Thursday, January 24, 2013

Book Review: THE HOUSE OF THE SCORPION by Nancy Farmer

5 out of 5 hearts

This is one of the most creative stories I have read in a while.  I wonder, how did Farmer came up with the idea?  The best way for me to describe it in one sentence is that it is a science fiction-ish Mexican soap opera.  It has the sci-fi aspects, drama, love & hate, good & evil, & turning points that will have you on an edge.

Let me start with the back story.  Mateo Alacran (Matthew Scorpion in English) is an evil and powerful drug lord that rules over the country Opium, which is in between the US and Mexico border.  Drug trafficking had become such a problem, that Mateo (AKA "El Patron", which is The Boss in English) builds a partnership with the USA and Atzlan (current day Mexico) to attain the land at the border with the promise of keeping illegals out of both countries.  This led to the establishment of the country Opium, which excels in the grown and exportation of opium.

El Patron has lived 8 lives; he is almost 140 years old.  He has prolonged his life by harvesting his clones for their organs.  If one of his organs fails, he acquires the organ of one of his clones.  Due to international law restrictions, the brains of clones are purposely damaged upon birth because clones are classified as livestock, just like cattle and horses.  In one instance, the brain of one clone is spared and awards the clone the opportunity to grow up to be a healthy boy.  This clone's name is Matt.

Matt is the clone of Mateo Alacran , and this book focuses on his journey to self acceptance.  From the beginning of his life to the age of 6, Matt lives in seclusion in a little cottage nestled among the poppy fields of opium plants; he never leaves the house in daylight.  He is cared for by Celia, one of El Patron's housemaids, and she loves him like her own son.  Some children from El Patron's mansion discover Matt one day and he gets injured, forcing the children to take Matt into the mansion.  At that point, Matt discovers that he is a clone and is treated like an animal.  However, once El Patron finds out about this treatment, he forces all in the mansion to treat Matt with respect and takes him under his wing, even providing Matt with his personal bodyguard, Tim Lin.  Despite living a materialistically comfortable life, Matt finds it difficult to accept his humanity as everyone else around him is revolted by his existence.  He is astounded when he meets the few people that love him and treat him with kindness.

The day finally comes.  Matt is 14.  Subconsciously, he knew the day could come, but he loved El Patron for treating him like a human child and refused to believe it.  Memories flash back and he untangles secret messages that were told to him, containing clues that this day would come.  El Patron's heart is failing and it is time Matt's existence is put to work.  However love spurts courage and turns a new page in Matt's future.  Matt is put to the ultimate test of survival, relying only his memories of Celia and Tim Lin, whether it is about edible plants of the desert or a motivational comment.  Ironically, being a clone has its perks.  Ultimately, everything has an end - the fight, the journey, the lives, the evil, the rejection.

Okay, so that's a lengthy summary.  But a lot happens in its 380 pages.  This is page turner.  It is one of those books that you know what is going to happen at the end, but you have no idea how.  And when those "hows" are presented, you are left gasping because you didn't NOT see that coming.  Believe me.  This is an award winning book and you need to find out why.


"No one can tell the difference between a clone and a human.  That's because there isn't any difference.  The idea of clones being inferior is a filthy lie." - Nancy Farmer, The House of the Scorpion

The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

Paperback, Alternate Cover Edition for ISBN 0689852231, 380 pages
Published by Simon Pulse (first published January 1st 2002)
Edition language:  English

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