The House of the Scorpion

by Nancy Farmer

There is much for older children, teens, and adult to think about and discuss after... read more

There is much for older children, teens, and adult to think about and discuss after they read Nancy Farmer's disturbingly believable imaginings of life 100 years from now. Young Matt lives in Opium, a small country tucked between the United States and Aztlan (known today as Mexico) where drugs are the sole product, exported around the world to great economic profit for Opium's leader, El Patron (not to mention the two neighboring governments). When he is six, Matt discovers he is the clone of the 130-year old El Patron. Clones are considered subhuman creatures, and the only reason Matt has not been subjected to a life of torture and inhuman treatment is that El Patron insists his clone be treated with the same respect he himself is due. As he grows, Matt begins to learn how Opium functions -- how people who are captured trying to cross the border -- human traffic between Aztlan and the United States now runs in both directions as people seek a better life -- are implanted with a microchip that turns them into ijits, mindless automatons who work the opium fields until they literally drop dead. He sees how El Patron leads with a cold heart and iron fist, but feels a confused kind of love for the old man with whom he shares the closest imaginable physical bond. But under the guidance of Celia, the older woman who has cared for Matt since he was a baby, and Tam Lin, one of El Patron's body guards who has been assigned to help protect the him, and with the help of Maria, the young daughter of a U.S. senator who often visits El Patron and his family, Matt begins to realize that even though he IS El Patron, he has the free will to choose the kind of person he will be. Whether he will ever get to execute that free will becomes a chilling question when Matt discovers he is not being groomed to take over the leadership of Opium as he thought. All the care and education that El Patron ordered for Matt was nothing more than the old man creating the childhood he never had. Matt's fate will be the same as the eight El Patron clones that came before him -- provide the old man's failing body with organs to survive. A finely crafted work of science fiction that is unsettling, provocative, and hard to put down. Winner, CCBC Printz Award Discussion; Honor Book, CCBC Newbery Award Discussion (Age 11 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2003

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