feb 22, 2014 |
Oh man. This book started out incredibly promising. The autistic first-person narrator is believable and authentic, and when an experimental cure for autism is acquired by the company he works for, the ethical ramifications are gripping and frightening. I mean, when people see autism as an illness, something to be cured, then resisting treatment is obvious grounds for firing someone. So I really wanted to see where the writer would take this.

As the book progresses, the narrator becomes more and more a caricature of an autistic person. A friend he's known for years turns out to not be so friendly after all, but the narrator's reaction to that rings true: he feels he can't trust his own judgment about who is his friend and who isn't. However, all the crap about extremely literal thinking is just too much, and it gets worse and worse.

The ending is what forced me to give this book one star. I can understand the narrator's motivation to try the experimental cure, as a way to learn new things about himself. And how he needs to relearn how to handle all sensory input, just like a newborn, makes sense as well. And it's intimated that because his sensory processing is different now, he doesn't recognise patterns in the way he used to... which was the basis of his unique learning style.

So it makes absolutely zero sense that without that learning style, without those pattern recognition skills that enabled him to learn about organic chemistry and neuroscience in a couple of weeks, he's still able to become an astronaut and fulfill his dream and live happily ever after. Internal logic would dictate that in the process of becoming non-autistic, he would find that the one dream that he had as an autistic person would be forever beyond his reach, because that dream was a product of his autistic mind.

Instead, the author lets her own wishes about a cure for autism spoil the entire book.
( )
  ine1976 | Feb 6, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 72 (next | show all)
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Metz, JulieCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0345481399, Mass Market Paperback)

Corporate life in early 21st-century America is even more ruthless than it was at the turn of the millennium. Lou Arrendale, well compensated for his remarkable pattern-recognition skills, enjoys his job and expects never to lose it. But he has a new boss, a man who thinks Lou and the others in his building are a liability. Lou and his coworkers are autistic. And the new boss is going to fire Lou and all his coworkers--unless they agree to undergo an experimental new procedure to "cure" them.

In The Speed of Dark, Elizabeth Moon has created a powerful, complex, and believable portrayal of a man who varies radically from what is defined as "normal." The author insightfully explores the nature of "normality," identity, choice, responsibility, free will, illness and health, and good and evil. The Speed of Dark is a powerful, moving, illuminating novel in the tradition of Flowers for Algernon, Forrest Gump, and Rain Man . --Cynthia Ward

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:02:45 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Moon's extraordinary, Nebula Award-winning novel is the story of an autistic man who is offered the chance to be "cured" by science. He must decide if he should submit to a surgery that might completely change the way he views the world and the very essence of who he is.… (more)

» see all 3 descriptions

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