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By Light Alone

By Light Alone [Kindle Edition]

Adam Roberts
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Product Description


"A brilliant burlesque conceit, and Roberts exploits it in bravura fashion." --"Locus Magazine" on "Swiftly"

Book Description

In the future hunger is a thing of the past. Unless you choose to be hungry. The new novel from the 'enfant terrible of British SF' GUARDIAN

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 733 KB
  • Print Length: 414 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0575083654
  • Publisher: Gollancz (18 Aug 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005ES0WN8
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #201,750 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Adam Roberts is a writer of science fiction novels and stories, as well as Professor of Nineteenth-century Literature in English at Royal Holloway, University of London. Three of his novels, "Salt", "Gradisil" and "Yellow Blue Tibia" were nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke Award; and his most recent novel "By Light Alone" has been shortlisted for the 2012 BSFA Award. He has published over a dozen novels, a number of academic works on both 19th century poetry and SF, stories, parodies, bits, pieces, this and that.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent literary SF novel 30 Aug 2011
Decades in the future, the world has been revolutionised by the introduction of photosynthetic hair. The poor now no longer need to be fed, as they can live off sunlight alone, whilst the rich flaunt their wealth and power by their unnecessary consumption of food and cutting their hair. Supermodels are now immensely fat and the rich very bald. A well-off family undertakes a skiing trip to Mount Ararat on the Turkish-Iranian border, but during their holiday their daughter, Leah, is kidnapped. Attempts to track her down fail, but a year later she is found and returned to their home in New York City. But Leah's return preludes a time of immense change in the world, as revolution threatens...

By Light Alone is Adam Roberts' eleventh novel. On the surface it's the story of a young girl who is kidnapped, returns home, and whose return serves as the catalyst for significant changes in her family life. But this is only a very shallow reading of the text. As the narrative continues, it becomes clear that there are a lot of different things going on, and periodically the text switches to a new POV and rewinds in time to provide a fresh perspective on events we have already seen. The main characters - Leah and her parents, George and Marie - are all somewhat unreliable narrators and finding the inconsistencies between their accounts of the same event is a fascinating exercise in itself.

The central SF element - the photosynthetic hair - is a Maguffin that sets up a world in which poor people no longer need to work to eat, resulting in a mounting overpopulation and unemployment crisis that threatens the lives of the rich and powerful. Roberts explores the ramifications of this well-meaning development through its impact on society and how that affects the central characters.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nil By Mouth 29 Aug 2011
By Diziet TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
In the past, rich people were fat and the poor skinny. These days, poor people are fat and the rich are skinny. In Adam Roberts' future, the rich are bald and the poor grow their hair as long as they can. The reason for this is that Nick Neocles developed the Bug. Once ingested the Bug turns hair into an organ capable of photosynthesis. The poor need never go hungry again. And to prove their superiority, the rich ostentatiously live on 'hardfood'.

By this simple invention (and a single act of 'suspension of disbelief') Roberts recasts our contemporary world. The rich are even richer; a super-rich 'stateless elite' who have less and less in common, have less and less empathy with, the vast bulk of humanity. Just maintaining an interest in current affairs is considered rather distasteful. Those in the squeezed middle are yet more stressed and terrified of falling - made up of an increasingly obsequious professional class, a hard-pressed and terrified bourgeoisie ('jobsuckers' as they are disdainfully referred to by the super-rich) . The poor are truly, absolutely poor. Previously, it was necessary to give the poor some few pennies to keep body and soul together. Now, there's no need to even do this. A little water, a few grubs and insects and a sunny day is all this lumpenproletariat needs. Meanwhile, the super-rich breakfast in New York, fly by ramjet to dine in London and ski on Mount Ararat.

So that's the basic premise. It is, like the previous 'New Model Army' and others, overtly political. It is wickedly, almost grossly, satirical - which means that, really, there are hardly any endearing characters. But there are some really interesting ideas.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Arise, ye starvelings... 8 Sep 2011
This is an excellent book, though one that repays a careful, not a quick read. If you're in the habit of skimming books, it won't be for you.

It's also a book to be careful about reviewing, because there are a number of surprises and plot twists, and Roberts has chosen not reveal some things until some way though the story.

So - in the future - we do find out when, but not for some time - the Bug has been developed, giving humans the ability to photosynthesise. Their hair can produce sugars from sunlight, so people can live without food, which has therefore become an expensive luxury. The world is polarised between the wealthy, who do nothing but loll around like spoiled children, and "longhairs" who have, literally, nothing. There is a middle class, disdained by the rich as mere "jobsuckers", who seem to be the only ones actually doing anything useful.

In this nightmarish world, we are introduced to George and Marie, holidaying on Mount Ararat with their children, one of whom, Leah, is kidnapped. The reason for the kidnap, again, does not become clear for some time, and goes to the heart of how the world of New Hair works. The ramifications of the kidnap form the rest of the book, as George and Marie try to cope with the event. Meanwhile, a revolution is brewing - among the dispossessed are radical sects of all types, Marxists and Spartacists, religious groups who revere Neocles, creator of the New Hair, Aquatics who take to the sea on rafts - and, more grim, the Bosses, jumped up local village rulers who hold sway over little parcels of territory. After sections of the books focussing on George and Marie, much of this is explored through the journey of Issa, a "longhair" girl struggling for survival in a harsh world.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Clever and convincing premise
"By Light Alone" explores a future where hunger is no longer a problem - the poor are genetically engineered to photosynthesise, and food simply becomes the indulgence of... Read more
Published 14 days ago by G.H.
2.0 out of 5 stars I like Marmite, but not this book
As you may be able to tell from other reviews, this book is marmite and though I love the stuff in the jar, I do not like this book. Read more
Published 2 months ago by qzhig king
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic, brilliant writing
I discovered Adam Roberts in an Indian Restaurant, his use of of language and humour is exquisite, he has a fantastic turn of phrase and some of his descriptions are incredibly... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Roland
3.0 out of 5 stars By Light Alone
You know zombie movies, yeah? Zombie movies? Okay so you know how in zombie movies there's often a protracted period in the opening act during which the characters have no idea... Read more
Published 16 months ago by TomCat
1.0 out of 5 stars Laborious reading
Literary it may be, but you will probably be rolling your eyes as you read the prose that seems inappropriate in a SF book, and prose it has in abundance. Read more
Published 23 months ago by PJ Online
3.0 out of 5 stars Inreresting idea, but does not quite convince...
The world has been freed from hunger. A gene-tweak to human hair makes it able to use photosynthesis to support human life, albeit needing very long hair, lots of sunbathing and a... Read more
Published on 27 Sep 2012 by A. J. Poulter
4.0 out of 5 stars Great ideas, horrible characters
I have what I can only describe as a complicated relationship with the works of Adam Roberts. I have read all of his SF works (though none of his criticism or parodies), and of... Read more
Published on 15 July 2012 by Amazon Customer
2.0 out of 5 stars too much literature not enough plot
By Light Alone is a book designed more to be literature than fiction and displays many of the flaws of that genre. Read more
Published on 5 Oct 2011 by K. J. Woods
3.0 out of 5 stars Not for me
Adam Roberts is an author that will appear in quite a few Science Fiction readers top ten's with one title or another, yet for me, I really couldn't get into this latest book... Read more
Published on 19 Aug 2011 by Gareth Wilson - Falcata Times Blog
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