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The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon

Review by Songbook

Time: Sometime later this century

Place: USA, but not really stated.

Characters: Lou, and Autistic man. His friends, the good boss, the evil boss.

This book is set sufficiently in the future that the root causes of Autism are better understood, and better technology exists to train and teach autisitic children. Since the main character was born, a fix was discovered, so that autism could be taken care of in the womb or shortly thereafter, but not early enough to help Lou. He is the last generation of functioning autists.

Lou himself is a very high functioning autist. He can hold down a job (with special support systems), and live independently. The bulk of this story is told from his perspective.

A possible cure is found for adult autists. The president of Lou's division discovers it, and begins a plan to force it on this particular division, because they are "too expensive" et al. From here we unfold the ideas of what is a person? What is Normal and Real? How much change should someone have to do to fit in?

The main reason I really like Elizabeth Moon is her characters, and in this book this skill really shines. The corporate strategy of the Evil Boss is perfect and rational, and competely curled my toes. I thought I was going to have to stop reading from pure disgust.

Reading from Lou's PoV was intriguing. Moon's background, beyond excellent research, is she is raising a Autistic son. It was fascinating to see how he followed patterns, and simply could *not* read the little signals we all take for granted, possibly even read subliminally.

But the heart of the story really is Lou's observations of "fitting in", and how we, the "normals" (normal is a dryer setting) behave, versus how he has been trained. It is interesting, and painful, to watch his interactions with the medical community. But I really think the coup de gras is the contemplation of who he is, what he should be, and how he will get there, especially concerning the new treatment.

I highly recommend this book. I think if you are going into a caring profession or a teaching profession, this needs to be required reading. It really makes you think about how you face these issues and the people who have them.

Interesting and disturbing. I think I will go ahead and give it all five amulets.

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