Thursday, November 13, 2014

Teen review: Dystopic fiction

The House of the Scorpion, by Nancy Farmer, is a fantastic science fiction book, in which the main character, Matteo Alacrán, is cloned from the somehow simultaneously callous and compassionate El Patrón, the drug lord and ruler of the aptly named land of Opium. Unfortunately for Matt, clones in this dark world are used for spare organs, and considered as livestock. The thought of a clone that isn’t brain dead disgusts the average inhabitant of Opium. So Matt must overcome the constant harassment thrown at him by children and adults alike; make alliances, friendships, and rivalries; and discover the dark truth about Opium and his own existence.

Nancy Farmer does a great job of spreading out exposition, as opposed to writing a single block of historical text that we don’t want to read but we have to in order to understand the context of the story. In all seriousness, this is a great way of keeping readers engaged for the full 380 pages of brilliance. This is just one of the many reasons I adore The House of the Scorpion and Nancy Farmer both. Other reasons include:
  • Brilliant concept
  • Amazing character development, complexity, interaction, and backstory
  • Gripping plot full of intense moments
  • Mysteries throughout the whole story
Honestly, it’s hard to find fault with this story. My only real criticism, if you can even call it that, is the slightly weak ending. It was a good ending for sure, however, I felt a little incomplete--and this is how I segue into the sequel, The Lord of Opium. I have read this book, and it is great. It doesn’t quite live up to the first, but it’s still fantastic. I am now at peace with The House of the Scorpion series,

 I give this book a solid 4.75 out of 5. I would like to give it a 5, but I feel like a book that deserves that rating would have to be the undisputed champion of all books in existence. The House of the Scorpion is a great book, and I would recommend it to science fiction and culture lovers everywhere, with reading level starting from 13 years old. There really is no age limit. All in all, this book is a great read.

Reviewed by Isaac Kim, grade 9

Editor's note: This book was first published in 2002, and it took Farmer more than a decade to release the sequel. Now there is speculation there may be a third...? There was also a movie option taken out in 2013 and renewed for 18 months this past May, but I can't find a hint of any further progress on that.

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