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The Speed of Dark Hardcover – January 1, 2003


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; 1 edition (January 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345447557
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345447555
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.8 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (226 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,702,737 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Corporate life in early 21st-century America is even more ruthless than it was at the turn of the millennium. Lou Arrendale, well compensated for his remarkable pattern-recognition skills, enjoys his job and expects never to lose it. But he has a new boss, a man who thinks Lou and the others in his building are a liability. Lou and his coworkers are autistic. And the new boss is going to fire Lou and all his coworkers--unless they agree to undergo an experimental new procedure to "cure" them.

In The Speed of Dark, Elizabeth Moon has created a powerful, complex, and believable portrayal of a man who varies radically from what is defined as "normal." The author insightfully explores the nature of "normality," identity, choice, responsibility, free will, illness and health, and good and evil. The Speed of Dark is a powerful, moving, illuminating novel in the tradition of Flowers for Algernon, Forrest Gump, and Rain Man . --Cynthia Ward

From Publishers Weekly

"If I had not been what I am, what would I have been?" wonders Lou Arrendale, the autistic hero of Moon's compelling exploration of the concept of "normalcy" and what might happen when medical science attains the knowledge to "cure" adult autism. Arrendale narrates most of this book in a poignant earnestness that verges on the philosophical and showcases Moon's gift for characterization. The occasional third-person interjections from supporting characters are almost intrusive, although they supply needed data regarding subplots. At 35, Arrendale is a bioinformatics specialist who has a gift for pattern analysis and an ability to function well in both "normal" and "autistic" worlds. When the pharmaceutical company he works for recommends that all the autistic employees on staff undergo an experimental procedure that will basically alter their brains, his neatly ordered world shatters. All his life he has been taught "act normal, and you will be normal enough"-something that has enabled him to survive, but as he struggles to decide what to do, the violent behavior of a "normal friend" puts him in danger and rocks his faith in the normal world. He struggles to decide whether the treatment will help or destroy his sense of self. Is autism a disease or just another way of being? He is haunted by the "speed of dark" as he proceeds with his mesmerizing quest for self-"Not knowing arrives before knowing; the future arrives before the present. From this moment, past and future are the same in different directions, but I am going that way and not this way.... When I get there, the speed of light and the speed of dark will be the same." His decision will touch even the most jaded "normal."
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

Elizabeth Moon grew up on the Texas-Mexico border, a voracious reader and early writer. She spent much of her early years in a hardware store where nothing was in shrink-wrap or little plastic containers, and mule collars still hung on the back wall. She has a history degree from Rice University and a biology degree from the University of Texas at Austin, plus some graduate work in biology at the University of Texas at San Antonio; between the first two, she spent three years on active duty in the USMC. Her bibliography includes 20+ novels and 30+ short fiction works, nearly all in science fiction or fantasy. REMNANT POPULATION was a Hugo finalist in 1997; THE SPEED OF DARK won the Nebula Award in 2003.

When not writing, she likes to wander around taking pictures of wildlife and native plants, bake bread, eat chocolate, sing with a choir, and laugh.

Customer Reviews

I like sci-fi and I like books that make you think.
Jolyn
The writing makes you believe that you are in the mind of an autistic.
CT
I thought the book was very well written and had good pacing.
Josh

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

147 of 152 people found the following review helpful By sari g on January 7, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Most fiction writers portray people with autism as freaks and highlight the spectrum's most extreme behaviors. In *The Speed of Dark*, Elizabeth Moon accurately identifies and addresses the real issues that autists face through the point of view of an autistic man, Lou.
Lou has learned to function well enough within "normal" society to hold a job and to live independently. His company recognized that people with autism often have an unusual talent for pattern-recognition and created an autist-friendly division in which Lou and other people with autism work. Problems arise when a new supervisor questions the cost-effectiveness of the program and suggests (in a most coercive way) that Lou and his coworkers undergo an experimental procedure which may "cure" them of their autism.
As the parent of two children who fall on the autism spectrum, I commend Ms. Moon's grasp of the major issues and their implications. She clearly understands the limitations that sensory integration disorder (the inability to efficiently and accurately process sensory input) places on life skills, the need for routine, and the feeling of living in an alien environment while surrounded by humanity. In fact, what I found most compelling was Lou's continual analysis of his every action, his need to evaluate and reevaluate, so as to appear "normal". Each day required thousands of decisions, decisions most of us make intuitively and without thought. The most mundane activities--walking through airport security, asking a woman out, deciding where and what to eat--become trials for him.
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97 of 104 people found the following review helpful By CT on April 18, 2003
Format: Hardcover
While a number of books have made me stop and think, I can't remember the last time a book made me stop and think about myself. Lou Arrendale was born autistic. Through therapy he was able to lead a normal life, but it doesn't change the fact he is autistic. Until he is offered a chance to change....

I suffer from a mood disorder that is similar to clinical depression. It's hard to describe. Periodically, I will feel either normal or incredibly depressed for no apparent reason. Many people thought I was simply being difficult or being "whiny." I wish it were that easy. Recently I have begun taking medication to help this condition. It limits my mood swings to bearable levels, but it is something that has, and will, always be a part of me. Being this way as a child certainly set me apart from other kids and I was often the subject of ridicule, just as Lou was.

Although Autism is certainly more severe than what I suffer from, I recognized many of the questions that Lou asked himself. What are they trying to tell me? I know I should say something, but what? They are looking at me funny, did I say the wrong thing? Was that a social cue? Should I have responded to that?

I don't pretend to be a Lou Arrendale, but I saw parts of myself when I read this book. Now I wonder: What if I was offered the chance to change? What if I could become a "normal" person? Would I do it? And if I did, would I be the same person? Would I be better, or worse? I used to think that I wanted to be more like everyone else, to be able to socialize with others without concern, to not have to worry about what mood I will be in when I am at work or class. After having read this book, I'm not so sure anymore. Maybe if I were to become "normal," I would no longer be myself.
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88 of 94 people found the following review helpful By David M. Gordon on February 3, 2003
Format: Hardcover
With *The Speed of Dark*, Elizabeth Moon steps out from her usual role of science fiction author to deliver a gimlet-eyed perspective of what it means to be 'normal,' and in the process shows the reader what normal means.
Others elsewhere ably limn the story's plot; surprisingly, few note how Elizabeth Moon has used the medium (its context) to help tell her tale -- and convey her message -- via employing a style at once affectless yet lucid. This is a worthy parallel (and metaphor) to protagonist Lou Arrendale's changed mental and emotional state, and showcases an author at the top of her form.
I enjoyed the insights about "pattern recognition"; I enjoyed learning about the inner world of fencing; I enjoyed the insights into the inner turmoil autistics (and those close to them) suffer; I enjoyed reading each word, as 340 pages flew by. Chapter 18, in particular, left me agog in wonder, and I immediately re-read it to savor its finer qualities.
Yet don't let my dry prose deter you from a stellar reading experience. Recommended.
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Beth Doyle on January 4, 2003
Format: Hardcover
What are you willing to do to fit in? Feel normal? Feel acceptance?

That is the premise of the book. I found it intriguing and engrossing to read. I stayed up several nights until 1:30 am reading this book, I didn't want to put it down or leave off where I was at in the book.

Initially, when the book arrived and I read the content, "autistic person struggles" I was prepared to do my duty, read the book and give the review, anticipating that this would be another boring book on the hardships of person suffering from autism.

Boy did I miss the mark! Yes, that is part of what the book is about. But even more, this book is about how we look for acceptance from self and others, how we interact with the world, how we interact with others, the constant and evolving process of developing our own process of understanding and making sense out of the world and defining our place in it. This book also asks us to question "social convention" as to whether it is an honest interaction between people, or even an honest response.

While discussing the main characters difficulty reading social cues, Ms. Moon asks us to question our own acuity in reading emotional nuance, facial cues, body cues, intonation meanings and the many other cues and signals that we process constantly, often automatically. How often have I decided I knew what another person meant, only to find out how grossly wrong I was in my ascertaining their response. I could certainly stand improvement in my abilities to read these cues and the resulting decisions that I make. Ultimately, Ms. Moon encourages us to openly discuss our assumptions and interpretations. She is quite right.

Bravo!
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