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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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The House of the Scorpion + The Lord of Opium
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From Amazon

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
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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4.0 out of 5 stars Nancy Farmer's Best Feat Yet March 2 2006
By John
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. It is thrilling, suspenseful, and has an unexpected twist. This book takes place sometime in the future. I recommend this book for 12-99 year old boys.
Matt, the main character, is a clone who lives in a small house in the opium fields with his beloved caretaker Celia. He does not know he is a clone until some kids from the big house come and knock on the windows. He has never before seen other kids and he is very excited. Matt is only six years old. He cannot open the door and the windows are locked. Without thinking he takes a pan and breaks the window. He then jumps out the window. Matt cuts his hands and feet very badly. Maria, later to be Matt's best friend carries him to the big house. Maria is the same age as Matt. She is very nice and loves animals. Here they immediately called a doctor until the see the writing on Matt's foot: "Property of El Patron." They then realize that Matt is a clone and lock him in a cellar. Three months time has passed of Matt being in the cellar, and being treated like an animal. One day a maid runs and fetches Matt, of course after being a prisoner for three months he is very confused. The maid cuts his hair and cleans him up.
It turns out El Patron has come to visit. El Patron is a really old man who is extremely powerful as he is in charge of the opium fields. This is the man who created Matt. Matt is his clone! When El Patron hears from Celia how they have been treating Matt he is furious He demands that Celia and Matt have there own quarters.
Is El Patron really the good man we think he is? Read the House of the Scorpion to find out, and see if Matt will escape and survive!
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3.0 out of 5 stars Juvenile Fiction? I'm Stumped... (3.5 stars) June 7 2004
By A Customer
Yes, it's a wonderfully clever story in many ways, though I'm not quite convinced that it is deserving of so much prestige.
Perhaps my discomfort is related to a difficulty in classifying the book in terms of appropriate age level. The powers-that-be have catagorized it as juvenile fiction and, in many respects, this is an understandable choice (told from the perspective of a young boy, certain science fiction elements that are currently so popular, etc.). It just seems to me that certain aspects of the story would be better appreciated by an older audience (the "old-fashionism" of the future versus an apocalypic socialism). Yet, it will be overlooked by most adults because of the bookstore/library shelf on which it sits. This criticism has little to do, of course, with my respect for Nancy Farmer but, rather, the often strange marketing strategies of publishing houses. On the other hand, the distinct awkwardness that I perceived throughout the story (and especially toward the end as the story tripped over itself to find a tidy conclusion) certainly led to its difficult classification.
In any event, I continue to be impressed with Farmer's work. For me, this particular plotline and set of characters fell a bit short of my expectations, especially considering the acclaim the book has earned.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Maggie's English Project Review Thingy...Yeah... June 1 2004
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 sits in between what used to be Mexico and the United States. He grows up believing that El Patron loves him and plans to hand him the business when he dies. However, several brutally disturbing events catapult him from his secure mentallity. With the help of his "stepmother," his bodyguard, and El Patron's great-grand neice, Matt comes to the realization that if he doesn't escape, he will be killed for spare perts to keep the ancient Matt alive.
This book is very different from any that I have read recently. It's futuristic setting keeps you entertained with original ideas. The balance of humor and suspense will make this book one you don't want to put down, believe me, I read it in less than six hours! The House of the Scorpion is full of unnexpected, plot-thickening twists to keep you holding your breath and the surprise ending will leave you completely satisfied. Although one or two chapters seemed to drag on and on, this book still deserves five stars.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Bad title, good book
I almost didn't read this book. It has an ugly title with an uglier cover, but I read the synopsis and was intrigued. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Rose
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 Believable Through and Through
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. Read more
Published on Aug. 2 2009 by Susan Ricketts
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 8 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 10 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars All I can say is wow.
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. Read more
Published on June 10 2004 by "suddke"
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 10 2004 by "suddke"
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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