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A Book We Love: Speed of Dark

Ros, Evergreen Library

Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon

Lou Arrendale, an autistic man, is the narrator. He lives in a near future where there are very few people with autism left. Cures exist for anyone diagnosed in childhood, but Lou was too old to be helped when the solution came along. He has created a life for himself with friends and a job and a car, but always there is the struggle to be normal. It is a quiet, constrained existence that we come to know well through Lou’s description of his days and routines. It has its advantages too—Lou has special abilities to recognize patterns, and these he applies to his job in a pharmaceutical firm. He enjoys listening to classical music in ways not open to most people. All in all, he has mostly come to terms with autism and his life.

Into this situation an experimental treatment presents itself. Lou’s supervisor wants him, and all the other autistics in his work unit, to undergo a surgery that may “fix” their brains—or leave them mentally worse off than before. Their jobs are threatened. But even if the treatment works, how would it affect Lou and the life he has built? What would it do to his personality, his essence? Would it change his unique abilities? Would it alter his feelings for a woman who he has only recently come to love?

Elizabeth Moon has created a moving, thoughtful, complex tale. Speed of Dark draws us completely into the world of Lou Arrendale, a unique and fascinating hero. As the mother of an autistic child, she brings street cred to her portrayal of the man, and makes us care.