By Light Alone Paperback – 18 Aug 2011
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"Should have won the 2009 Booker Prize." Kim Stanley Robinson, author, "Red Mars," on "Yellow Blue Tibia""
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).See all Product Description
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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 ›
I went for By Light Alone because of its interesting sounding premise. It's a cracker (as they say). The idea is that science has produced a mechanism where people can get all the energy they need from sunlight, thanks to a bug that turns their hair into super-photosynethic light absorbers. All they need to live is some water and a few essential nutrients. A clever (if technically verging on the impossible) idea, certainly. But where Roberts triumphs is in going into the unexpected implications of the change - the absolute heart of what makes science fiction, and which so few literary types who do SF down, and think it's all about spaceships and ray guns, appreciate.
One implication considered is that for the first time ever it's possible to have a group of people who have literary no money at all. Not just poor but literally penniless. Roberts also examines the possibilities for male/female distinctions, and how a small group of wealthy people might consider those who have the special hair to be a subspecies, and to conspicuously wear their hair short to emphasise they don't need it.
The book is divided into four parts, each seen from a different (but linked) individual's point of view. At the heart of the book is the story of a privileged family whose daughter is taken from them on a skiing holiday. They assume initially it is as a hostage, but the authorities gradually explain that something much darker is behind it.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 8 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 21 months ago by G
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 24 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 on 3 April 2014 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