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The House of the Scorpion [Hardcover]

Nancy Farmer
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 1 2002 Newbery Honor Book
This modern classic takes on an iron-fisted drug lord, clones bred for their organs, and what it means to be human. Winner of the National Book Award as well as Newbery and Printz Honors.

Matteo Alacrán was not born; he was harvested. His DNA came from El Patrón, lord of a country called Opium—a strip of poppy fields lying between the United States and what was once called Mexico. Matt’s first cell split and divided inside a petri dish. Then he was placed in the womb of a cow, where he continued the miraculous journey from embryo to fetus to baby. He is a boy now, but most consider him a monster—except for El Patrón. El Patrón loves Matt as he loves himself, because Matt is himself.

As Matt struggles to understand his existence, he is threatened by a sinister cast of characters, including El Patrón’s power-hungry family, and he is surrounded by a dangerous army of bodyguards. Escape is the only chance Matt has to survive. But escape from the Alacrán Estate is no guarantee of freedom, because Matt is marked by his difference in ways he doesn’t even suspect.

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Fields of white opium poppies stretch away over the hills, and uniformed workers bend over the rows, harvesting the juice. This is the empire of Matteo Alacran, a feudal drug lord in the country of Opium, which lies between the United States and Aztlan, formerly Mexico. Field work, or any menial tasks, are done by "eejits," humans in whose brains computer chips have been installed to insure docility. Alacran, or El Patron, has lived 140 years with the help of transplants from a series of clones, a common practice among rich men in this world. The intelligence of clones is usually destroyed at birth, but Matt, the latest of Alacran's doubles, has been spared because he belongs to El Patron. He grows up in the family's mansion, alternately caged and despised as an animal and pampered and educated as El Patron's favorite. Gradually he realizes the fate that is in store for him, and with the help of Tam Lin, his bluff and kind Scottish bodyguard, he escapes to Aztlan. There he and other "lost children" are trapped in a more subtle kind of slavery before Matt can return to Opium to take his rightful place and transform his country.

Nancy Farmer, a two-time Newbery honoree, surpasses even her marvelous novel, The Ear, The Eye and the Arm in the breathless action and fascinating characters of The House of the Scorpion. Readers will be reminded of Orson Scott Card's Ender in Matt's persistence and courage in the face of a world that intends to use him for its own purposes, and of Louis Sachar's Holes in the camaraderie of imprisoned boys and the layers of meaning embedded in this irresistibly compelling story. (Ages 12 and older) --Patty Campbell

From Publishers Weekly

Farmer's (A Girl Named Disaster; The Ear, the Eye and the Arm) novel may be futuristic, but it hits close to home, raising questions of what it means to be human, what is the value of life, and what are the responsibilities of a society. Readers will be hooked from the first page, in which a scientist brings to life one of 36 tiny cells, frozen more than 100 years ago. The result is the protagonist at the novel's center, Matt a clone of El Patron, a powerful drug lord, born Matteo Alacr n to a poor family in a small village in Mexico. El Patro n is ruler of Opium, a country that lies between the United States and Aztl n, formerly Mexico; its vast poppy fields are tended by eejits, human beings who attempted to flee Aztl n, programmed by a computer chip implanted in their brains. With smooth pacing that steadily gathers momentum, Farmer traces Matt's growing awareness of what being a clone of one of the most powerful and feared men on earth entails. Through the kindness of the only two adults who treat Matt like a human Celia, the cook and Matt's guardian in early childhood, and Tam Lin, El Patron's bodyguard Matt experiences firsthand the evils at work in Opium, and the corruptive power of greed ("When he was young, he made a choice, like a tree does when it decides to grow one way or the other... most of his branches are twisted," Tam Lin tells Matt). The author strikes a masterful balance between Matt's idealism and his intelligence. The novel's close may be rushed, and Tam Lin's fate may be confusing to readers, but Farmer grippingly demonstrates that there are no easy answers. The questions she raises will haunt readers long after the final page. Ages 11-14.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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In the beginning there were thirty-six of them, thirty-six droplets of life so tiny that Eduardo could see them only under a microscope. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Bad title, good book Aug. 9 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I almost didn't read this book. It has an ugly title with an uglier cover, but I read the synopsis and was intrigued.

The story takes place in the future when cloning technology has been perfected. The world described is not what I think of as futuristic though. There is abundant pollution, the drug trade is thriving and the rich prey on the poor. It's like now but worse. The protagonist is Matt, whom we meet when he is just a small boy. He is a clone of an incredibly wealthy and powerful drug lord, although he doesn't learn this fact until he is around six years old. Clones are despised in this world. Thought of as livestock, mostly for the fact that their brains are altered to keep them in a zombie-like state. They are around only for the spare parts they can provide to their owners. This doesn't happen to Matt. He is allowed to really live even if it's not supposed to be for long.

It's certainly a book for discussion. There are many topics that would be cause for arguments - religion, drugs, cloning, slavery. The author provides both sides of the argument in many cases. It's written quite well and I found it hard to put down. I might have to get the next book in the series soon. I really liked Matt and I'm interested in finding out if he's able to turn things around in his little part of the world.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Believable Through and Through Aug. 2 2009
By now most of have either read I, Robot the book written by Isaac Asimov or have seen the movie which was made a few years back starring Will Smith. That was one of a series of books which explored the ethics of intelligent creatures being created by humankind to serve as their tools. It harked back to an even earlier dilemma of using human slaves to do our bidding.
Nancy Farmer has written a book which addresses our current desires to live longer by harvesting organs from people who have died in order to prolong our own lives. It's a slippery slope and a huge moral concern. Are we just human meat and thus parts to be harvested? And should we strive to live longer than the parts we are born with are able to last? Today we have the ability to create clones in Petri dishes and implant them into any animal or human to gestate and be born, but should we?
The House of the Scorpion is written from the viewpoint of a boy who is the clone of a man who was 140 years old at the time of his birth. Although he knows from early on that he is a clone and is thus ostracized by human society, he believes that because he is being educated and did not have his mind altered at birth, there has to be a higher purpose for him than as a spare parts factory for El Patron.
This book is written in a fast paced easy to read style which grips you from the beginning and makes you want to see if he can escape his fate and if he does, how will he use his life. Will he be a copy of the selfish. dictator El Patron? Or can he become his own person and develop his own conscience and morals? The imagined world of the future is a not so fantastic take on what may be the ultimate fate of North America.
Well written and a great read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars All I can say is wow. June 10 2004
After reading this book over and over again and not getting the least bit bored, I realized that this was my favorite book ever. The sad thing is, I don't even own it. Once again...all hail Nancy Farmer.
Books I reccomend:
The Ear The Eye and The Arm
Halo: The Fall of Reach
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An original idea and thrilling adventure Dec 13 2005
Nancy Farmer, the author of "House of the Scorpion", was born in 1941 and is a three time Newbury Award winner. Some of her other famous works are "The Sea of Trolls", "A Girl Named Disaster" and "The Ear, the Eye and the Arm". She currently lives in Menlo Park, California along with her family. Farmer grew up in same sweltering, desert plains the novel is set in, giving her a sense of comfort and originality, which reflects into the novel. The time the story is set in is not stated, but it is clearly a science fiction novel. Technology is used very casually, but pales to our level of technology showing that the society of has been advanced for an extremely long time.
Matt is a normal boy, he likes the same things as every typical boy his age, but he has felt branded all his life for being a clone. His predecessor, Matteo Alacran, is a man who is only out to benefit himself. He grants Matt everything he wants trying to make up for the bad childhood he once had. Matteo Alacran or El Patron, as he is also called, is often related to a pale, blood-sucking vampire, a description of which he in fact proud of. Matt only has a handful of true friend's but they are with him through thick and thin. There is Celia, the kind Spanish woman who raised Matt from an infant; she shares a special bond with Matt that nobody can break. She calls him "Me Vida" which means 'my world' in Spanish. Tam Lin and Maria are two other supporting characters and extensions of Matt's makeshift family tree. Tam Lin is Matt's bodyguard and never leaves his side. Although cold towards Matt at first he eventually becomes a close companion, teaching him all he needs to know on survival and friendship.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Clones and Drug Lords
Matteo Alacran was not born - he was harvested. He is the clone of El Patron, the powerful overlord of a country called Opium. Read more
Published on Feb. 24 2010 by K. Edwards
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly Amazing.
I consider myself to be an incredibly picky reader, however when I started this book, I found myself enjoying every minute of it. Read more
Published on Nov. 15 2009 by Laup Otta
4.0 out of 5 stars Nancy Farmer's Best Feat Yet
This science fiction novel by Nancy Farmer, the House of the Scorpion, is a page turner. You will not be able to put it down. Read more
Published on March 2 2006 by John
5.0 out of 5 stars my new favourite book
this book is so twisted!!!it led me to think things were gonna happen when they didnt and some of the most unexpected things took place. Read more
Published on April 9 2005 by Adri
5.0 out of 5 stars Adam's Review
The authors purpose for writing this novel was to give the reader suspense and mystery. One example is when Matt, the main character, is framed for killing his friends dog when he... Read more
Published on June 11 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars I found that this was the greatest book ever.
I loved this book. I found it clever, funny, and filled with action. It also related to my life a lot, because sometimes I am treated with not much respect. Read more
Published on June 11 2004 by "suddke"
3.0 out of 5 stars Juvenile Fiction? I'm Stumped... (3.5 stars)
Yes, it's a wonderfully clever story in many ways, though I'm not quite convinced that it is deserving of so much prestige. Read more
Published on June 7 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Maggie's English Project Review Thingy...Yeah...
This book follows the adolescence of Matteo Alacran, the clone of Mateo Alacran, otherwise known as El Patron, who is one of three legal drug lords in the country of Opium, which... Read more
Published on June 1 2004 by Maggie Kobik
5.0 out of 5 stars Book Review for: The House of the Scorpion
The book, The House of the Scorpion, was written by the amazing author Nancy Farmer. The setting in this story takes place in the future on opium fields between the U.S. Read more
Published on May 24 2004
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