The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth MoonThe Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon

The Speed of Dark

byElizabeth Moon

Paperback | March 2, 2004

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Tenth anniversary edition • With a new Introduction by the author

In the near future, disease will be a condition of the past. Most genetic defects will be removed at birth; the remaining during infancy. Lou Arrendale, a high-functioning autistic adult, is a member of the lost generation, born at the wrong time to reap the rewards of medical science. He lives a low-key, independent life. But then he is offered a chance to try a brand-new experimental “cure” for his condition. 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 important, would he still love Marjory, a woman who may never be able to reciprocate his feelings? 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.
 
Thoughtful, provocative, poignant, unforgettable, The Speed of Dark is a gripping journey into the mind of an autistic person as he struggles with profound questions of humanity and matters of the heart.

Praise for The Speed of Dark
 
“Splendid and graceful . . . A lot of novels promise to change the way a reader sees the world; The Speed of Dark actually does.”—The Washington Post Book World
 
“[A] beautiful and moving story . . . [Elizabeth] Moon is the mother of an autistic teenager and her love is apparent in the story of Lou. He makes a deep and lasting impact on the reader while showing a different way of looking at the world.”—The Denver Post
 
“Every once in a while, you come across a book that is both an important literary achievement and a completely and utterly absorbing reading experience—a book with provocative ideas and an equally compelling story. Such a book is The Speed of Dark.”—Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel
 
“A remarkable journey [that] takes us into the mind of an autistic with a terrible choice: become normal or remain an alien on his own planet.”—Mary Doria Russell, author of The Sparrow
 
“A powerful portrait . . . an engaging journey into the dark edges that define the self.”—The Seattle Times
Elizabeth Moon is a native Texan who grew up two hundred and fifty miles south of San Antonio. After earning a degree in history from Rice University, she spent three years in the Marine Corps, then earned a degree in biology from the University of Texas, Austin. She is intimately acquainted with autism, through the raising of an autis...
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Title:The Speed of DarkFormat:PaperbackDimensions:378 pages, 8.3 × 5.6 × 0.8 inPublished:March 2, 2004Publisher:Random House Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0345447549

ISBN - 13:9780345447548

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Customer Reviews of The Speed of Dark

Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Eye opening and overall great read!! This book was really great!! It made me think differently about autism and it really gives you an idea of how people with autism think. You really get to know the mair character, and really connect with him. I cried at the end. My friend has it now...I would recommend it to anyone!
Date published: 2004-12-10

Bookclub Guide

1. Why do you think Elizabeth Moon titled her novel The Speed of Dark?2. Is The Speed of Dark a typical science fiction novel? Is it a sciencefiction novel at all? Why or why not?3. Lou Arrendale is the novel’s main character, and most of its events arerelated in his voice, through his eyes. Yet sometimes Moon depicts eventsthrough the eyes of other characters, such as Tom and Pete Aldrin.Discuss why the author might have decided to write this story from morethan one point of view. Do you think it was the right decision?4. In the accompanying interview, Elizabeth Moon states that she wantedto avoid demonizing autism in her presentation of Lou and his fellowautists. Does she succeed? Does she go too far in the opposite directionand romanticize it?5. What is it about damaged characters like Lou that makes them sofascinating to read about? What other novels can you think of thatfeature main characters or narrators who are damaged or in some way“non-normal”?6. Compare the author’s portrayal of characters like Mr. Crenshaw andDon to that of Lou. Are their portraits drawn with equal depth andbelievability? Why do you suppose the author might have chosen todepict some characters more realistically than others? What effect, if any,did this have on your enjoyment of the novel?7. In what ways is Lou’s autism a disadvantage in his daily life? Does itconfer any advantages?8. What does it mean to the various characters in the book to be normal?How do Lou’s ideas of normalcy compare to those of Crenshaw? OfDon? Of Tom and Lucia?9. How did reading The Speed of Dark change your own concept of whatit means to be normal?10. What reason does Lou’s company give for wanting him and hisfellow autists to undergo the experimental treatment? Are they beingtruthful, or is there some other reason?11. Does Lou decide to try the experimental treatment because hebelieves what the company has told him, or for reasons of his own? If thelatter, what are those reasons, and do you find them believable? Do youthink he makes the right decision? Discuss in terms of the reading fromthe book of John that Lou hears at church, about the man lying by thehealing pool in Siloam.12. Do you agree or disagree with Crenshaw’s contention that Lou andthe other autists are a drain on the company and that their “perks” areunfair to “normal” employees? In your opinion, are special needsemployees, whether autists or those with other mental or physicaldisabilities, given too many workplace advantages under current law?13. What do you think accounts for the personal hostility toward Loudisplayed by characters like Crenshaw and Don? At any point in yourreading, did you find yourself taking their side? Why?14. Why, despite his sensitivity to patterns, does Lou have such difficultyaccepting the possibility that Don may be the one behind the vandalismof his car? Once Don is arrested, why does Lou have misgivings aboutfiling a complaint against him?15. Given what is revealed of Marjory’s personality and history, do youthink she is genuinely attracted to Lou?16. One of Lou’s biggest difficulties is interpreting the motivations ofother people. Yet this is something almost every reader can relate to.Similarly, many readers can identify with other aspects of Lou’s characterand behavior: his appreciation of music or his sensitivity to patterns, forexample. Were there any facets of his character that you found totallyalien to your own experience of living in and perceiving the world?17. One reviewer called the ending of The Speed of Dark “chilling.”Another termed it a “cop-out.” What’s your verdict? Has Lou achievedhis dream of becoming an astronaut, as it seems? What price has he paid?Is he still the same person he was before the treatment? If not, how hashe changed? What has been gained? What has been lost?18. The treatment offered to Lou features a combination of geneticengineering and nanotechnology, two of the hottest areas of scientificresearch today. Some diseases and conditions are already being treatedwith gene therapies, and scientists expect that more will soon follow. Theprospect of cures for such scourges as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, andautism is exciting. But what about genetic therapies to raise IQ orprogram developing fetuses for certain physical, mental, and emotionaltraits? Are we moving too fast into this brave new world? Have we takensufficient account of the dangers and ethical considerations? Do humanbeings have a right to tamper with nature in this way? Where would youdraw the line?19. If you were offered an experimental drug to improve your IQ orsome area of your mental or physical functioning, but with a possibilitythat you would no longer be the same person, would you try it? What ifit were offered by your employer and tied to a higher salary or betterbenefits package?20. Imagine that you and the members of your reading group are highfunctioningautists like Lou and the others. Now go back and discuss oneof the previous questions from this new perspective, based on behaviorsand ways of thinking presented in the novel.

Editorial Reviews

“Splendid and graceful . . . A lot of novels promise to change the way a reader sees the world; The Speed of Dark actually does.”—The Washington Post Book World   “[A] beautiful and moving story . . . [Elizabeth] Moon is the mother of an autistic teenager and her love is apparent in the story of Lou. He makes a deep and lasting impact on the reader while showing a different way of looking at the world.”—The Denver Post   “Every once in a while, you come across a book that is both an important literary achievement and a completely and utterly absorbing reading experience—a book with provocative ideas and an equally compelling story. Such a book is The Speed of Dark.”—Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel   “A remarkable journey [that] takes us into the mind of an autistic with a terrible choice: become normal or remain an alien on his own planet.”—Mary Doria Russell, author of The Sparrow   “A powerful portrait . . . an engaging journey into the dark edges that define the self.”—The Seattle Times