I never post two blogs in a row praising books. This is partly because I seldom read two books in a row that I want to praise, and I don't mention the others (which are, alas, many). However, the last few days I read Elizabeth Moon's 2004 Nebula winner, The Speed of Dark. I can't stop thinking about it.
The Speed of Dark is (mostly) first-person narration by a high-functioning autistic man. Lou, along with several of his fellow autists, is offered the chance for an experimental brain operation that may cure his autism. This sounds reminiscent of "Flowers For Algernon," and it is, but author Moon develops her own characters, plot, and outcome. Most of all, she develops Lou's voice: precise, confused by colloquialisms and social interactions, earnestly memorizing endless rules for what is "appropriate," fascinated by patterns of all types, decent and fundamentally innocent. Elizabeth Moon is the mother of an autist, and although she takes pains to explain that Lou is not her son, obviously she drew on her considerable first-hand experience in creating the voice. When I finished the book, I found myself seeing the world around me in new ways.
It's not a perfect book. Moon mixes first- and third-person narration, which I found jarring. And the ending feels both abrupt and out of sync with the rest. But it's a powerful and affecting story, and since it's near-future, I don't know why it didn't find a widespread mainsteam audience. It seems like the sort of book that should have done so. This is one that should have transcended our little SF ghetto.