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Publisher's Summary

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 their differences. They will be made active and contributing members of society. But they will never be normal.

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...

©2002 Elizabeth Moon; (P)2008 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

Nebula Award, Best Novel, 2003
  • Favorite Audiobooks of 2010 (Fantasy Literature)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Andrew
  • mORRINSVILLENew Zealand
  • 01-02-09

Totally Recommended!

Lou Arrendale is a high functioning Autistic whose world is turned upside down with the news that there may be a possible cure for his condition. Set in the near future this is a deeply absorbing story that makes for a compulsive listening experience. A deserved Nebula award winning novel that would certainly appeal to fans of THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT TIME. If you are not a Sci-Fi aficionado, relax. This is a deeply compassionate journey into the mind of a man trying to find his place in the world. Joins my all time top 10 Audio experiences.

23 of 24 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Unexpected Interest

Lou is a high functioning autistic adult working for a pharmaceutical company. A new boss decides that the supportive work environment is too costly and presents a drug trial that could very well cure adult autism. But it is not without considerable risk because although tried on primates, it has not yet been tried on humans. The first half of the story introduces the reader to Lou and his world. The second half of the story centers on Lou's decision making process about whether or not to participate in the trial. I bought this book because of a series I have read by Elizabeth Moon, although this is a stand-alone novel. Although Moon doesn't describe how her futuristic setting got there, I don't feel that is important to the overall tone or plot of the novel. Moon portrays a high functioning world of adult autism in a very capable, compassionate manner. The style of writing keeps the reader inside the autistic world without bogging down. I found it to be an interesting literary device that many writers may not have considered in writing such a piece. There were times when I felt better editing could have enhanced the novel, but overall it was a great read and certainly much different than most sci-fi or mystery novels. It unexpectedly held my interest and was worth the coin.

31 of 33 people found this review helpful

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  • Robert
  • Yamhill, OR, United States
  • 02-11-14

A lot to like

There was a lot to like about this book. I felt it was original having been written in the 1st person with a protagonist who is autistic. My understanding is that the author has personal experience with a family member who is autistic and we can probably rely on its authenticity. Thinking and speaking from the perspective of one who is autistic was for me sometimes painful. I wanted to give up on the book at times. But I could not, which must say something for the book in itself.

From the aforementioned perspective, the book is quite simple. And this is not meant in any kind of derogatory sense in that respect. If most of us were more simple not only in how we view and feel about the world but also in how we relate about those things to others, there might be fewer misunderstandings among us. I think that the strongest aspect of the book is its ability to really get inside the head of the protagonist and help us to feel what he must have been feeling especially in his frustration with "normal" people. And truly, he was much more normal if not more ideal than many of us who do not carry the label of autistic.

I believe that the book deserved a better plot. The plot seemed almost too trivial given the nature of the subject material. The ending was not what I expected and it seemed too short. Further, I have to think that in the end, I would not have chosen for myself what the protagonist chose for himself. Perhaps the book was deeper than I thought and I might have missed something. But I don't think so.

I'd liked to have given the book a 3.5 stars rating but since I could not, and because for me it was quite original, I gave it 4 overall.

15 of 16 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Richard
  • Pembroke Pines, FL, United States
  • 04-01-09

Thought provoking

This story is told from an autistic mans point of view. It is no page turner but is not meant to be. It did hold my interest and is the second book of this kind I have read. The other is The curious incident of the dog in the night-time. I did rate that book one more star but it is only 6 hours and this book is close to 15. This is the better buy and has a better ending. I did not expect this book to end as it did. I believe I will remember the characters in this book for a long time and will probably listen again after time has passed. I do not mind paying a credit for a book I enjoy.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

engrossing and meaty

I was caught up in the characters and subject of un-orthodox book. I'm not sure you'd label it science fiction, but it was a wonderful read that I wanted to go on and on.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

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Captivating story

I typically listen to thrillers and adventurous science fiction stories, so this is not my typical reading material, but I've always liked Elizabeth Moon. I was a bit doubtful starting this book, but it immediately caught my attention and kept it. The narrator is great at portraying Lou's thought process, and his concerns and the things that made him relaxed and/or happy. Maybe part of what kept my attention was the adventure Lou experienced as his life changed, becoming more complicated, and requiring that he meet the new challenges and eventually make some tough decisions. His experience had many similarities to those of explorers on a new planet developing solutions to deal with unexpected dangers and alien landscapes. In any case, I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in psychology, social interactions, and also to readers who just enjoy an interesting adventure.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Kenney
  • United States
  • 11-08-11

Pleasantly surprised!

I read sci-fi and fantasy almost exclusively. This book is really neither. It is a very in depth look into a fictional world of an autistic man and to a lesser degree his autistic co-workers. And to my astonishment, I loved it!

I am impressed with Moon's ability to convey the complexities and nuances of an autistic point of view. I work in IT for a behavioral health company that has an Autism department, I understood nothing of what Autism was. Now I am still greatly ignorant about Autism, but I have an appreciation for the condition and an idea of what it is that I do not know. The light of knowing is replacing the dark of not knowing, the dark was faster.

The story really engaged me. As others have noted it could have been edited a bit more, but would the autistic veiwpoint have lost some of it's power and focus? I think it would have. My real complaint is that the story ended to quickly. Let me explain that, the beginning and middle were full of rich detail and viewpoints while the end was terribly rushed in comparison. Had the whole story moved at the speed of the ending then the pattern would have been balanced and symetrical, Lou would not have approved of this imbalance to the pattern. I really related to Lou's relationship with Marjorie (or is it Margery?), I could understand his side of it and I also tried to nudge him in the right direction, but of course the story followed its course no matter how much I willed it to alter it's path. Even though I felt the ending lacked the depth and detail of the rest of the story, I felt the story and message were strong enough to get 5 stars (I really wanted to award 4.5 but had to round up for this great story). I'd love to see a set of short stories to fill in some of the of viewpoints and/or to flesh out the ending (and perhaps extend the ending to fill the gap between the end of this book and the epilogue).

I was blown away with the philosophical idea that there was a "speed of dark". You will have to decide for yourself if dark has a speed. I'm not sure, but now I know that I do not know, which is better than not knowing what it is that I do not know. This made me think, is there a speed of silence?

I am different, if even in a small way, for having listened to this wonderful story.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Very intriguing

This was a great listen. A good vehicle showing how making choices can have both really great and really sad outcomes at one and the same time. I highly recommend this novel --- makes you think and sticks with you afterwards.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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  • Benbarian
  • Johannesburg, South Africa
  • 07-23-12


Wow. What an interesting look into an autistic mind. I'm not sure how accurate it is, but I believe it to be helpful either way. Well written, human characters, mundane, but strangely fascinating. Interesting near future tech. I will give more Moons ago

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Carmel
  • Melbourne VictoriaAustralia
  • 11-10-14

first time review

Would you listen to The Speed of Dark again? Why?


What was one of the most memorable moments of The Speed of Dark?

as soon as I heard the narrators voice. In comparison to other voices I have had to endure, especially in the Pall. series of E. Moon

Have you listened to any of Jay Snyder’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

not as yet but I will be searching for more of his work. tone, tempo, character interpretation - Magnificent

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Helen
  • 10-23-09

Gripping story

Having ordered this audio book without much forethought only noticing author and title, I had presumed this would be a sci fi resd. Imagine my suprise to listen to a story about autism. Do not mistake me I was enthralled. The narration is superb, really fitting the character and the storyline has me gripped. I was disappointed when I had to pause for part 2 (forgot to download it to my ipod!) and am looking forward to the concluding part and would reccomend this to all, perhaps if you ever read Skallagrigg by William Horwood you would like this, but it does differ quite a bit from that type of telling.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Bridie
  • 04-16-11

Pulled me in

I've read a few of Moon's books and enjoyed them all. This one took some getting used to.

At first I found Ray Snyder's narration hard to take but after I settled into it I decided that he did a good job expressing the characters and conveying their emotions.
The story was a little repetitive in some aspects of the main character but I suppose that was to represent his autistic nature and I came to think of the repetitiveness as a kind of fugue, colouring my overall impression of the book with a sense of of urban otherworldliness.
The style in that regard reminded me a little of JG Ballard!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Daniel Staniforth
  • 02-02-18


A smart, intelligent empathetic look at autism and neuroethics. Heart breaking and beautifully written. Extraordinary.