The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon is another one on my favourite books list. I have written
this review for one of other websites I joined. The book is placed in a futuristic world. It left me
with very strange question. If there was a cure, would I put my daughter through it? Would
she stay the same and if not would this be a change for better?
For those who are here for the first time. Please remember I am pondering over the mild case of high functioning autistic. In the case of severe autism I would not hesitate.
The Speed of Dark is narrated mainly by its autistic hero, Lou Arrendale. Written with the honesty and passion the book is another example of Moon's gift for characteristics.
Lou is 35 and his life is perfectly organized. Thanks to his gift for pattern analysis he works for a pharmaceutical company together with his "normal" and autistic co-workers, he practices fencing, makes friends. He follows the rule hammered into his head for years: "Act normal, and you will be normal enough."
His peace, however, is shattered after his "normal" friend's violent outburst and an unexpected announcement of his new boss. The management gave all autistic staff an ultimatum: undergo the new experimental treatment to cure autism or lose the job. The treatment will alter the subject's brain, wipe out everything what made them - personality, memory, knowledge - tabula nasa.
That is when Lou's exploration of free will, identity, health and illness, good and evil begins. He looks for answers. Who will he become? Will there be a slight memory of Lou Arrendale left when he wakes up? Is it really better to be "normal"? What is the speed of dark? If he chooses to undergo the treatment he will have to catch the darkness. Lou throws himself into studies of neurology in order to find the pattern which would help him understand his dilemma. Like many little boys, he wanted to become an astronaught and because Lou was autistic this dream could not come true. If he becomes "normal" will he be able to follow that path and make his dream come true?
His philosophical quest for self is captivating in his obsession with the speed of dark. Lou finally makes his decision - "When I get there, the speed of light and the speed of dark will be the same".
Elizabeth Moon has presented us with a very believable character and psyche of an autistic. You will not find many so insightful novels written by a "normal". Her book is a gift to all of us; a chance to understand the unknown; appreciate the different, and question. "Not knowing arrives before knowing" says Lou; such a simple truth but how much courage does it take to make this step and find out...
I have put down this book with many questions still gnawing at me and I hope those who will read it now, will see why. Most compelling and eye opening piece of great literature.