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The Speed of Dark (Thorndike Core) [Large Print] [Hardcover]

Elizabeth Moon
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 2003 Thorndike Core
In the near future, disease will be a condition of the past. Most genetic defects will be removed at birth; the remaining during infancy. Unfortunately, there will be a generation left behind. For members of that missed generation, small advances will be made. Through various programs, they will be taught to get along in the world despite their differences. They will be made active and contributing members of society. But they will never be normal.

Lou Arrendale is a member of that lost generation, born at the wrong time to reap the awards of medical science. Part of a small group of high-functioning autistic adults, he has a steady job with a pharmaceutical company, a car, friends, and a passion for fencing. Aside from his annual visits to his counselor, he lives a low-key, independent life. He has learned to shake hands and make eye contact. He has taught himself to use “please” and “thank you” and other conventions of conversation because he knows it makes others comfortable. He does his best to be as normal as possible and not to draw attention to himself.

But then his quiet life comes under attack. It starts with an experimental treatment that will reverse the effects of autism in adults. With this treatment Lou would think and act and be just like everyone else. But if he was suddenly free of autism, would he still be himself? Would he still love the same classical music–with its complications and resolutions? Would he still see the same colors and patterns in the world–shades and hues that others cannot see? Most importantly, would he still love Marjory, a woman who may never be able to reciprocate his feelings? Would it be easier for her to return the love of a “normal”?

There are intense pressures coming from the world around him–including an angry supervisor who wants to cut costs by sacrificing the supports necessary to employ autistic workers. Perhaps even more disturbing are the barrage of questions within himself. For Lou 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.

Thoughtful, provocative, poignant, unforgettable, The Speed of Dark is a gripping exploration into the mind of an autistic person as he struggles with profound questions of humanity and matters of the heart.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 513 pages
  • Publisher: Thorndike Press; Lrg edition (May 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786252146
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786252145
  • Product Dimensions: 24.1 x 16.3 x 2.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,876,230 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


A fine novel ... Absolutely compelling (Greg Bear)

A must read! (Anne McCaffrey)

highly sensitive ... Moon documents poignantly their battle to interact with the world of shapes, sounds and feelings that are strangers to them (THE TIMES)

sympathetic and believable ...Moon's characters will stay with you for a long time (STARBURST) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

A near-future SF thriller that is both page-turning and thought-provoking. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best novel I have read for a year 4 Dec 2002
Lou is autistic. He, and a group of other autistics, work for a company, finding "patterns" in scientific formular. In return, they receive various perks, to make their life easier. But this is about to change: a new manager has decided that the Lou and his colleagues are too expensive, and wishes to force them to be guinea pigs of an experimental treatment to make them "normal".
But Lou doesn't wish to be normal - he has a job, a flat, a hobby, and is content with his life.
Elizabeth Moon is known for her fantasy and space opera work, loosely based on her experiences in the army. This novel marks her entry into a new genre - near-future thrillers. And what an entry - it's easiest her best work to date, and had me reading until the small hours.
Finding comparisons for this book are difficult - the best I can come up with are "The Business" by Iain Banks, and the film adaptation "Minority Report". It is a book that I intend to recommend to non-science-fiction fans, and has prompted me to write this, my first amazon review.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ignore the back cover, but read the book. 25 Aug 2005
By A Customer
1st of all I would like to join other reviewers in my confusion regarding the back cover, this is as much a Thriller as Lord of the Rings is a travel guide or Harry Potter is a love story. This is a book about an Autistic man trying to live his life in a near future setting where a "cure" for autism becomes available to him and how that impacts on his life.
I would also hesitate to compare this to 1984 or Handmaiden's Tale as whilst there is a side message regarding potential future horror its hardly a big part of this book and is actually dealt with reason and care by the authority figures in this book.
I am not autistic myself so can't judge directly on that, however I am disabled (not obviously) and quite severely dyslexic (which was picked up at school) and felt that the author really touched that alienated feeling that I have endured at different times in my life regarding my different problems and the difficulty's I had explaining my problems to "normals" and making them realise what my problems are and what I need to cope with them.
Lou the main character in the book is a real work of art (which would confuse him) I was able to feel for him and against him. I wanted to take him and shake him at various parts of the book to make him do things. All of the supporting cast are equally well written and just as sympathetic.
The plot in this book isn't really that important as its only used as a tool to develope Lou, and show us how he is changing. Yet it is still handled with a fair touch of flair and talent, it never feels forced and kept me happily turning pages one after another.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing and tightly written 19 Jan 2003
For me, this marked a real change in Moon's writing. Not just in the obvious realm of subject matter - 'Speed of Dark' deals with issues far closer to home and 'reality' than either the Paksenarrion or Serrano series' - but also in the style and maturity of writing. Her phrasing and expression seem to me to be growing in power and clarity all the time.
As a story, this was excellent, with a highly likeable main character, a well-paced plot and a cast of thoroughly three-dimensional supporting characters.
I can't comment on the accuracy of the portrayal of autism, but to a non-expert it came across as realistic, well-researched and very compassionate. The issues the story raises regarding definition of self, medical experimentation and the right to be treated as a valid individual were interesting and carefully handled. My one quibble was with the ending; it was just a touch too 'happily ever after' for my taste (although, logically, with the plot structured as it is there probably wasn't another option). All in all, an excellent read - highly recommended.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Different 28 Nov 2002
By A Customer
This is nothing like the space opera style of most of Elizabeth Moon's work, but don't let that put you off. This is a very compelling book. Lou is a fantastic character, and the 'voice' Moon uses to write him is perfect. The book jacket says that she spent a lot of time researching autism for this book. How well she did that, and how accurately she has interpreted it and extrapolated current medical and psychiatric thought only someone involved in the field could say, but what she presents seemed to hang together very well.
As Lou is finding out about things and asking questions specific to his view as an autistic person, I suddenly found myself wanting to think about my own approach to the same things.
The only reason that this book gets 4 stars insted of 5 is the very last few pages. I felt that part of the ending was a slight cop-out, but only a little, and not enough to spoil it.
Highly recommended. Anyone who has read and enjoyed 'Skallagrigg' by William Horwood should find this interesting.
Give this a go even if Elizabeth Moon's usual works are not your thing.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A compelling, if slightly disturbing read 4 Oct 2008
This is an extremely well-written, but slightly disconcerting book. The writer's research shows - by coincidence, I'd read an article in New Scientist on autism only a week before reading this and things were chiming all the way, especially with regard to coping with sensory overload.

Lou is an autistic. A high-functioning autistic who was helped by techniques developed while he was young. He's a genius at spotting patterns, whether they be in numeric data or in the moves of a fencing match. However, he has serious difficulty in understanding people. We slowly come to realise that he has been taught to mimic 'normal' behaviour. He knows what many of the rules are - when someone asks how you are, the correct answer is 'OK', but we realise that he doesn't know why this is the correct answer.

He's confused when asked multiple questions; which order is he supposed to answer them in? He's marked down on IQ tests because he sees connections between items that are not the ones most people would choose.

He's falling in love, but doesn't know what the rules are to ask a woman to dinner.

His life is all pattern, routine and repetition.

His life is pushed out of kilter when his new boss decides that he wants the autistics in his office to take a new (and unproven treatment) - and tells them they will lose their jobs if they refuse.

Lou learns a lot about himself while trying to decide whether to take the treatment, and we learn a lot about him.

Towards the end, I suddenly realised why the book is mostly written in the present tense. We do not know who Lou will be by the end of the book. It's unsettling (and deliberately so).

Anyone who has read 'Flowers for Algernon' will understand the feeling exactly.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars If you are interested in Autism you will want to read this book
I thought the autistic point of view was well portrayed in this book. I am not autistic myself but I have a brother who is very autistic so I am aware of how it might be. Read more
Published 4 days ago by geg
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking and compelling
Speed of Dark was May's Hodderscape Review Project title. It wasn't my first Elizabeth Moon as I've read and enjoyed her Serrano Legacy books. Read more
Published 1 month ago by W.M.M. van der Salm-Pallada
5.0 out of 5 stars Are you normal?
Reading the back of Speed of Dark, it seemed a little different from your standard SF fare. Set in the near future, this book is about a data analyst expert who sees the world... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Quicksilver
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most thought provoking books I have ever read
I am giving this a 5 star rating because it clearly brings out some of the issues that anyone with autism faces.
I have just finished reading this novel. It is so different. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Unusual Novel
This novel is written from the viewpoint of an autistic man in the near future. It has some very interesting things to say about autism in society.
Published 7 months ago by Neil
5.0 out of 5 stars A near future window into the world of autism
I picked this book up in the library while browsing and was glad I did. Although it is set in the near future it gives real insight into day to day experiences that people with... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Jo Bennie
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and thought provoking
I came to this from her SciFi, it is thought provoking and interesting, especially as I work in the health industry.
Published 16 months ago by L Clark
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful, thought-provoking read
I just finished this and really enjoyed it. As others have said, it's not hard sci-fi, it's set in the near future and asks interesting questions about the treatment of autism (and... Read more
Published on 8 July 2012 by G. Collingwood
4.0 out of 5 stars SF and Autism
Elizabeth Moon's novel takes place in the near future, at a time when a cure for autism becomes available. In this sense it is science fiction. Read more
Published on 22 April 2012 by acewindsor
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful story
As a parent of three children with varying degrees of autism I found this book so insightful.

The main character, Lou, is a man with high functioning autism who manages... Read more
Published on 2 May 2011 by Amazon Customer
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