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The Speed of Dark
The Speed of Dark
Author: Elizabeth Moon
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 the...  more »

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.

From the Hardcover edition.
ISBN-13: 9780345481399
ISBN-10: 0345481399
Publication Date: 6/28/2005
Pages: 384
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.

3.9 stars, based on 60 ratings
Publisher: Del Rey
Book Type: Paperback
Other Versions: Hardcover, Audio CD
Members Wishing: 0
Reviews: Member | Amazon | Write a Review

Top Member Book Reviews

reviewed The Speed of Dark on
Helpful Score: 4
I would add at least 1/2 star to the four listed for this book. An amazing look at the world of autism and what could happen if - - . Very enjoyable.
althea avatar reviewed The Speed of Dark on + 774 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 4
I've read some of Elizabeth Moon's military space-opera books before, and enjoyed them - but this is quite a different - and more serious - effort - which resulted in her winning the Nebula Award for 2003.
Influenced by her life with an autistic son, The Speed of Dark tells the story of Lou, a high-functioning autistic adult who is socially (and otherwise) handicapped, but very intelligent, even brilliant, and employed by a pharmaceutical company for his unusual ability to see and understand chemical patterns. However, a new boss comes into Lou's company who neither understands nor likes the autistic employees and is viciously opposed to the steps that have been taken to meet their needs. A new, experimental, treatment for autism is being talked about, and he wants to force the autistic employees into being the first to go to human trials.
There may be an ulterior - and sinister - motive behind this pressure, but the main concern of the book is the ethics behind this 'cure' - what makes an individual themselves, and is it the right thing to do to change someone to make them fit society?
Meanwhile, Lou is also subject to an escalating series of harassment and attacks by a stalker - a rejected and obviously deranged former member of a group that Lou practices fencing with. It's obvious who the culprit is, but Lou, with less understanding of human behavior, is not capable of realizing that a so-called 'friend' may not actually be a friend.
Moon here points out that even so-called 'normal' people may actually be more dysfunctional than autistics. Many interesting issues are raised by the book (which made it a good choice for book club discussion) but I felt like Bear's own feeling are conflicted, and that came through in the book, resulting in a somewhat confused 'message.' Are autistic people 'fine the way they are' or would the benefits conferred by a cure (not least among them the ability to live independently, without assistance), outweigh the possible negative of the cured individual not being exactly the same person? As Lou points out, 'we are all a different person every day' as our experiences change us. But the ending is still bittersweet.
Also, although this book was very interesting, I flt it really suffered in comparison to 'Flowers for Algernon' - which is is EXTREMELY similar to. To the point that it feels like the author said, "I want to rewrite 'Flowers For Algernon', but with autistic people instead of retarded people." But, the older book is just better. It's more tightly and beautifully structured, and has a deeper emotional impact.
BaltimoreBarb avatar reviewed The Speed of Dark on + 29 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
Fascinating and very well-written book about a future in which autism begins to be cured. It gives an inside-an-autistic-person's head view of how it feels (the writer has an autistic son), how society might support the autistic in being more productive and independent, and looks at the question of whether a person would choose to be "normal" having lived all his life with this difference. Though I was somewhat unhappy with the ending, it was very well worth reading and really made me think.
reviewed The Speed of Dark on
Helpful Score: 3
Very interesting look at the world of an autistic man who is offered an experimental cure. Thought provoking and enjoyable read.
callalovesbooks avatar reviewed The Speed of Dark on + 5 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
I haven't enjoyed a learning experience this much since I read "The Incident with the dog in the night", written from the viewpoint of a kid with Asberger's syndrome.
It's an interesting story with a sci-fi element, barely. It's very real and you care about the character, he's well written and real.Because the author has an autistic brother, her viewpoint has extra depth.That coupled with her skills as a wonderful author make this her most important book.
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reviewed The Speed of Dark on + 1436 more book reviews
It's interesting to read a book based on an author's life experience. Moon is a favorite author but I found this book quite different from what I have read in the past. It's the story of an autistic young man and his life, told from his view. It explores how society and most people view those who are autistic. This is a futuristic take on what could happen but the actions of many characters view how many look at those who are autistic. I quite liked this unusual tale.
breena31 avatar reviewed The Speed of Dark on + 23 more book reviews
"Thoughtful, poignant, and unforgettable, The Speed of Dark is a gripping exploration into the world of Lou Arrendale, an autistic man who is offered a chance to try a brand-new experimental 'cure' for his condition. Now 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."
silksmonkey avatar reviewed The Speed of Dark on + 21 more book reviews
Amazing book, impossible to put down.
reviewed The Speed of Dark on
I really enjoyed this book. It put autism in a new frame of reference for me.
tish avatar reviewed The Speed of Dark on + 384 more book reviews
this book written by a mother of an autistic man is about an autistic man and it is set in the future. a future where "they" want to offer experimental treatment of autistic persons.

this moving book is a must read for anyone who knows an autistic person or even if they do not. it provides and incredible understanding of the autistic mind.
reviewed The Speed of Dark on + 54 more book reviews
An amazing thought provoking book if you love someone who is Autistic.

Book Wiki

Lou Arrendale (Primary Character)
Tom (Primary Character)
Lucia (Major Character)
Marjory (Major Character)
Don (Major Character)
(Show all 6 People/Characters)