Tuesday 8 April 2014

A Inside Look At Autism: Elizabeth Moon's The Speed of Dark

Autism and Aspergers are trendy choices for writers these days.  Characters who are supposed to be on the spectrum are appearing more and more frequently.  Sometimes they're done well but most of the time ... not so much.

I've found what I consider to be an exceptionally good effort to tell a story from an autistic point of view.  Elizabeth Moon's The Speed of Dark is a novel set in the near future, told from the perspective of a man with severe autism.

Lou is the one of the last generation of people with autism since a genetic treatment has been developed which can treat children in utero.  He is told that he must take a new experimental treatment or be fired from his job.  The novel goes with him as he struggles to understand why people are so upset and what he is supposed to do.

I've seen other books with central characters with autism, like Matthew Hughes "Hell and Back" series.  (That one is funny but is not a good example of autism.)  This is the first one where I felt the author really captured the difficulties of dealing with a neurotypical world where the rules are constantly changing and people expect one thing but do another.  Her description of the internal perspective of stimming struck me as incredibly insightful.

I think this would be a great book to recommend to people who want to understand what it's like to live with autism.  Lou isn't childlike, selfish or stupid (which are three of the common approaches to dealing with characters with autism), he's a man whose brain works differently.  The limitations are clear, but so are the exceptionalities.

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