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The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon

The Speed of Dark (original 2002; edition 2005)

by Elizabeth Moon

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
1,629784,447 (4.02)2 / 166
Title:The Speed of Dark
Authors:Elizabeth Moon
Info:Del Rey (2005), Mass Market Paperback, 384 pages
Collections:Your library, Wantmorelike

Work details

The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon (2002)

  1. 100
    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. 80
    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. 10
    Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold (LamontCranston)
    LamontCranston: Pathological corporate greed, manipulation of the disabled/differently abled, and both for space applications, but Falling Free has a much more proactive response to being exploited
  4. 10
    A Wizard Alone by Diane Duane (2wonderY)
    2wonderY: One of the young wizard's is autistic. For comparison of viewpoint and choices.
  5. 10
    This Alien Shore by C. S. Friedman (MyriadBooks)
    MyriadBooks: For the exploration of human intelligences and mental health.
  6. 00
    Too Late to Die Young: Nearly True Tales from a Life by Harriet McBryde Johnson (infiniteletters)
  7. 01
    The Multiplex Man by James P. Hogan (infiniteletters)
  8. 01
    My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor (infiniteletters)
  9. 01
    The Island Keeper by Harry Mazer (MyriadBooks)
    MyriadBooks: For not knowing enough yet.

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English (75)  French (2)  Hungarian (1)  All languages (78)
Showing 1-5 of 75 (next | show all)
I see now why this book is mentioned so frequently in conjunction with Flowers for Algernon - both concern a narrator who is developmentally disabled and address ideas of the self and personhood using "so there's this experimental treatment that will make you the same as everyone else" devices, though each approaches from a different angle - FfA follows a protagonist who agreed to treatment, and Speed of Dark shows a group of people resistant to pressure to be "cured."

Neither is a perfect work, but when Speed of Dark succeeds it really succeeds, particularly in the characters of Lou and his autistic coworkers. Lou really is a great character, and the could-be-this-world-but-2-decades-in-the-future backdrop is surprisingly rich with cultural detail. Even if many of the subplots were visible a mile out (and staffed by some character tropes straight off the Lifetime network), I was surprised by many of the turns other subplots took and genuinely was not expecting the novel to close as it did.

If I had to complain about anything it would be the point-of-view shifts scattered throughout the novel, which was jarring and really made it seem like the author didn't trust her readers to pick up on all the nuances through Lou's limited viewpoint. ( )
  okrysmastree | Nov 7, 2014 |
I think I have to disagree with a lot of the reviews in that I found the work quite conflicting.

On the one hand the characterization of Lou is well written and rightly deserves credit. But it is a character in search of a plot and story. Repeatedly Lou intends to seek legal advice, and friends announce they will, but then this intention disappears and nothing is done because of course if the characters were to do so it would immediately solve the problem and end the plot a quarter way, or half way, or three quarters way, or at any other point through the book where this is planned and then forgotten about because of requirements for the plot.

Then ultimately the conflict just simply resolves itself and fizzles out.

Another thing which I think is a major reversal of the whole point of the book is the decision to undergo the treatment. The story has just spent its entire time appealing to people that autistics are people to, exploring how they can grow and change and adapt to society, then chucks that all out and says getting a treatment making them normal is preferable. Really? Again just fizzles out. Meanwhile the subtext that the intended 'cure' had a possible ulterior motive as a means of making normal employees more passive is never properly explored.
  LamontCranston | Sep 11, 2014 |
Lou is an autist, among the last cohort before 21st century medicine developed a “cure”, changing neural connections in infancy. He works for a pharmaceutical corporation, in a group of autists who investigate and discover patterns. The new boss is zealous about cost effectiveness, and pressures the autists to undergo an experimental treatment that similarly rewires adults, so they won’t need special accommodations. This seems a tad shortsighted, even for a cardboard villain, because the autists were hired for their special and presumably neural abilities, and as a plot it is rather artificially contrived, but it provides a structure for day-to-day concerns and philosophical considerations as Lou and his colleagues discuss the pros and cons. Lou has suspicions and reservations, but also curiosity and a tinge of hope; he has been closed out of opportunities because he is not “normal”. So what is normal anyway, when events reveal that normal people also at times misperceive thoughts and emotions or behave inappropriately. I’m generally irritated by present tense, but here I was completely engaged by the immediate interior POV. As a bonus, I came to appreciate fencing, which apparently is a very pattern-laden sport. The ending was horribly sad, I felt like I’d lost a person, even though he was happy. I suppose this was intentional.
  qebo | Jun 21, 2014 |
I haven't read any of Moon's books before, but I decided to buy this one for personal reasons. The author is on a LiveJournal community with me; we both have autistic sons, hers an adult and mine a toddler. She extended me sympathy and support when I mentioned that I am a writer. I really needed that support... some days it's just hard to get by, period, and trying to work on a novel at the same time feels like an impossibility. With a string of bestsellers to her name - including this book, a Nebula Award winner - I have much admiration for her.

The Speed of Dark features an autistic man as its protagonist. It is apt to compare it with Flowers for Algernon, but the insight is deeper and more complex. We don't simply follow Lou Arrendale's story. We see into his mind, see how math and patterns figure into the most mundane details of the day. (Again, this is personal for me because my son is two and can count to 200 and knows the names and locations of every state, but he can't drink out a cup or do other simple things we take for granted.) Lou is a fascinating man, living life to the fullest despite his "disability." When his employer applies heavy pressure to Lou and his fellow autistic co-workers to try a new experimental procedure to cure adult autism, Lou faces the difficult decision of being cured or lose a part of his own self and his identity.

This is classified as sci-fi, but the reality is very close to our own. It takes place sometime in the 21st century but that is revealed in subtleties. It feels like a very realistic future, and the questions that Lou faces are timeless and vital to all people, not just autistics. This book will linger in my mind for a very long time. ( )
  ladycato | May 23, 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 |
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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)

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