Synesthesia (SPIDERS!)'s Reviews > The Speed of Dark

The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon
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** spoiler alert ** For some reason I couldn't like this book. The good things about it was the main character and how his autism was portrayed, but other than that, it just bothered me.
The main thing that bugged me is, what is normal in the first place? This book takes place in the future, how far it takes place, I don't know, but I would think that by the future we'd understand autism better and wouldn't just dismiss it as abnormal but would try to empathize with people with autism and to understand their point of view.
In this book you have a man with a life that's already rich and full of fencing, people who like him and respect him (and one enemy, but you get to that later). He has a good job, sure he has to do things like bounce and have pinwheels around, but why is that a big deal? It's hard for him to appreciate himself with this concept of normal hanging over his head.
Could the world in the future expand to except other concepts of normal? Or will differences and variations be "cured" instead of taking care of the more difficult symptoms? This main character, after all, was incredibly intelligent, able to understand information about the brain the "normal" folks around him couldn't understand totally.
But the main frustrating thing about this book is simply, even in the future, there's no way something like this would even be allowed. No way can a corporation FORCE a person to accept a cure or experiment on their brain because that sort of thing is just not ethical.

So too many things about this book frustrated me.

Rereading Flowers for Algernon makes me realize just how frustrating this book is compared to that book. And it makes me take away a star.
For one thing, the character in Flowers for Algernon was more impaired than this main character in this book. As I said up there, he was autistic, but that's not the same thing as an intellectual disability. This character could function, think, remember. His brain functioned differently, but he could understand all sorts of books about neurology. So why did he have to be cured?
Is this just wishful thinking on the part of someone who has a child with autism? That they find a cure and they become normal which doesn't really exist? Why can't you be an astronaut even WITH autism?
Why can't folks learn more about autism rather than trying to wipe it out to the point that all you have are people who are normal when it doesn't exist? The spectrum must expand. Much as sexuality is narrowed in the minds of so many people to only encompass heterosexuality when you have a spectrum that goes from asexuality to bisexuality, normal must be expanded to include other people whose minds do not work the same way because there's really nothing wrong with that!

Also, too many of my reviews, especially negative ones turn into rants.


I also must add, what is wrong with Lou? He seems like a nice guy, he has cool hobbies like fencing. I'd hang out with him. I just didn't see that there was something wrong with him that needed to be cured. Maybe I am biased, but there really was nothing wrong with this guy. Now I could see if this was interfering with his life, his job and making it difficult, but there was nothing like this at all. The ending is satisfying for people who see autism as a horrible affliction you need to get rid of as soon as possible, but not for people who see autism as more of a human variation than a tragedy.
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Comments (showing 1-11 of 11) (11 new)

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message 1: by Miriam (new)

Miriam I had a message the other day from a friend whose toddler was recently diagnosed with autism, about how she had gotten her daughter to do something in the "normal" way and they were going to "beat" the autism, and it made me feel the way you are describing -- why does the difference have to be a problem that you "fix" instead of just the way the child is?


Synesthesia (SPIDERS!) Exactly! She should read something like With the Light where they learn that autism is something to work with and understand and not fight.
Plus people are too narrow with normal.


Kaethe I'm so with you. My opinion of this book has steadily dropped since I first read it. I'm coming around to the notion that we all deviated from the typical in numerous ways. Obviously, some of these issues may be actual problems that require solutions, but more often, these are just quirks for which we find work-arounds. Surgery shouldn't be the route of choice.


Synesthesia (SPIDERS!) indeed. I want ACCEPTANCE for people who are different, not a cure!


Kaethe word!


Mary Z I think that Lou taking the "cure" at the end of this book was my one disappointment. It would have made a better, more positive statement about inclusion if he had not, but as to your thought that in the "future we'd understand autism better and wouldn't just dismiss it as abnormal but would try to empathize with people with autism and to understand their point of view" I will just say this: I am a Sign Language interpreter and I daily see people with harsh judgements about normalcy, who resent having to pay for my services in the first place, who view my deaf clients with disdain. I would have thought that in this day and age that this would have passed as well but, especially with the advent of cochlear implants, the oppression continues. I don't think Elizabeth Moon was saying that Lou was not normal, in fact, she often questions what normal means and forces the reader to examine his or her own preconceived notions.


Synesthesia (SPIDERS!) Perhaps. That does make sense. Why view people with disdain for being different?

I am so going to write a novel. I should do that right now but I'm at work and rather cranky. There definitely needs to be more perspectives about autism and such out there.

Have you read the book Of Sound Mind? It's really good.


message 8: by Mary (last edited Feb 22, 2012 08:36AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mary Z No I haven't read Of Sound Mind. I'll put it on my "to read" shelf.

Yes, you should definitely write a novel. But don't write while you're cranky and at work.


message 9: by Rhea (last edited May 10, 2014 08:21AM) (new)

Rhea I am so with you. Thanks for helping me avoid this one! (Oh, and have you heard of The White Bicycle? It's a lovely coming-of-age about an autistic girl that's refreshingly NOT about autism, but just about her finding her place in the world.)


Synesthesia (SPIDERS!) Ooo I shall have to read it.


Kaethe Me, too.


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