The Speed of Dark

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.

Tenth anniversary edition • With a new Introduction by the author


“Inevitably, THE SPEED OF DARK has been compared to Daniel Keyes’ classic and tragic Flowers for Algernon, in which a mentally disabled young man is medically enhanced to become a genius. THE SPEED OF DARK may be an even greater book […] it is [a] subtle, eerily nuanced character portrait of a man who is both unforgettable and unlike anyone else in fiction […] The end of THE SPEED OF DARK is not unexpected, but it is marvelous all the same, and exceptionally moving in its balance of loss and wonder [...] It is a measure of Elizabeth Moon’s genius that she enables a reader to thoroughly experience the world through Lou’s tangled but exhilarating neurology, and wonder what we “normal” people are missing when we don’t acknowledge our connection to those who seem so different from us. A lot of novels promise to change the way a reader sees the world; THE SPEED OF DARK actually does.”

The Washington Post

“This poignant work, which won the 2004 Nebula prize for respected science-fiction author Elizabeth Moon […] will leave a deep impression upon the reader. The pages will make you hold your breath until the very last line.”

Associated Press (France)

“For those of you who are a bit shy of hardcore SF, one of your best bets is Elizabeth Moon. She’s been writing great science fiction for years […] a highly sensitive treatment of the world of an autistic man set in the not too distant future […] For people with autism, the world can be a very scary place, and Moon documents poignantly their battle to interact with a world of shapes, sounds and feelings that are strangers to them.”

The Times of London

“A stunner. Not just for parents and friends of autistic individuals, not just for sf fans — THE SPEED OF DARK makes me remember why I love Moon for her ability to immerse me in the thought processes of a sympathetic, transparent protagonist.”

The AV Club

“A touching account. Well-written, intelligent, quite moving. Moon places the reader inside the world of an autistic and unflinchingly conveys the authenticity of his situation.”

Kirkus, Starred Review

“Not only is the title superb, but this novel proves to be both simple and moving, a rarity…”

Magazine Litteraire (France), Starred Review

“Significant and evocative […] While the theme must have an enormous emotional charge for Elizabeth Moon, she does not forget she is a novelist.”

Le Monde (France)

“A powerful, thought-provoking story of soul searching that provides insight into outsiders.”

Library Journal, 12 Titles for Autism Awareness Month

“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, by Elizabeth Moon […] In Lou Arrendale, Moon has created an unforgettable character.”

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

“Compelling […] a poignant earnestness that borders on the philosophical and showcases Moon’s gift for characterization […] will touch even the most jaded.”

Publishers Weekly

“This little work is a beautiful lesson in humanity.”

Journal du Dimanche (France)

“While the laugh-out-loud humor of Groom’s and Lethem’s novels is missing, the poignancy makes Moon’s effort nearly the equal of ‘Forrest Gump’ and ‘Motherless Brooklyn.'”

The Rocky Mountain News

“Moon nimbly avoids the cliches that have accreted around this kind of story […] unadorned prose that manages to convey a great depth of unexpressed feeling. At a time when cases of autism seem to be on the rise, ‘The Speed of Dark’ provides valuable insight while delivering a thoroughly engrossing, even suspenseful story.”

San Francisco Chronicle

“This is an upsetting novel that transcends science fiction.”

Bien dans ma vie! (France)

“The story is engrossing and beautifully written with wide appeal for young adults. Those who like books such as Flowers for Algernon will devour it. Thoughtful and thought provoking, the book raises serious issues and questions of importance for everyone while telling a poignant and hopeful tale.”


“Beautiful and moving […] Moon’s 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

“A strong and beautiful novel that’s light on the science but strong on the heart.”

Cinescape Magazine

“An excellent novel. The bare-nerved narration of [Lou’s] encounters with strangers, co-workers and his friends is served up in a simple, straightforward manner, without a scrap of anesthetic. This makes for a difficult book to read, not because of the style, but because I don’t read well or quickly with my eyes misted over […] If you can stand to be in the mind of a person who’s innocent and painfully honest and sadly, badly underestimated by most of the folks around him, you’ll like THE SPEED OF DARK a great deal.”

The San-Diego Union-Tribune

“The story will be enjoyed, and much loved, on its own terms. A very personal story, one of those novels that have hardly any sf in them but could only have been written by a genre writer, and which have often become the most popular, enduring science fiction classics.”

The New York Review of Science Fiction

“Elizabeth Moon analyzes the comportment and the sensations that an autistic person faces. This introspection is also a great science-fiction novel […] subtle and moving.”

Telerama (France)

“Not only a foothold into the world of autism but an engaging journey into the dark edges that define the self.”

The Seattle Times

“Thought-provoking […] Moon is effective at putting the reader inside Lou’s mind, and it is both fascinating and painful to see the behavior and qualities of so-called normals through his eyes.”


“A novel of impressive emotional power.”

Espirit Femme (France)

“Moon capably conveys the frustrations and joys of Lou’s world. Her descriptions of an autistic self — an autistic soul, if you will — are vivid, nuanced, even beautiful.”

South Jersey Courier Post

“I liked the story very much, and Lou Arrendale is one of those characters that seems like someone you actually met.”

Science Fiction Chronicle

“An incredible novel that captures the essences of an intelligent autistic person struggling to independently survive in a constantly changing world […] This strong tale with powerful characters will remind the audience of Flowers of Algernon and Rain Main as Elizabeth Moon takes the reader inside the soul of the hero.”

Midwest Book Review

“Elizabeth Moon has written a moving first-person history. Lou isn’t normal, and thanks to him, we penetrate another form of perception.”

La Bien Public (France)

“Moon does a wonderful job of allowing us into Lou’s thoughts and emotions […] THE SPEED OF DARK dares to ask hard questions, and still delivers a touching tale.”

The Davis Enterprise

“Anyone interested in the workings of the brain […] will want to read this novel. Anyone who works with, or loves, or knows an autistic person must read it.”

Kensington Newspapers

“Lou’s first-person narration is lyrical and touching, displaying Moon’s gift for characterization and her familiarity with the subject matter. Lou’s incredible journey addresses the basic human need to fit in — something everyone, however “normal” they may be, can relate to.”

RT Book Reviews

“I recommend this book. Moon’s characters will stay with you for a long time.”

Starburst (UK)

“An astonishing story, which raises some serious issues whilst remaining an entertaining read. It’s a complex and thought-provoking tale, with a strong moral thread running throughout. Autism is clearly a matter close to Moon’s heart, and her thorough knowledge of the subject shines through in this novel […] a powerful and compelling story […] a unique and worthwhile read.”

Dreamwatch (UK)

“A joy to read and an excellent example of character-led science fiction […] a descendant of Flowers for Algernon, though told from the inside, from the perspective of the subject and with the full realisation of the humanity of that individual. SPEED OF DARK is a strong, distinctive and fascinating novel.”

The Zone (UK)

“So very, very good that one’s actually slightly nervous of reviewing it, in case, crazily, the clumsiness of one’s review will somehow mar the integrity of the novel itself.”

Infinity Plus (UK)

“The author, whose son is autistic, gives an attaching depth to Lou.”

Liberation (France)

“A moving, sensitive reflection.”

Psychologies Magazine (France)

“Elizabeth Moon describes Lou’s autism with finesse and sensitivity.”

Pelerin Magazine (France)

“Elizabeth Moon excels in her genre and poses fundamental questions.”

Cote Femme (France)

“A novel of great sensitivity, it is reminiscent of Daniel Keyes’ FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON.”

Phosphore (France)

“A well-crafted, captivating novel that science-fiction lovers will enjoy and can then pass on to their mainstream-reading friends. I really had fun seeing the world through Lou’s perspective. Moon gives us a reality shift that rivals Daniel Keyes’ Flowers for Algernon.”

“I cannot recommend this book highly enough; the author received a Hugo nomination for her book “Remnant Population”; this book is better in my opinion and deserves every award going within science fiction or mainstream literature as a whole. A truly magnificent work.”

The Alien On-Line (UK)

“Moon has crafted her experiences as a mother of an autistic son into a sensitive and insightful novel. I recommend you pick up a copy of this work and read it today.”

Washington SF Association

“Riveting […] It’s a bona fide page-turner — with surprises and magic around every corner — and is guarenteed to leave a lasting impression.”

“Her depiction of Lou Arrendale is spectacular […] THE SPEED OF DARK should be one everyone’s must-read list for 2003. It’s one of the most emotionally resonant and philosophically intriguing SF novels in recent years. I give it my highest recommendation.”

SciFi Dimensions

“An astonishing book […] masterfully crafted by Elizabeth Moon, flowing as smoothly and clearly as anyone could ask. Moon’s command of the written word has never been sharper […] It’s challenging and accessible at the same time, and easily surpasses Moon’s previous high water mark. At worst, SPEED OF DARK is a magnificent character study. At best, it’s the most powerful book you’ll read this year.”

SF Site

“A powerful, thought-provoking story of soul searching that provides insight into outsiders.”

Library Journal

“One of those novels that makes you feel the whole spectrum of emotions, changes the way you think, and stays with you forever. All at once beautiful, humorous, enlightening, heart-wrenching, poignant and hopeful.”

Fantasy Literature

“A superb, endearing, and moving modern classic […] an intelligent and nuanced tale of an autistic man’s experiences in a world that doesn’t know how to accept him as he is, nor properly understand how he sees the world. This is a great novel, and it is absolutely clear to me why it won a Nebula Award […] The novel is filled with very-well-written passages, or almost beautifully-worded observations and descriptions.”

Civilian Reader

“Moon handled a complex story with care and consideration and provides much food for thought. Great example of the way SF can make us examine our own opinions and prejudices about elements in our own current time more closely. If you like more introspective and slower-moving near future SF, then I’d certainly recommend giving Speed of Dark a read.”

A Fantastical Librarian

“This is a beautiful deconstruction of identity and self, conformism and prejudice. It’s a fascinating read […] It fits into a group of high calibre novels, those that alter your world view, just through having read them.”

Quicksilver Reads

“Moon gives us incomparable, no-holds-barred, insight into the autistic mind and the thought processes that govern it […] it’s one of the most gripping novels I’ve read […] a beautifully-written character study that forces the reader to see the world from a slightly skewed perspective, and ask the question: what is it about me that makes me who I am? Unmissable.”

Reader Dad

“I was compelled by this book. Not in the “It’s lunchtime, therefore read” sense; rather “I can get another few pages in”. It’s fascinating.”

Glen Mehn Review

“THE SPEED OF DARK gives a stunning, insightful and openhearted look at the world through the eyes of a man with autism. After reading this book, you will think deeply on the question: What does “normal” mean? Elizabeth Moon has written an outstanding testament to the unique gift every one of us has to share, exactly as we are, while also cheering us on to be all that we can be. Kudos to Ms. Moon for helping us to see with new clarity not only the mystery of autism, but also the wonder of it.”

Barry Neil Kaufman, author of Happiness Is A Choice and Son-Rise, director of The Option Institute and the Autism Treatment Center of America

“[A] fine novel […] I marvel at Elizabeth Moon’s achievement. With no shadow of sentimentality or easy romanticism, she shows us the core of autism, in thought and in action, making us experience the anxiety and tension continually accompanying its autistic hero as he struggled to make sense of the world we so readily call normal.”

Clara Park, author of Exiting Nirvana

“A fine novel! Elizabeth Moon takes us to a part of the human neighborhood that is at once enchanting and heartbreaking. Her near-future world, and her people, are absolutely compelling.”

Greg Bear, The New York Times bestselling author of Vitals

“We know the speed of light. We need to appreciate the SPEED OF DARK […] the splendid novel by Elizabeth Moon with a heart- and mind-gripping story and a hero you can applaud for his uncommon bravery. A MUST READ!”

Anne McCaffrey, NY Times bestselling author of The Skies of Pern

“Lou is unforgettable, one of those rare characters who changes forever the perspective of the reader. The SPEED OF DARK is a remarkable accomplishment.”

Jack McDevitt, Nebula & Hugo-nominated author of Deepsix

“Moon writes with both passion and dispassion of a subject that is close to her heart. In Lou Arrendale, she has created a character whose insights and observations spring from a mind that is familiar, yet strange, and whose experiences and attitudes compel the reader to examine their own preconceptions of what it means to be human.”

Kristine Smith, Campbell Award-winning author of Law of Survival

“A grabbing tale of hope and possibilities. Moon does for the future of Autism what she did for migrant workers in REMNANT POPULATION. An absorbing and thought-provoking page turner.”

Mike Moscoe, Nebula-nominated author of They Also Serve

“THE SPEED OF DARK, Elizabeth Moon’s finest book to date, represents a quantum leap in her development as a literary and moral voice. The book is pure passionate conviction, yet written with an enviable degree of intellectual control and extraordinary research. This isn’t just Flowers for Algernon, it’s Flowers with a triumphant ending, not just for her profoundly decent, couragous, and gifted hero, but for humanity.”

Susan Shwartz, co-author of Vulcan’s Heart and Vulcan’s Forge

“One of the most touching books I’ve had the pleasure to discover. I loved it so much I made it a book of the month pick even though I’d already read it.”

Joseph Mallozzi Executive Producer of Stargate SG-1, Stargate: Atlantis & SGU Stargate Universe