The Speed of Dark Unabridged Audio Author:Elizabeth Moon In the near future, disease will be a condition of the past, cured genetically at birth or soon afterward. But for the generation born before this development, it is too late, and they must get along as best they can. Lou Arrendale is in this lost generation. He is a high-functioning autistic, with a job, friends, and a hobby. He has learned how... more » to get along with his disability. But now, an experimental treatment will cure his autism. The question is, will he be the same person after he receives the treatment? Will he experience music, life, and love in the same way? With pressure mounting from his intolerant boss to become "normal," Lou must decide whether to undergo surgery that might well change the way he is.« less
I've read some of Elizabeth Moon's military space-opera books before, and enjoyed them - but this is quite a different - and more serious - effort - which resulted in her winning the Nebula Award for 2003.
Influenced by her life with an autistic son, The Speed of Dark tells the story of Lou, a high-functioning autistic adult who is socially (and otherwise) handicapped, but very intelligent, even brilliant, and employed by a pharmaceutical company for his unusual ability to see and understand chemical patterns. However, a new boss comes into Lou's company who neither understands nor likes the autistic employees and is viciously opposed to the steps that have been taken to meet their needs. A new, experimental, treatment for autism is being talked about, and he wants to force the autistic employees into being the first to go to human trials.
There may be an ulterior - and sinister - motive behind this pressure, but the main concern of the book is the ethics behind this 'cure' - what makes an individual themselves, and is it the right thing to do to change someone to make them fit society?
Meanwhile, Lou is also subject to an escalating series of harassment and attacks by a stalker - a rejected and obviously deranged former member of a group that Lou practices fencing with. It's obvious who the culprit is, but Lou, with less understanding of human behavior, is not capable of realizing that a so-called 'friend' may not actually be a friend.
Moon here points out that even so-called 'normal' people may actually be more dysfunctional than autistics. Many interesting issues are raised by the book (which made it a good choice for book club discussion) but I felt like Bear's own feeling are conflicted, and that came through in the book, resulting in a somewhat confused 'message.' Are autistic people 'fine the way they are' or would the benefits conferred by a cure (not least among them the ability to live independently, without assistance), outweigh the possible negative of the cured individual not being exactly the same person? As Lou points out, 'we are all a different person every day' as our experiences change us. But the ending is still bittersweet.
Also, although this book was very interesting, I flt it really suffered in comparison to 'Flowers for Algernon' - which is is EXTREMELY similar to. To the point that it feels like the author said, "I want to rewrite 'Flowers For Algernon', but with autistic people instead of retarded people." But, the older book is just better. It's more tightly and beautifully structured, and has a deeper emotional impact.
Fascinating and very well-written book about a future in which autism begins to be cured. It gives an inside-an-autistic-person's head view of how it feels (the writer has an autistic son), how society might support the autistic in being more productive and independent, and looks at the question of whether a person would choose to be "normal" having lived all his life with this difference. Though I was somewhat unhappy with the ending, it was very well worth reading and really made me think.
I haven't enjoyed a learning experience this much since I read "The Incident with the dog in the night", written from the viewpoint of a kid with Asberger's syndrome.
It's an interesting story with a sci-fi element, barely. It's very real and you care about the character, he's well written and real.Because the author has an autistic brother, her viewpoint has extra depth.That coupled with her skills as a wonderful author make this her most important book.