The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

Author: Mark Haddon



Publisher: Jonathan Cape

Reviewed by: Simon Wistow

Not strictly a book on programming - yet still an interesting book for programmers to read - "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time" was simultaneously released as a kids book and an adult novel a la the omnipresent Potter child. Unlike Ms Rowling however, Mr Haddon can not only tell a good story but is well versed in the black arts of plot pacing, exposition and that nasty tricky dialogue stuff. Always a good start.

"The Curious Incident" tells the story from the viewpoint of Christopher, a high functioning autist (some reviews, presumably bolstered by press releases have specified it as Aspergers but there's little evidence to confirm that in the book). One day he find his next door neighbour's dog dead - killed with the garden fork still pinning it to the ground. The story follows Christopher's attempts to solve the mystery and, in the process, finding out rather more about his mother's death and the relationships of those around him.

What makes this book novel is the style in which is written in. Since it is in the form of a pseudo diary of Christophers it attempts to present the world through the eyes of someone with autism with all the attendant confusion and illogicalities of the world thrown into sharp relief. This is dealt with with a mix of sensitivity and humour - never is the reader encouraged to pity Christopher. In fact, quite the opposite - Christopher seems to pity many of those around him and indeed I certainly found myself feeling for the father on many occasions.

So, why have I sent this review to a programmers mailing list? Well, the relationship between autism spectrum disorders and programming has long been a subject that has interested me - it has shown that there is a vastly higher incidence of Asperger's Syndrome and Dyspraxia among children in Silicon Valley (and thus presumably the offspring of programmers) than else where in the world. Many of the traits in the book are recognisbale, to a much lesser extent, in my programming friends. In fact I was rather surprised to recognise some of my own habits mirrored by Christopher.

To be honest I'm sort of shoe horning this book into a review because, well, I think it's a bitching book and everyone should read it. But also because, in all honesty, I think it will be of interest to hackers because of the subject matter and the way it's written. Although maybe I'm just projecting ;)