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The Speed of Dark, this year's Nebula winner posted 16 July 2004 in ReviewsThe Speed of Dark, this year's Nebula winner by Aldarion, Sorcerer-of-Rank

I read an excerpt of this book back in April when I was trying to handicap (err...bad choice of words, as you'll see below) the finalists for this year's Nebula for Best Novel. I thought it was really good, but sadly the excerpt was only a couple of pages long in length.

But onto the story, and what a story it is. Set in the near future (around 2040), the story revolves around Lou Arrendale, an autistic person who is working under an ADA-like provision for a major research company. Told from his point of view, the story can be jarring for those who have not had any experience with people with mental disabilities. I, however, think it captures the mindsets of many autistic people quite well (having some experience trying to relate to an autistic schoolmate).

The plot revolves around two main centers: Lou's interactions with a group of "normals" with whom he fences on a weekly basis as well as the efforts of a boss at his company to make the Section A autistic employees undergo (via coercive measures) an experimental treatment that promises to "cure" their autism. Lou is faced with a very difficult choice, one which will have profound resonances (I use the word with careful thought, considering Lou's discussions of music affecting his pattern recognitions) on his friendships and on his relationship with the world around.

Many reviewers have compared this book favorably to Daniel Keyes's Flowers for Algernon, especially with its portrayal of people with disabilities. As a new employee for a local agency that works with people with mental disabilities, I thought Moon did an excellent job of presenting the hurdles that people with mental disabilities face in their struggles to be as "normal" as they can be while still maintaining their personal sense of Self. It is very obvious that Moon bases a lot of dialogue on her own daily interactions with her teenage son, who happens to have autism. I thought it was very important that Moon makes clear that autism is not a disease or a dehumanizing condition (think about the recent news stories that have postulated that something in infancy causes most autism, a belief that has been largely debunked by current research).

As a novel, I thought she did an excellent job in presenting the various preconceptions that people have toward people with autism. While some of the characters might seem a bit "off," I suspect this is just part and parcel of how the story had to be told. The only real weakness in the story was at the end, as I felt she rushed the ending a bit, not really providing a very smooth transition. But this is a minor quibble.

The Speed of Dark (I should note the title comes from a question Lou asks about the relationship of darkness to light, a theme that is expounded upon throughout the novel) is definitely deserving of its Nebula Award. In fact, I would recommend this book even to those who claim to dislike science fiction, because the underlying theme of how people with mental disabilities cope with the world around them is something that all of us should keep in mind as we interact with those who have these unique gifts and challenges. If Flowers for Algernon revealed attitudes toward the mentally disabled that were prevelant in the 1960s, then The Speed of Dark is poised to stand as a marker for how people at the beginning of the third millenium view people with mental disabilities. A definite must-read. In fact, multiple reads might be in order. view post


The Speed of Dark, this year's Nebula winner posted 16 July 2004 in ReviewsThe Speed of Dark, this year's Nebula winner by Taliesin, Peralogue

It was a very good, thought-provoking read, providing a strong criticism of many views our society holds towards those with mental disabilities, without doing so too blatantly to throw off the flow of the story, which is always one thing I can't stand. I was totally enthralled by this book, and also wanted a bit more at the end. I've since recommended it to people, and hope that some of them actually read it. view post


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