Genre: Science Fiction

I first discovered Elizabeth Moon almost a decade ago when I read "Sporting Chance." Since then, I've enjoyed several of her books, but I don't think I ever really appreciated what a gifted writer she is until I read "The Speed of the Dark."

Initially, I was somewhat hesitant to read this book as it didn't sound like a standard science fiction offering. The novel tells the story of Lou Arrendale, an autistic man in a future where those with autism are able to be cured at birth. Lou was born after these amazing developments, but was able to benefit from improvements in the treatment of autism that have left him more than capable to function on his own. Lou's primary difficulty seems to be a tendency to take the words of those he calls "normals" literally and to have difficulty in understanding their facial expressions. Throughout the course of the novel, Lou faces several momentous occurrences that challenge his own understanding of himself and his disability. Ultimately, he must decide if he is willing to take the chance to become "normal," or to remain as he is.

The above is a very simplified explanation of the plot, but I don't want to give too much of the plot away. Personally, I enjoyed Lou's journey of self exploration, specifically as he came to realize that the concept of "normal" as he had always thought of it didn't really exist. There were more than a few times that reading this book made me feel a bit angry at those who seemed almost intent on making Lou feel like less of a person. Moon is the mother of an autistic son, and her knowledge and passion about the subject was evident in her writing. That being said, I found the novel to be more enlightening than preachy. The book was an unexpected delight, and I recommend it to those who enjoy character driven novels, science fiction fans and non fans alike.

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