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By Light Alone Kindle Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Dazzling invention meets searing adventure in this thoroughly extraordinary novel. Hunger, reads the strapline, is a thing of the past, and so is food. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Eileen Shaw
"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 morePublished 16 months ago by G.H.
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 morePublished 18 months ago by Amazon Customer
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 morePublished 22 months ago by Roland
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 morePublished on 4 Jun. 2013 by TomCat
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 morePublished on 7 Nov. 2012 by PJ Online
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 morePublished on 27 Sept. 2012 by A. J. Poulter
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 morePublished on 15 July 2012 by Amazon Customer
By Light Alone is a book designed more to be literature than fiction and displays many of the flaws of that genre. Read morePublished on 5 Oct. 2011 by K. J. Woods