Friday, July 25, 2014

The House of the Scorpion (Matteo Alacran #1) by Nancy Farmer

Release Date: 2002
Info about the author: Goodreads - Website
Publisher: Atheneum Books
Age group: YA
Pages: 380
Buy the book: Amazon - Book Depository

Description (from Goodreads):

At his coming-of-age party, Matteo Alacrán asks El Patrón's bodyguard, "How old am I? ... I know I don't have a birthday like humans, but I was born." 

"You were harvested," Tam Lin reminds him. "You were grown in that poor cow for nine months and then you were cut out of her." 

To most people around him, Matt is not a boy, but a beast. But for El Patrón, lord of a country called Opium--a strip of poppy field lying between the U.S. and what was once called Mexico--Matt is a guarantee of eternal life. El Patrón loves Matt as he loves himself, for Matt is himself. They share identical DNA. 

As Matt struggles to understand his existence, he is threatened by a sinister, grasping cast of characters, including El Patrón's power-hungry family. He is surrounded by a dangerous army of bodyguards and by the mindless slaves of Opium, brain-deadened 'eejits' who toil in the poppy fields. 

Escape from the Alacrán Estate is no guarantee of freedom because Matt is marked by his difference in ways he doesn't even suspect. Around every turn in this vivid, futuristic adventure is a new, heart-stopping surprise.





MY THOUGHTS:

Somewhere in the near future, there is a country called Opium located between the United States and the former Mexico, now called Atzlán. At Opium, as you can guess from the name, drugs are the main, and pretty much, only business. Matt is Alacrán, which means that he is connected to the powerful family that is on the lead of the drug market. But Matt is not like others. He is a clone, more specifically, a clone of El Patron, the leader of the drug market. El Patron is very old and respected, and even though Clone's are usually treated as animals, Matt gets some kind of special treatment, just because of his link to El Patron. 

For the first 6 years or so of his life, Matt was hidden from the estate and kept in a small house in the fields with Celia, the cook for the family. One day Matt does a silly mistake and goes outside with other children even though he is supposed to stay in and hidden - soon other's discover that Matt is the clone and start to despise him. People treat him like he is an animal or even something dirtier. But then there is Maria, a little girl who sees Matt as something different. With the help of Maria and Celia, Matt is able to begin a somewhat normal life at the estate. He forms a relationship with El Patron, but also with his bodyguard Tam Lin (who is supposedly Scottish - that is a very weird Scottish name). As Matt grows, he starts to figure more about the actions of El Patron and realizes that he was created for a very specific reason. He plans an escape in order to save his life. But the world outside Opium isn't quite as promising Matt expected it to be.

The House of the Scorpion was such an interesting read. The way the hierarchy in Opium was established was quite scary, to be honest. El Patron, who is over 140 years old, keeps everyone controlled - he has extremely wealth, but he also owns the people that surround him. And once you are owned by El Patron, there is no way out. The people who work in the farms for him are called Eejits - they are controlled by their supervisors. Their only function is to work and they can stop only when told so. They are like shells of the people they once were, like robots controlled by someone who is still "a full" person. The fact that his could very well happen in the future, with people collecting more and more for their personal fortunes and other people being desperate just belong and work, is a very scary fact. 

The book begins from Matt's childhood and is divided into different sections of his growth. I really liked this structure because it gives you a look at the different ways Matt is treated - because of the fact that he is a clone he is seen differently. Matt is an interesting character because he is strong and brave, but at points there are also glimpses of El Patron in him - basically Matt is supposed to be exactly like El Patron was when he was a child, but while you read the book you start to notice that it really is not only the genes, but also the environment in which you live that molds you into the person you are.

The character relationships of the novel are very well established and even the characters with smaller role with regards to the whole story are very well described and established. In the copy of the novel I read there was a list of the numerous characters in the beginning with a family tree - this kind of freaked me out in the beginning because I did not feel like reading a book with so many characters that I would all the time have to go to the beginning to see who is who. I was happy to notice that all the characters were well explained and I did not have to go back to the list at all. 

There is a so-called romance in the book as well, but I really liked the fact that the novel did not focus on this. It was more on the sidelines - an important element, but not the most important element. Matt did not do what he does JUST to get to Maria. That is one of his motivators, but not the only one. Maria is an interesting character - at points I liked her and at points I found her extremely irritating. But the case is somewhat same with Matt - sometimes he acted in a way that made me very angry, but that was usually under the influence of El Patron. Thus, this became a very well established characterization - the influence of El Patron on Matt develops throughout the novel and is an interesting relationship to follow.

I thoroughly enjoyed The House of the Scorpion. It was action packed, but it also included some very interesting, scary images from a future that could be very possible. It kept me interested from page one and I cannot wait to read the second book The Lord of Opium

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