It won the 2003 Nebula Award, but is it even science fiction? The funny thing is, people wouldn’t ask if the writing were less good. The story is set in the near future but fleshed out so naturally it feels like an extension of the present world.
Lou Arrendale is in the last cohort of autistics because infants and preborns can now be identified and treated. It’s first-person-autistic but distinctly different from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Lou is older and has benefited from good parents and early intervention. He lives independently with a job, an apartment, a car, and friends both autistic and normal. Observant and self-aware, Lou identifies plenty of social cues, but it’s like American tourists in Japan bowing by guidebook rules.
Lou’s brilliant pushing on genius, he wants to be an astronaut, and there is no room in his life for pity. He’s a wonderful person to get to know, so much so that I forgive the plot mishaps.
A quick note about Elizabeth Moon: she really knows what she writes about. That wonderfully rendered military culture and strategy in Paksenarrion? She was a Marine. Autism? Her son. Does she know how to fight with a sword? I bet yes.