Jay Maynard (jmaynard) wrote,
Jay Maynard

Book Review: Elizabeth Moon, The Speed of Dark

The Speed of Dark
Elizabeth Moon, 2002
Del Rey Books
ISBN 0-345-48139-9

Short version: Wow.

Lou Arrendale is an autistic adult in the near future, approximately 2020. He got treatments as a child that allow him to function in the real world, with some support measures. He's part of the last generation to grow up autistic. Later kids are identified and gene-spliced in utero or shortly after birth to cure the condition.

An evil corporate manager who only understands that the special support measures for the group of autists Lou works as a part of cost money learns of an experimental cure, and tries to force the group to serve as test subjects by threatening their employment. This conflict holds the story together, and along with a subplot involving a normal man jealous of Lou and a woman attracted to him, gives us a way to look inside Lou's mind and see how he thinks. There are just enough segments with other characters, told in the third person, to glue the parts together that Lou wouldn't know about.

I don't know if Lou's thoughts as described here are how an autistic person really thinks. It's definitely different enough from the way that I, and presumably other normal people, think that it held my interest tight. The resolution of the conflicts happens a bit early, getting out of the way of the real climax just in time. The ending feels a little pat, but I'm not sure it could have ended much of any other way.

Elizabeth Moon is the mother of an autistic teenager. I don't know how much that helped this work. It can't have hurt. Moon won the 2003 Nebula Award for Best Novel for this work. She deserved every last bit of it.

Rating: 9 of 10 stars

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