Emily May's Reviews > The House of the Scorpion

The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
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's review
Oct 30, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: young-adult, dystopia-utopia, 2012
Read from June 09 to 11, 2012

This book has been on my goodreads shelf since pretty much the beginning of time... so why on earth have I been wasting my time with every other poorly-constructed dystopian world instead of reading this? I have absolutely no excuse: I own a copy, it's won practically every award going, and all my reviewer friends have been constantly singing its praises. Perhaps I am way more influenced by title and cover than I like to admit - though there's nothing actually wrong with either, I still feel like this doesn't scream at me "awesome dystopian setting + interesting questions about what it means to be human!!". It's good. Really good. If you liked Unwind, then you should also like this.

I loved the setting - Mexico - and it was obvious to me that the author was very familiar with Mexican culture and legends, she incorporates a lot of this into the story. I suppose one of the quickest ways to mess up your novel is to write about places and things you don't have a clue about, but I still really wish more authors would try to use different settings. There's a whole world out there that I'm not in a position to explore right now so I like to pretend I'm there by visiting other countries in books. Plus, is it that hard to do a little research on a country's culture, traditions and legends (etc.)?

In The House of the Scorpion we are immediately introduced to a boy called Matt who is a clone that was grown in a cow and harvested. The man who shares his DNA is El Patron, the extremely rich head of a huge opium empire and a man with the power to deliver to himself a longer than usual life with the help of clones. Matt's relationship with El Patron is conflicted. On one hand, Matt knows he is evil and corrupt - he plants chips in people's heads to make them obey his orders without question - but Matt also knows that El Patron is himself. They are both intelligent and talented individuals, Matt acknowledges multiple times how alike the two people are. But Matt is treated by others as an animal, they do not see how anything grown in a cow can be human and some of the treatment he endured really pissed me off, never mind the fact that his genetic make-up is identical to El Patron's.

Matt questions himself and the world around him throughout the book. He finds it hard to believe that El Patron could possibly mean him harm - because how could you harm yourself? It's also a look at what makes someone human and how easy it is for people to dehumanize and convince themselves that a person is nothing more than an animal.

The House of the Scorpion, in my opinion, could only be improved by removing that chunk of story after (view spoiler). It felt at odds with the rest of the book and it was clearly the author's attempt to quickly drop in one more big issue - socialism - but it just felt forced and wasn't needed, it's not like we don't already have enough to go on with all the ethical questions flying around in this novel. Take that out and this book would be five stars. But anyway, it's still a really great story about cloning and about humanity that will probably make you want to punch several of the characters at times. But, as with Sisters in Sanity, I seem to like books that make me furious, guess they just make me care more.
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Comments (showing 1-15 of 15) (15 new)

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Amber a fantastic novel! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did :)

Emily May I'm hooked :)

Damali I think it's the title that makes the book sound like it might be dull. :)

message 4: by Alicia (last edited Jun 13, 2012 09:47AM) (new) - added it

Alicia Yeah, the title turns me off. But the cover has all those medals on it. So it must be good! :P

Damali It's nothing you've ever read before, I'll say that. I couldn't put it down. The ending did derail a bit, but it was still very good!

message 6: by Kelli (new) - added it

Kelli Lee "... so why on earth have I been wasting my time with every other poorly-constructed dystopian world instead of reading this?" This sold me along with the Unwind comparison. As usual, great review Emily, and I'm moving this book up my TBR list. Way way up, like soon.

message 7: by Kyle (new) - added it

Kyle I'm sold. Now I just need to get it on my TBR. And I was also sold at the Unwind comparison.

Emily May Thanks everyone!

message 9: by Leigh (new) - added it

Leigh Thank you, Emily -- something I would have skipped, now it's on my list. Though I have to say, just responding to your review, that I hope that there's some perspective on the "how could you hurt yourself?" question -- since people can, and do, constantly.

message 10: by Anne (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anne Yes! This is one of my favorite books! And I heard from Mrs. Farmer that there's a sequel nicknamed God's Ashtray!

Stephanie I couldn't agree more about the 2nd part of the book when Matt is captured by the keepers. it seemed like a bad sequel.

message 12: by Cecilia (new)

Cecilia The story being set in Mexico set up a lot of great opportunities. The setting really made the problems within the story so much more real. However, I felt that just like Farmer's other books, she does not tie culture in very well. She drops in details here and there to remind us, it seems like. El Patron being a drug lord really ties into the setting and time. In this story, Matt, El Patron's clone faces the tough battles of understanding himself. He knows that he is a clone, harvested from a cow. And in some people's mind, that makes him less of a person. He was even made to live in a room with nothing but hay like an animal. However, doesn't it mean something that he was El Patron's clone? To El Patron it did. I felt that even though Matt had his problems, under it all, he was just trying to find himself like any other adolescent. When I realized this, I understood just how human Matt really was.
Many people are saying that when Matt escaped, the section was bulky and unnecessary, but I disagree. Matt needed this type of adventure to explore on his own. He was somewhat sheltered and kept in one place all his life. It seems slow because the story switched setting, new characters were introduced, and Matt's feelings had to be explained through it all. So I felt that this part was necessary.

message 13: by Taswa (new) - added it

Taswa 4/5 had you only given a spoiler warning on
the escape part.
Still you got me hooked.
Also the long time one uses to experience one medium can be exused by the two simple facts that medium x isnt going anywhere and if everything is a rush to experience the best where will then the joy in experiensing it be.
But who knows
maybe some of us are just lazy(me)
while others are to

message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

I totally agree with the spoilery part!! The la nueva vida
section could have been done without. It got slow and there wasn't much actual plot driving while he's with the Lost Boys. The other parts of the book were amazing!

message 15: by E (new) - rated it 4 stars

E A Just read it and totally agree with the unnecessary book chunk. Still will give it 4 stars!

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