House of the Scorpion

>> Sunday, June 5, 2011

Author: Nancy Farmer
Recommended Age: Young Adult
Publisher: Atheneum
ISBN-13: 978-0-689-85223-7
ISBN-10: 0-689-85223-1 
Year Published: 2004
No. Pages: 380
Genre: Science Fiction/ Dystopian Fiction
Main Character Gender: Male
Read & Reviewed by: Devon

Mateo Alacran, or Matt as he is known in the book, is six years old. He lives in a house out in an expanse of poppy fields with Celia, his caretaker. He has no parents. Everyday Celia leaves for work and everyday Matt stays home and watches TV. Then one day three kids show up at his house. They stand outside the window until Matt smashes it and steps through into a pile of broken glass, injuring himself and he is rushed to Alacran estate, a huge mansion owned by El Patron. When he arrives there, he learns he is a clone and seen by most as a filthy animal created only for the harvesting of its vital organs. He is treated as such until El Patron,a notorious drug lord who rules over Dreamland (an expanse of poppy fields once part of Mexico), finds out. Matt is El Patron's clone and the warlord has chosen to give him the freedom to live like a real human being- a rarity for clones. Matt lives in constant danger as all of El Patron's relatives despise what he is. Is Matt destined to be harvested for his body parts or will he find true freedom?

The House of the Scorpion is one of the most amazing books I have ever read. I gulped it down over a sixteen hour period, enchanted by the amazing plot and characters, and all the twists and turns. Just when you think you have a character figured out, a whole new side of them emerges keeping the them interesting and unpredictable.

The book spans Matt's childhood, from six to fourteen. It is based in a future where the US and Aztlan (formerly Mexico) are separated by Opium, hovercrafts transport people from place to place (except in Opium where everything is old fashioned) and farming and other labor intensive tasks are done by eejets, mindless people with computer chips in their brains. In the book Matt sees a dying eegit and is informed that if they are not told to stop working they will work until they die. They also need to be told when to drink, eat and stop working - essentially they have no will of their own. Even animals like horses are made into eejits. They will never disobey their riders or go outside a certain area.

Nancy Farmer has created not just an amazing book but a frightening vision of a possible future. Even now humans are looking into cloning and animals are already being cloned experimentally. Some animal clones have already been created and there is a lot of controversy if this is an ethical practice. I think it is likely that most people would treat a clone like Matt was treated in the book. Personally I think cloning is wrong and would find it difficult to consider a clone a real person. Knowing this makes the world in the book believable.

I rated The House of the Scorpion 11/10. Some other books by Nancy Farmer are The Ear, the Eye and the Arm and The Sea of Trolls.

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