HelenEdith's Blog

The minutiae of my life, plus website updates and book reviews

Book review: Elizabeth Moon – Speed of Dark

Posted by HelenEdith on September 24, 2007

Unlike the other books of Elizabeth Moon that I have read, this one is neither part of a series nor is it a collaboration with Anne McCaffrey. The back cover describes it as a near-future thriller. I might not go quite so far as to describe it as a thriller, but it is heading in that direction.

Lou, the main character, is autistic, but he has had the benefit of treatments which were not available during the 20th Century, and he is able to live an independent life and hold down a job. He analyses patterns for a living. He also attends a fencing group once a week, and has become a very good fencer.

His employer, who manufactures pharmaceuticals, has just bought up a treatment for autism and wants some humans to trial it on. Somebody has come up with the idea of using the team of autistic people who do pattern analysis, and just to encourage them, they have all had a letter telling them that the company needs to cut costs, but those who are involved in product trials have job security.

We spend most of the book following the efforts of the company to get the autistics to participate in the trial; and the efforts of the autistics to find out more about the trial without committing themselves, but also without losing their jobs. We also get to know Lou as a person, and see some of the problems he encounters in day-to-day life because of his autism. Lou emerges as a very clever man despite his disability, and he studies and understands books about the human brain in an effort to understand the treatment he may be “volunteering” for.

There is a time near the end of the book when the reader must wonder whether Lou has lost everything, but he does emerge triumphant although not unscathed eventually.

This is a book that will probably remain in my mind for a long time. It transcends mere entertainment.

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