Book Review – Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon

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Goodreads Synopsis:

In the near future, disease will be a condition of the past. Most genetic defects will be removed at birth; the remaining during infancy. Unfortunately, there will be a generation left behind. For members of that missed generation, small advances will be made. Through various programs, they will be taught to get along in the world despite their differences. They will be made active and contributing members of society. But they will never be normal.

Lou Arrendale is a member of that lost generation, born at the wrong time to reap the awards of medical science. Part of a small group of high-functioning autistic adults, he has a steady job with a pharmaceutical company, a car, friends, and a passion for fencing. Aside from his annual visits to his counselor, he lives a low-key, independent life. He has learned to shake hands and make eye contact. He has taught himself to use “please” and “thank you” and other conventions of conversation because he knows it makes others comfortable. He does his best to be as normal as possible and not to draw attention to himself. 
But then his quiet life comes under attack. It starts with an experimental treatment that will reverse the effects of autism in adults. 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 importantly, would he still love Marjory, a woman who may never be able to reciprocate his feelings?Would it be easier for her to return the love of a “normal”?
There are intense pressures coming from the world around him–including an angry supervisor who wants to cut costs by sacrificing the supports necessary to employ autistic workers. Perhaps even more disturbing are the barrage of questions within himself. For 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.
Thoughtful, provocative, poignant, unforgettable, The Speed of Dark is a gripping exploration into the mind of an autistic person as he struggles with profound questions of humanity and matters of the heart.

Review:

So I really loved The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon and so figured reading a Sci-Fi book by her would be a perfect choice. I was a bit hesitant about it as there are a lot of issues regarding whether or not autism is something that should be cured but I feel that this book was able to handle the topic quite well and indeed the choice of whether or not to get the “new surgery” was all up to the individual characters which ties in with what I personally believe (which I’m not going to get into in a book review, but my views are essentially that it should be up to the individual)

Lou is a fantastic character and I absolutely adore him. The way his mind thinks, the way he reacts to stressful situations and the way he interacts is all really well portrayed. It’s very clear that a lot of research has gone into this and I love that all of the characters are also all very individual representing the range of ways that autism presents itself in people.

Unlike most of his group at work, Lou spends a lot more time with neurotypical individuals and again his interactions with them are brilliantly done and I really enjoyed how accepting his fencing group are. Through interaction with them, Lou is able to learn a lot about social cues and grow as a person but still struggles from time to time with understanding concepts like unspoken rules (or things that contradict what he’s learnt)

Overall, this book takes us on a journey focusing on Lou as he grows and develops as a person all while portraying a realistic and powerful view of an autistic man. This is something I never expected to see in a book and I’m already planning on giving this to several autistic friends of mine because the representation just made me so happy and I know they’ll love it too.

I highly, highly recommend this book. Elizabeth Moon is a fantastic writer and this is definitely a book worth reading!

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