Sunday, January 27, 2013

Book #87: The House of the Scorpion

Book #87: The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
5/5 stars

Does anyone else remember reading this book in middle school? I certainly did when my YA lit professor showed it to us in class, but I didn't remember much about it other than that it was a sci fi novel, and one of the few of this genre I had read as a kid. Published in 2002, House of the Scorpion captivated me as a young reader, and then again 10 years later as an adult. That's the sign of a good novel!

The novel is set in the country of Opium, land located between Mexico and the United States. Opium is run by powerful, greedy drug lords who grow, you guessed it, opium, and sell it for obscene amounts of money. The drug lords "employ" would-be illegal immigrants trying to cross the border to or from the United States and Mexico who have to cut through Opium to get where they're going. Those who are caught (and most are), are turned into "eejits", who are basically turned into zombies who only have the capacity to do a specific simple job or two. One of the most famous and powerful drug lords and owner of countless eejits is a man called El Patron, who is well over 100 years old. However, he's not who the story is about.

The House of the Scorpion is about Matt, El Patron's young clone. He grows up with one of El Patron's servants for a time, Celia, who becomes a mother to him, but also shelters him excessively. Finally, around the age of six, Matt experiences the outside world and finds that it is cruel to him, because he's a clone, he's "different". Yet, when Matt meets El Patron, everything changes for him. The man loves him, as he is a vain man who sees in Matt a chance to give his clone the life he never had as a youth. However, most people still treat Matt with disrespect and disgust when El Patron isn't around.

Things start to change as Matt grows up. He falls for a human girl, but struggles with the fact that he is a clone, and therefore lesser. He finds a secret passage through the house and begins to learn the secrets of El Patron and his family and "friends". And finally, when El Patron is in the poorest health of his long life to date, Matt starts to realize the reasons behind his existence, and tries to escape the darkness of Opium.

Even from there, Matt goes through even more adventures and such, but I can't give it all away. Guess you'll just have to read and find out! =) The novel was quite suspenseful, and the science fiction element was not as strong as one might think when dealing with clones and such. The novel had about as much sci fi as The Hunger Games if that helps put things in perspective. So it was interesting, but not too much science fiction for those of you like me who like "softer" sci fi. Because of the location of the setting, there were elements of Spanish in the novel, which some readers might find interesting as well. I think any reader would enjoy the quick paced action interspersed with touching relationships. It was a great novel to read 10 years ago, and great to relieve again with a new perspective. Fun fact: In researching this book, I found out that Farmer will be releasing a sequel to this novel called The Lord of Opium in Fall 2013! So I guess that gives you until then to get a hold of The House of the Scorpion and find out what becomes of Matt.

What I'm reading now...

1. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (classic)

2. How They Met, and Other Stories by David Levithan (YA short stories)

3. Bury Me Deep by Megan Abbott (mystery)

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