I want to be an astronaut

Review of Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog at the Night-time, as part of my #100bookschallenge.

During my time as a demonstrator in Oxford’s historic Dyson Perrins lab, I had the opportunity of supervising a student with Asperger’s syndrome. His name is Edward (name changed), and he is one of the smartest and weirdest student I’ve ever taught. Reading Mark Haddon’s book made me realise for the first time what was going through Edward’s mind in all those hours that we spent setting up reactions, distilling compounds and taking various measurements.

Haddon’s book is a strange but wonderful read. It draws you in by starting with a murder of a dog that is being investigated by a 15-year old, Christopher Boone, who suffers from (although it is not stated) Asperger’s syndrome. Written in first person, it gives you a deep insight into what it is to suffer from an autism spectrum disorder. The book has received rave reviews, and, from what I understand, it does a remarkably good job of portraying Christopher’s challenges.

Somewhere in the middle of the book, the storyline becomes predictable. But that is no bad thing. By that time I found myself so engrossed in Christopher’s world that I wanted to know how he experiences the rest of the story.

There are some truths about our human existence that we normal people are too scared to admit. But Christopher’s disability doesn’t stop him from seeing through them and thinking how stupid everyone can be. That constant reminder throughout the books is very humbling.

The book is also, in many ways, a really good example of science communication. Throughout the book Christopher talks about wanting to be an astronaut. For his age, he also shows a remarkable grasp of science and maths, and discusses ideas from relativity to algebra with ease and clarity.

There are many quotes from the book that I’ve marked, but one that struck me the most was: I think prime numbers are like life. They are very logical but you could never work out the rules, even if you spent all your time thinking about them.

PS: This was my first fiction book in a long time and it was over in a flash. I’m considering tweaking my non-fiction to fiction ration after this reading!