The Speed of Dark - Elizabeth Moon

Another entry in my birthday haul! This book had some rather positive reviews, so I was pretty optimistic. On the other hand, the author had written a series of books described by a friend (who'll read any sci-fi) as 'PONIES IN SPACE!'. Given this book has an autistic protagonist, I feared 'THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN SPACE!'.

The comparison with The Curious Incident... is not entirely unreasonable. Both being from the viewpoint of an autistic character, the text is deliberately lumpy. Domestic maintenance and major plot points get similar emphasis. Indeed, overall it feels as if the plot is something that happens to the main character, rather than something they really drive.

In summary, though, it is better than The Curious Incident..., which really feels like a character study in autism. As a sci-fi book, this is much more at home in exploring autism, since aliens and 'others' are par for the course. Moreover, the near-future sci-fi setting does help things out, and there is something akin to a real plot.

Our autistic protagonist is very well sketched. As if by some conservation law, the Corporate-Style Baddie is a cardboard cut-out. I was sad that the cartoon baddies didn't meet cartoon-like fates. Perhaps the book thinks it's too serious for that.

Generally, I found it pretty enjoyable, except for the ending. It was horribly paced, lacking depth on one of the most intriguing parts, papering over all kinds of possibilities. It should either have been cut back entirely, or expanded properly.

It's not ponies in space, and it's not half bad.

Posted 2011-07-09.