This book is about Lou Arrendale, a man with autism. This was enough to get me interested, because my son has autism and I find most things on the topic of autism interesting. The idea of a novel about a man with autism was very compelling to me and I felt real anticipation and interest building before I even started reading it, emotions I have not felt about a book in a long time.
The Speed of Dark did not let me down at all. I did not expect it to be written from Lou’s perspective. I more expected something from an outsider’s point of view. At first I had some difficulty with it because the perspective was jarring and very different, but after a few chapters I was able to sink into Lou’s point of view. This book truly held my interest throughout and I was always reluctant to put it down when other things came up to deal with, like meals and sleep, for example.
The back of this book has a set of discussion questions meant to prompt a book discussion group. In one of the questions, one reviewer is said to have described the book’s ending as chilling, while another called it a cop out. After thinking about how the book made me feel in general, I think bittersweet is the best description of my feeling about the book. As I read the book, I expected events to take the same general course as another short story Elizabeth Moon wrote about a man who thought he would be forced to change against his will. In that case he was going to be forced to have a colony of symbiotic organisms removed from his guts. He ran away and was helped by the people he met to fight for his rights in court. Things seemed to be following that track in this book, but then it took a turn and wound up going in a direction I didn’t expect, to my further delight. The choices Lou made were definitely not ones I think I would have made, but were still realistic and understandable. In fact, the more consider it, the more I am not sure what I would have decided to do in the end.
The unexpected direction of the novel, well thought out characterizations, excellent and immersive point of view of Lou, and my own son’s autism along with my interest in the subject makes this book easily one of my top ten favorites of all time. If you have a connection to Autism, either through a relative or someone you know, I believe you will find this book interesting. However, if you have no connection to autism, I think Elizabeth Moon’s solid storytelling abilities will engage your interest anyway.