The House of the Scorpion

 Six years old Matteo Alacran has spent his short life in a small cottage with only a nurse, Celia, and the television for company, and occasional visits from a doctor. He longs to be able to play with the children he sees outside his windows. One day, when some children come close enough to talk to him, he injures himself by jumping out of the window. He is rushed to the Big House, where he is kept as a prisoner in a small room and where he is sometimes visited and often tormented by the other children.

Matt gradually finds out that he is a clone, a genetic copy of El Patron, the 142 year old ruler of the country of Opium, a small strip of land between the United States and what was formerly Mexico but is now called Aztlan. When people try to cross the border from Aztlan to the United States, they are caught by the Farm Patrol and put to work on the opium farms, with chips implanted in their brains so they will be obedient workers, or “eejits”.

Opium sells drugs to countries other than the United States and Aztlan and solves their problems with illegal aliens for them. Clones are normally rendered mentally disabled at birth and are used for spare parts by the rich and powerful. But El Patron feeds his vanity by watching Matt grow up. As El Patron’s clone Matt is provided with an education, music lessons, and a kind but gruff bodyguard named Tam Lin.

Celia, Tam Lin and the child Maria offer him caring, but most others scorn him. He is a clone, less even than the eejits who harvest El Patron’s opium. When Matt is 14, El Patron suddenly collapses, and Matt finally realizes that the old man needs his heart to stay alive. Matt makes a daring escape to Aztlan, but is captured and put into a slave labor camp for orphans. How he escapes and brings freedom to Aztlan forms the satisfying conclusion to this book.

It is a thought-provoking novel which deals with issues like cloning, the value of human life, the importance of responsibility and friendship, and the question of how to make social structures work for all the layers within society.

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13 Responses to “The House of the Scorpion”

  1. Great review Anocturne and reminds me a little of Kazuo Ishiguro’s “Never Let me Go” although I cannot decide which one sounds more sinister! 🙂 As a Genetics major I have a special fascination for cloning, genetic mapping etc. Have you read Margaret Atwood’s “Oryx and Crake”, I loved that one!

  2. indeed i have, dear Lotus. Atwood is a perennial favorite. it was the very first post of mine that you commented ‘pon, as a matter of fact! Nancy Farmer writes mainly for young adults, and may not bear comparision with Ishiguro. Scorpion won a score of awards, including the Newberry, which is for excellence in young persons’ literature. And it even reads like a tight adventure story, not with the depth and detail of, say, Oryx and Crake

  3. Thanks for jogging this tired ol’ mind, anocturne! 🙂 I did see the medal images plastered all over the front cover but I didn’t take a close look or I might have seen the Newberry..still, reading your review I didn’t catch on it was for young adults, hence the “Never Let me Go” comparison.

  4. sorry. my tired old mind failed to register and mention the awards.

  5. No,no, sweet anocturne, the medal images are all over the cover, I should have been more observant…but anyway, I’m real glad this is a novel for young adults, I will either buy or borrow it for my teen to read, she loves this kind of stuff! Thanks!

  6. that’s awesome. i started on SF at 11 too!

  7. JOSEPH YO MAMA FERRANTE Says:

    I READ THIS BOOK IT BORED ME BUT I HAD TO READ IT FOR SCHOOL SOOOOOOOOO DOES ANY BODY KNOW WHERE I CAN GET PICS OF EL PATRON FOR ME PROJECT

  8. it was the most awsomest book i’ve ever read.

  9. what doe matt or even el patron look like??

  10. i hate this book because it is better than me and i only think bout myself hahahahahahahahahahahahahah this book is so nasty

  11. u stupid no1 even knos so y u even askin u retard duh! haha loser

  12. u stupid no1 even knos so y u even askin u retard duh!

  13. Ithought it was awesome!!!!!

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