The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night-Time
Enter a world much like our own; maybe in a hometown like Swindon, Wiltshire, and see through the eyes of an autistic boy and that will be the setting to The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night-time. Autistic commentary and stream-of-consciousness may be ambiguous in interest, but Christopher John Francis Boone’s mind will show you a world at a tilt; the same world but slightly conditioned. Autistic at birth, Christopher would be the same as any other 15 year old, but instead of “regular” activities, he spends his time counting cars, avoiding yellow or brown things, working out complex math equations, walking the streets before dusk, and many other obsessive and irrational rituals. Seemingly unintelligent from the outside, Chris surprisingly holsters an IQ almost the equivalent of genius. Chris’ intelligence and condition offer an interesting duality; as one always emerges over the other at all times. Chris could be crunching a logic problem and then facedown on the ground, groaning in discomfort almost instantaneously. Author Mark Haddon, creative writing teacher and occasional poetry writer, offers interesting insight into the mind of an autistic teenager, having the essential experience with autistic individuals at a young age. The behavior of the autistic children he has worked with has leaked into the character of Christopher.
The mind of Christopher Boone opens to the reader when he finds the neighborhood dog, Wellington, slain on the grass with a garden fork pinned through the ground. Christopher then begins his “detective” work to discover the murderer. As the novel progresses, Chris’ family life is put into focus. Hopefully, the family dynamics here are not the same for every family with an autistic member, as you will find out that his family is nowhere near perfect or honest. Descriptive and logical, Chris (Mark Haddon) will be sure to give you every reason for his rationalizations. If there is a math problem to relate to the story, expect it to be drawn and broken down by Chris. Expect uncensored commentary from the world around Chris; his father, strangers, neighbors. Chris speaks as if he was a spectator and not involved in most of the events discussed, with a style of cool detachment. Emotion is eliminated from the character of Chris; everything is logical and calculated. Averted to lying as well, the lack of emotion and sense of honesty makes Christopher’s mouth almost completely unfiltered. Most likely, however, Chris will get on your nerves. His obsessive, off-topic rants and math problems distract from the story, and makes it hard to sympathize with someone so irrational. You will probably be able to understand the frustration his parents dealt with in raising him, or any autistic child. If the author intended you to feel that way, he did a superb job because it really is that frustrating. Although the story seems promising from the beginning, the book will reveal it is not so much a murder-mystery novel. This is very disappointing to those who crave good mystery, but a relief for readers who value a slight drama and adventure novel. To be very honest, the title and information on this book is very misleading. Without spoiling the story, it can still be said that you will be surprised fairly early into the book as to the real plot. Some might call it a twist, but I see it more as a letdown. Although interesting, observant, and off the wall, the entertainment value of the book greatly outweighs the promise of a sound plot. If you ever do open The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night-Time, don’t expect to be reading a classic, significant novel, or finish the book feeling accomplished; expect to just be entertained. To sum this book up, the words “nothing special” comes into mind.