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Biased and superficial Science Fiction reviews

Speed Of Dark

Copyright 2002 by Elizabeth Moon

SOJALS rating:     
one SOJALS point one SOJALS point one SOJALS point no SOJALS point no SOJALS point    Good (3/5)

I first read this on the 21st January 2004.

Lou Arrendale is autistic. He has profound difficulty interacting with people. Such interactions are intense but frequently incomprehensible. He has, in his thirties, achieved a largely settled lifestyle. He works at a company which needs his skills and understands his difficulties. Now however, there is a new boss, one who is determined to remove the autistics from the company.

Well that's a synopsis that pretty much puts anyone off of reading this wonderful book. I admit that I didn't read the cover review when I bought this book. I'd read one of Moon's novels (forgotten which, of course) and I liked the title. I certainly wouldn't have bought it if I'd read my preceding paragraphs (which would have been a really apt comment had this been a bad book about time travel, both of which it is not).

This is a "Flowers For Algernon" about autism, and about life. However, it is somewhat more optimistic.

Elizabeth Moon tells the novel mainly from Lou's viewpoint, using a distinctive precise and emotionally-flat voice. One gets so accustomed to this that when the viewpoint switches to one of the non-autistic characters, the change to a more fluent and emotional style is a jolt. It is a powerful reminder of Lou's different inner world. Coincidently, the novel "The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night" by Mark Haddon has just won the Whitbread "Book Of The Year" award. This deals with Asperger's symptom, a form of autism. Joan Bakewell, ex newsreader extraordinaire and one of the Whitbread judges, commented "it was extraordinary how Haddon had managed to work within the limitations set by using the voice of a boy with that sort of disability". Elizabeth Moon has achieved the same with this book. If her portrayal of the autistic personality is accurate, this is an important book in understanding the difference.

What's it got. Well, it's more what it hasn't got. It is hardly SF; there are no aliens and no galaxy-roving battleships. But it's still essential reading.

Loaded on the 29th February 2004.
Cover of Speed Of Dark