The House of the Scorpion Hardcover – Sep 1 2002
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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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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
This book is a great example. Beautifully written with rich, complex characters, THE HOUSE OF THE SCORPION deserves many awards, in addition to the Newberry Award it has.
The lead character is a child named Matt, who is treated like a pet. Some pets are pampered, some are abused and neglected, and Matt endures all this and everything in between. He is loved, but most people hate him because he is a clone. The hatred is expressed in shockingly virulent ways. There are heartbreaking passages describing how this bright, talented child survives incredible abuse and neglect. Matt's resilience and spirit are so inspiring, you will be moved, but not be depressed by these scenes.
There is a wonderful sense of immediacy in the descriptions of the huge estate where Matt lives--the center of a drug lord's empire.
Matt has people who care for him: a cook with other "special" talents, a bodyguard with a dark past, and a sweet-hearted little girl. They serve as a surrogate family for Matt in the drug lord's wealthy household. The most compelling character is the ancient drug-lord himself; Matt is his clone, and loves him, even though the old man is corrupt and evil.
The engaging and complex characters alone would make this novel stand out, but there is also an excellent plot and story. A bildungsroman perfect for any bright young person, or any adult who craves good fiction.
Most recent customer reviews
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 morePublished on Aug. 9 2013 by Rose
Matteo Alacran was not born - he was harvested. He is the clone of El Patron, the powerful overlord of a country called Opium. Read morePublished on Feb. 24 2010 by K. Edwards
I consider myself to be an incredibly picky reader, however when I started this book, I found myself enjoying every minute of it. Read morePublished on Nov. 15 2009 by Laup Otta
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 morePublished on Aug. 2 2009 by Susan Ricketts
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 morePublished on March 2 2006 by John
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 morePublished on April 8 2005 by Adri
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 morePublished on 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. Read morePublished on June 10 2004
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 morePublished on June 10 2004
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