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The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon

The Speed of Dark (original 2002; edition 2005)

by Elizabeth Moon

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1,726874,103 (4.01)2 / 188
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. 110
    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. 90
    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. 00
    A Wizard Alone by Diane Duane (2wonderY)
    2wonderY: One of the young wizard's is autistic. For comparison of viewpoint and choices.
  5. 00
    The Warrior's Apprentice by Lois McMaster Bujold (sturlington)
    sturlington: Both young protagonists are dealing with a disability.
  6. 00
    The Island Keeper by Harry Mazer (MyriadBooks)
    MyriadBooks: For not knowing enough yet.
  7. 00
    The Multiplex Man by James P. Hogan (infiniteletters)
  8. 11
    This Alien Shore by C. S. Friedman (MyriadBooks)
    MyriadBooks: For the exploration of human intelligences and mental health.
  9. 00
    Too Late to Die Young: Nearly True Tales from a Life by Harriet McBryde Johnson (infiniteletters)
  10. 01
    My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey by Jill Bolte Taylor (infiniteletters)

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English (84)  French (2)  Hungarian (1)  All languages (87)
Showing 1-5 of 84 (next | show all)
A solid read for me. Moon imagines a near-future where autism has been cured but there is a percentage of people that were born slightly too early to receive the genetic fix. The final autistic generation, if you will. A small group of them work at process analysis and pattern-recognition for a large corporate conglomerate. The bulk of the narrative is told in first-person via Lou Arrendale, one of the autistic employees of the company.

When Lou is speaking or contemplating, the story fires on all cylinders. I haven't decided yet if the lack of development of the supporting cast is perhaps an intentional attempt to show how those other characters are perceived via Lou's autistic viewpoint. If so, that only adds to the brilliance of the novel. If not, (and the more I ponder, the less I think it's fully intentional), there is not enough of it to detract very much from Lou's story. And this is Lou's story. From beginning to end, a more compelling protagonist is difficult to come by. The 'voice' that Moon employs as Lou describes his daily routines and how he perceives what people say and do is nearly pitch-perfect. There is gem after gem relating how an autistic person might view terms and speech that us 'normals' take for granted. But then, as the autistics mention once or twice, "Normal is a dryer setting".

Highly recommended. ( )
  ScoLgo | Jun 23, 2016 |
I think the book is worth buying for those of you who don't have a good enough library. It does start a little slow, in that it seems like it might be about to become a little didactic or moralistic. Then it gets exciting, and more gorgeous. The ending is the only bit that's science-fiction'y and I'm still thinking about it.

I've read lots of books, both fiction and memoirs, about autism and related issues (I won't call it a disease) and this is one of the best in a lot of ways. It is also one of the earlier ones, and research is being done aggressively into what autism means and how to address it, so if you're thinking about reading this I recommend you do so soon so you don't have to be confused about the 'accuracy.' Otoh, you might be interested to learn what folks commonly believed, over a decade ago. ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 6, 2016 |
I was intrigued because this book was mentioned several times at WisCon’06 as an example of disability in science fiction and austism in general. Congoers had varying opinions—some touted it as the Best Writing About Autism Ever, while others said it was unrealistic. I have little experience with autism (besides being in fandom and reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time), so I can’t comment on how realistically Moon recreates an autistic experience. As a book, it’s quite good, albeit overly simplistic at parts (the ending feels rather at odds with the rest of the book, as well). There’s not a whole lot of plot, but there is a good deal of character development. ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
I've read some of Elizabeth Moon's military space-opera books before, and enjoyed them - but this is quite a different - and more serious - effort - which resulted in her winning the Nebula Award for 2003.
Influenced by her life with an autistic son, The Speed of Dark tells the story of Lou, a high-functioning autistic adult who is socially (and otherwise) handicapped, but very intelligent, even brilliant, and employed by a pharmaceutical company for his unusual ability to see and understand chemical patterns. However, a new boss comes into Lou's company who neither understands nor likes the autistic employees and is viciously opposed to the steps that have been taken to meet their needs. A new, experimental, treatment for autism is being talked about, and he wants to force the autistic employees into being the first to go to human trials.
There may be an ulterior - and sinister - motive behind this pressure, but the main concern of the book is the ethics behind this 'cure' - what makes an individual themselves, and is it the right thing to do to change someone to make them fit society?
Meanwhile, Lou is also subject to an escalating series of harassment and attacks by a stalker - a rejected and obviously deranged former member of a group that Lou practices fencing with. It's obvious who the culprit is, but Lou, with less understanding of human behavior, is not capable of realizing that a so-called 'friend' may not actually be a friend.
Moon here points out that even so-called 'normal' people may actually be more dysfunctional than autistics. Many interesting issues are raised by the book (which made it a good choice for book club discussion) but I felt like Bear's own feeling are conflicted, and that came through in the book, resulting in a somewhat confused 'message.' Are autistic people 'fine the way they are' or would the benefits conferred by a cure (not least among them the ability to live independently, without assistance), outweigh the possible negative of the cured individual not being exactly the same person? As Lou points out, 'we are all a different person every day' as our experiences change us. But the ending is still bittersweet.
Also, although this book was very interesting, I flt it really suffered in comparison to 'Flowers for Algernon' - which is is EXTREMELY similar to. To the point that it feels like the author said, "I want to rewrite 'Flowers For Algernon', but with autistic people instead of retarded people." But, the older book is just better. It's more tightly and beautifully structured, and has a deeper emotional impact. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
Amazon's e-book samples are too short, only about 18 pages in length, good luck applying that ol’ “50 pages rule” here. Fortunately The Speed of Dark (2003 Nebula Award winner) is immediately intriguing and I was sold on it by the end of the short sample. I keep hearing good things about [a: Elizabeth Moon|10518|Elizabeth Moon|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1199059504p2/10518.jpg] and [a: Elizabeth Bear|108173|Elizabeth Bear|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1422586829p2/108173.jpg] in sci-fi websites and forums, I get them mixed up a lot as I have not read either one until now. Elizabeth Moon surpasses my expectations with this book, hopefully Elizabeth Bear can do likewise very soon.

The title The Speed of Dark has a very sci-fi ring to it, it is actually a phrase to contrast the speed of light. The idea is that there is always darkness before light, therefore darkness must somehow travel faster than light because it is always ahead. This is a metaphor the author is employing to represent knowledge illuminating ignorance, so it not some kind of crazy bad science.

The book is set in the near future, the protagonist Lou Arrendale is an autistic man working in a department of a company that exclusively employs autistic people for their superior concentration, greater pattern recognition or other cognitive abilities. Lou copes admirably with his autism and is generally happy – if not quite content – with his life, then one day he is informed that there is a cure for autism and his life immediately changes even without before the cure becomes available to him.

The Speed of Dark is often compared to the classic [b: Flowers for Algernon|18373|Flowers for Algernon|Daniel Keyes|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1367141311s/18373.jpg|3337594] as both books deal with improvement of the brain through neuroscience. Both books are also poignant, brimming with compassion and tug at the heartstrings. Don’t worry about having your heart broken by the author though, Elizabeth Moon is not [a: Thomas Hardy|15905|Thomas Hardy|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1429946281p2/15905.jpg]. Prior to reading this book I knew next to nothing about autism, not having met any autistic person. I can not claim to know a lot about it now as this is a work of fiction but Ms. Moon’s son is autistic so I believe her depiction of autism to be realistic. In any case her portrayal of autistic characters has the feel of verisimilitude.

Most of the novel is told in the first person from Lou’s perspective (with the occasional switch to a few secondary characters where Lou is not privy to what is going on in his absence). This is the first book I have ever read that take me inside the head of an autistic person. The very clever first person narrative of Lou is fascinating in and of itself. Lou’s stilted use of language is very formal, polite and precise. Here is an example:

“ "Don can be a real heel," she says.

“Don is not a heel; he is a person. Normal people say things like this, changing the meaning of words without warning, and they understand it. I know, because someone told me years ago, that heel is a slang word for “bad person”. But he couldn’t tell me why, and I still wonder about it. If someone is a bad person and you want to say that he is a bad person, why not just say it? Why say “heel” or “jerk” or something? And adding “real” to it only makes it worse. If you say something is real, it should be real.”

More importantly Lou’s narration enables me to feel the gulf between himself and “normal” people. Social nuances or cues are entirely beyond his ken, as are voice intonations and most facial expressions. He is also hopeless with colloquial terms, idioms and metaphors. All the characters in this book are very believable, the autistic characters are particularly vivid and sympathetic. They all seem to have a pure heart, I don’t know if this is true for all “autists” in the real world but the selfish and prejudiced “normals” they come across raises the question of whether normality may be overrated. After all, only a “normal” person would consider hurting someone who has never done them any harm.

Most of the book reads more like contemporary mainstream fiction than science fiction, the sci-fi component of it only comes into play well into the second half of the book. This is not a sci-fi thriller, this is not a page turner, I did not want to turn the pages quickly to find out what happen next, I wanted absorb the story page by page and hope that Lou will be alright. From what I have heard Elizabeth Moon generally writes action packed military sci-fi or fantasy so I guess this book is atypical of her works. It appears to be a heartfelt story based on her own experiences with her son that she wants to share with us. I feel privileged to have read it, it is a beautiful book that I will never forget. ( )
  apatt | Dec 26, 2015 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Elizabeth Moonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Metz, JulieCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Questions, always questions.
Normal is a setting on a dryer.
I had to learn to say conventional things even when I did not feel them, because that is part of fitting in and learning to get along. Has anyone ever asked Mr. Crenshaw to fit in, to get along?
I wonder, not for the first time, why a woman friend is called a girlfriend and not a womanfriend.
Bad parents make things hard and painful for their children and then say it was to help them grow. Growing and living are hard enough already; children do not need things to be harder.
I do not understand the rules about interrupting. It is always impolite for me to interrupt other people, but other people do not seem to think it is impolite for them to interrupt me in circumstances when I should not interrupt them.
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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:18 -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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