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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best novel I have read for a year
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...
Published on 4 Dec 2002 by Paul Bolchover

versus
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 11 months ago by L Clark


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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
This review is from: Speed Of Dark: A Novel (Paperback)
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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24 of 25 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
This review is from: Speed Of Dark: A Novel (Paperback)
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.
I only really have one complaint about this book (apart from the idiotic publisher and the summary they put on the cover) and that is the final few chapters of this book happen in a blur and then the book ends.... I could quite happily have read another 400 pages about Lou and his journey between the last chapter and the epilogue.
Whilst I don't class this book with 1984 and Handmaidens tale as "eye openners" I do think think this book should be mandatory reading, especaily for anyone who wants to be a teacher or work with young / vunerable people as this really does make you empathise with someone who is very different to "normal" people.
I have put "normal" in brackets a couple of times as to me Lou seemed to be a completely normal person who I would happily call a friend.
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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
This review is from: The Speed of Dark (Hardcover)
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 review is from: Speed Of Dark: A Novel (Paperback)
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
By 
Mrs. J. Proctor (Dorset, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Speed Of Dark: A Novel (Paperback)
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.

I won't say how the book ends, but I do recommend reading it.

(The book would have benefited from better proof-reading. My copy had two obvious typos and a point where the wrong tense was used - the tense change was particularly annoying as I assumed at first that the writer was trying to convey a subtle point by having Lou use the past tense when narrating)
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book., 21 July 2005
The ideas and writing are wonderful. And, being autistic myself, I found her depiction of Lou's world to be spot on.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new Favourite, 31 Aug 2010
By 
Z. Goldie (London) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Speed Of Dark: A Novel (Paperback)
This is one of the first books that i've read in a long time, that had my mind coming back to it for a few weeks after finishing it. Lou is such a beautifully human character that I couldn't help but care about him. Whilst I'd disagree with the blurb describing it as a 'thriller', as it is by no means fast paced, it still easily held my attention from start to finish.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A little gem - lovely!, 16 Jan 2008
This review is from: Speed Of Dark: A Novel (Paperback)
I haven't read any of Elizabeth moon's work before, but picked this up because of the sci-fi tag on the back cover blurb. I didn't get what I expected in what is usually referred to as science fiction, but I was not disappointed. What a lovely book! The author has such evident love for her character and you feel that she surely must be closely acquainted with someone with autism, she depicts the condition so meticulously.

The protagonist, Lou Arrendale, is an autistic man living in some not-too-distant future. He works in a special department of a large company, helping them to stay ahead in the business game by analysing trends. As such he and the other 'special' employees like him, are given unique privileges, so that they can have the singular conditions that they require to do their clever work. It is intriguing to imagine that what is today considered a debilitating affliction could be harnessed in such a 'positive' way, but that is where a debate starts. How much of this is exploitation? Can the company that employs them escape such an accusation, because they treat these extraordinary people so well? Lou and his colleagues are seemingly quite happy with their lot.

Lou has the autistic's need for order in all things, and his habits and routines are fixed and necessary, so that he always shops or does his laundry on the same day of the week, but he has a good social life, he interacts in the outside world and has several 'normal' friends. He is also learning to fence, and the descriptions of fencing are fascinating, especially the way that Lou can seconds guess an opponent by 'seeing' patterns in their moves and anticipating them.

Over and over again, we see how truly extraordinary Lou is, what wonderful skills he has, as well as friends who genuinely love him. As the plot turns, however, things become darker and we begin to see that Lou is really living in a sort of social no-man's-land - belonging neither entirely in the utterly withdrawn autistic world nor in the 'normal' world that he tries so hard to be part of. Ultimately he has to make a decision which will turn his life around, leaving the reader with one huge question. Has he made the right one? I found the ending almost tragic, although not in the usual sense of the word, and the book left so many questions open, such as: How do we decide a person's value? How can we tell what quality of life an autistic person really has? By what definition can a 'normal' life be said to be 'better' than an autistic one?

I highly recommend this book. It is full of warmth and reflection, and left me really caring about Lou. Which is why the ending, although to all intents and purposes a happy one, made me feel so very sad.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful story, 2 May 2011
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This review is from: Speed Of Dark: A Novel (Paperback)
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 to, just about, make his way in the world of work and 'normal' friends. The parts of the book that include his first person narrative are spot on with their descriptions of his distorted physical and social perception of the world around him.

Other reviews have described the story in more detail. I would just say that this book is a must read for anyone whose life is affected by autism in any way.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Know what you're buying!, 2 Aug 2005
By 
Shivari (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Speed Of Dark: A Novel (Paperback)
First of all, I have to say for accuracy of description this book gets zero stars. Yes, I did say zero.
I was expecting a sci-fi thriller - which is what is says on the jacket. That description is wholly misleading.
True, it is set in the near future but it is not what people generally regard as sci-fi. It's a novel that simply *happens* to be set in the near-future. (If a novel is set in Antarctica that doesn't make it a travel guide!)
Second, it's not a thriller either. To call it such would make pretty much any novel a thriller: in most, *something* is going to happen, something is panning out, and the novel unfolds to an endpoint.
This novel occupies similar territory to Margaret Atwood's "Handmaiden's tale" or George Orwell's "1984". Intense personal stories of a human being grappling with the circumstances of their life and their society. If this kind of novel is your thing, then they don't come much better than this. If you're looking for a sci-fi thriller, avoid.
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The Speed of Dark
The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon (Hardcover - Dec 2002)
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