I love reading books that feature autistic characters and so ordered Speed of Dark the moment Judith mentioned that it was one of her favourite books set in the future.
Speed of Dark is set in the near future, at the moment they find a cure for autism. The book follows Lou, a man with autism, who works in a department specially set up to enable autistic people to maximise their ability to analyse data. The department provides trampolines, soothing music and other comforting objects that enable the group to work as efficiently as possible, but cutbacks are forcing the company to re-evaluate the amount of money they spend on these facilities and so, in an effort to reduce costs, they try to persuade their employees to undergo surgery to remove their autism. The book follows Lou and his colleagues as they decide whether or not to become “normal” citizens.
Speed of Dark reminded me of Flowers for Algernon in that the premise of the book is whether or not people are happier when they match the majority of the population, but whilst I found Speed of Dark interesting, it wasn’t in the same league as Flowers for Algernon.
Speed of Dark accurately captures the autistic mind, giving the reader a real sense of the difficulties they face. The problem is that it isn’t necessarily pleasurable to see the world through their eyes. There were times when I became bored by the excessive detail of some descriptions and I found the continual confusion over the simplest incidents repetitive and dull.
The sad thing is that I know this is what they have to go through each day and so I feel guilty for admitting that I found simply reading 400+ pages about it too much. I think this book would have benefited from being 200 pages shorter, but perhaps that wouldn’t have given such a complete picture of their frustrations.
On a positive note, this book did raise some interesting questions and I loved the debate about whether or not we should remove autism from society. I am still thinking about what all this means for my own son, but whilst I’m not hoping that they find a cure for autism, I am hoping that employers come to realise the benefits of autistic staff and begin to provide the wonderful facilities mentioned in this book.
Recommended to anyone with an interest in autism, but everyone else should read Flowers for Algernon first.