By Light Alone
In a world where we have been genetically engineered so that we can photosynthesise sunlight with our hair hunger is a thing of the past, food an indulgence. The poor grow their hair, the rich affect baldness and flaunt their wealth by still eating. But other hungers remain ...The young daughter of an affluent New York family is kidnapped. The ransom demands are refused. A year later a young women arrives at the family home claiming to be their long lost daughter. She has changed so much, she has lived on light, can anyone be sure that she has come home? Adam Roberts' new novel is yet another amazing melding of startling ideas and beautiful prose. Set in a New York of the future it nevertheless has echoes of a Fitzgeraldesque affluence and art-deco style. It charts his further progress as one of the most important writers of his generation.
- Paperback | 416 pages
- 155 x 233 x 30mm | 560g
- 18 Aug 2011
- Orion Publishing Co
- London, United Kingdom
"Should have won the 2009 Booker Prize." Kim Stanley Robinson, author, "Red Mars," on "Yellow Blue Tibia""
About Adam Roberts
Adam Roberts is Professor of 19th-century literature at London University. His novels, SALT, GRADISIL and YELLOW BLUE TIBIA have all been shortlisted for the ARTHUR C. CLARKE AWARD. He has also published a number of academic works on both 19th-century poetry and SF.
Our customer reviews
Some people apparently see science fiction and other forms of non-realist or speculative fiction as essentially escapist fiction. This perception of the nature of SF is clearly a barrier to those who like to read fiction that is anchored in everyday reality, even while it may attract those who genuinely do read to escape from it. Despite my taste for the imaginative and speculative in fiction, I fall very firmly into the former category and I don't see this as a contradiction. I read science fiction to enhance my understanding of our world, not to escape from it. Little wonder then that Adam Roberts is one of my favourite science fiction authors. Roberts' work, like the very best of science fiction, perfectly exemplifies how a vivid imagination, rather than leading to pure flights of fancy, can in fact elucidate the values and condition of the society in which we currently live. His latest, By Light Alone, does just such a thing, and it does it brilliantly. The primary concept of this book is wonderfully wacky: that in the future humans have been genetically engineered to photosynthesise sunlight through their hair, thus eradicating the demand for food from an ever growing population. What has not been eradicated are the social and economic inequalities of our time nor the vain affectations of the rich and powerful. They have simply evolved, and now the rich flaunt their wealth by shaving their hair and eating food while looking for ways to further shield themselves from the hairy hordes of the desperate poor. George and Marie are exemplars of such high society. They live a life isolated from the harsh realities of the wider world until their daughter, Leah, is kidnapped while they're holidaying in Anatolia. After these initial events, the novel outlines the attempt by Marie and George to recover their daughter and the impact of her absence on their lives, then latterly the aftermath of her eventual return, before finally offering an explanation of what actually occurred for Leah during the time she was taken. The structure of the novel is itself an integral part of the story, the final segment of the book is one long chapter which reveals Leah's physical and psychological journey, and which places the events of the other chapters into their proper context including the revelation of a well executed conceit. All the while the personal experiences of the characters are set against the backdrop of growing social unrest. Throughout this book Roberts employs his erudite writing style to impressive effect, combining satirical insight and perceptiveness with great depth of both theme and character. Marie in particular is an utterly vile human being, but a great personality. There are also moments within its pages that By Light Alone is actually quite dark, including accounts of sexual exploitation. A difficult subject at any time and one often employed all too lazily in fiction, thankfully in this work, these never appear as anything other than entirely appropriate. The darkness within this novel is accentuated by an acute awareness of contrast. George's ruminations on the transient nature of existence following not just the loss of his daughter, but his witnessing the death of the man apparently responsible, occurs, for example, in potent polarity to the shallowness of his previous existence and the nonchalant humour of Roberts' prose. This contrast of light and dark, superficial and profound, characterise the narrative. As does a wonderful grasp of the effectiveness of understatement. It's not often that I rave unreservedly about a novel, but I really did love this book without exception. By Light Alone is clever science fiction, and not just because of its prose or theme; It is imbued with perceptiveness and acutely observed social insight that transcends genre and that make this a fantastically relevant offering of 21st century literature. I sincerely hope this book finally brings Adam Roberts the recognition he deserves from a wider audience. For me, it has been my favourite novel of the year so far. If you want to see the best that British Science Fiction has to offer, and just how grounded in real world concerns it can be, then you need to be reading Adam Roberts. By Light Alone is a great place to start.show moreby Jason Baki