Escape to Survive or Stay to Die?
Matt Alacran wasn’t born; he was harvested. He’s a clone of El Patron—lord of a country called Opium. Matt is taken to the Alacran estate and is imprisoned, isolated, and treated as an animal. However, El Paton is outraged when he finds out that Matt is being mistreated because he needs Matt for his own sinister reasons. The only way Matt can survive is by escaping. But escape is no guarantee of freedom because Matt is marked in ways he doesn’t even suspect.
The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer is a science fiction novel that takes place in an unnamed future in the area between Mexico and the U.S. called Opium.
Famer conveys many themes throughout the book. One of them is how identity can be redefinable. Matt is an identical copy of El Patron, who’s not a very good man. Matt’s constantly trying to be his own person, make his own decisions, and not follow in El Patron’s footsteps. At one point in the book Matt refers to himself as a photograph.
Another theme Farmer explores is where we should draw the boundaries of science. What kind of science is ethical? Should scientists clone and brainwash people for personal gain? Farmer argues that we should recognize our limitations in science and shouldn’t do things just because we can. Cloning isn’t ethical.
The danger of power and greed is also a theme Farmer explores through her characters. El Patron is greedy and wants absolute power. He places chips in people’s heads so they can’t think for themselves and plot against him. El Patron never lets things go-- including people. In one incidence, Mr. Alacran’s wife ran off with someone else. Mr. Alacran didn’t want her back, but El Patron brought her back. He is also greedy about life; he wants to live for as long as possible—no matter what the cost is.
Matt is a plausible character because he’s relatable. Readers struggle with similar things that Matt struggles with: love, hate, bullying, growing up, and making friends. Also, like Matt most of us try to do the right thing.
Secondary characters Tam Lin, Celia, and Maria play a big part in Matt’s character development. They bring friendship and kindness into his life and help him become someone who thinks for himself. Without them, Matt probably would have evolved into El Patron.
Several things made this book a ten: the twisted and dark, but hopeful tone and Farmer’s twist. Framer allows the reader to see inside Matt’s head and fill the reader’s head with questions. If you want a book packed with excitement, adventure, and twists, read The House of the Scorpion.
Publish Date: 2002
Publisher: Antheneum Books