Speed of Dark comes heavily recommended. It’s a title that has turned up every now and then in discussions and lists of aspie books, including my own. And in this case we can say that it’s more than aspie; it’s a full-blown autistic book.
It’s only about ten years old, but it reads rather like the science fiction by Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov that I used to love forty years ago. It has got quite a nice period feel, despite being about the future, if you know what I mean. And because the main character, Lou, is autistic, the pace is slower than you expect, because it’s all done at his level of comprehension of life and ‘normal’ people.
Not that he’s a fool. He’s anything but. Lou is highly intelligent, and in the 2040s (I’m guessing the date) most autistic people have been slightly adapted and improved, which probably makes him more capable. He’s young enough (about 40?) to have had certain things done to him, but so old that he missed the total removal of autism that younger people have had.
As you can tell, it’s a world where they like perfect people. The big question is whether that’s a good thing. Is non-autistic better? Lou thinks not. He’s happy being what he is. His is not a perfect life. There are lots of things that bother him and that he wonders about, but he is he. That’s what matters.
Lou and a group of other autistic people work for a company doing highly specialised work, making use of their special ‘features.’ Then a new manager comes along and wants to force them to take a ‘cure.’ Should they? Must they? What can Lou do about it?
We follow his rather humdrum existence, learning in detail how he does his laundry and how he buys his groceries. He goes fencing once a week. He goes to church. He has pizza with his colleagues on a Tuesday. And so on.
But how can he deal with this cure, and what about the other rather frightening things that happen to him? We learn to love Lou exactly as he is. We want him to remain autistic. Or at least, we learn to see it as an equally valid way of being.
I thought I knew how this would end. It didn’t, and I’m not sure how I feel. It didn’t go the other way, either (if you are looking for spoilers), and it left me feeling strangely sad.
But however you look at this, it’s a fantastic story about something very important.