Thursday, May 19, 2005

Booknote: _The House of the Scorpion_ (2002)

Nancy Farmer's novel about the clone of a drug lord makes for interesting reading overall, though it seems to drag a bit in terms of pace towards the end. The novel won the National Book Award in 2002. The novel falls in the science fiction genre, and it does have elements of science fiction to it, but I think it classifies better as a dystopian novel. The plot is the story of Matt, the clone of El Patron, the centenary patriarch of the Alacran Family and an opium drug lord. As a clone, Matt is pretty much nothing more than mere cattle, and actually he is pretty much created to provide spare parts for El Patron as the old man ages and needs transplants to stay alive. However, the story is also a story of a boy coming of age and discovering who he is along the way, and this sense, the novel is no different than many other juvenile tales of boys coming of age. The concepts of cloning, the use of microchips to control people, and the idea of an established drug empire between the United States and Mexico are intriguing, the type of stuff that makes good science fiction. However, the plot slows down towards the last part of the book, as Matt makes his escape from the Alacran Estate. To some readers, the ending may seem a little contrived. It is not quite a Deus ex machina, but close to it. More like a last minute way twist that wraps things up fairly well. Not unlike some dramas where all the characters one knows about come together to tie the loose ends. I think I did not enjoy that as much given the rest of the novel. Watching Matt grow was interesting, but the escape comes very late in the book. His new brief bondage after the escape seems to slow down the pace of the novel. That aside, I do recommend the book not just for young readers. Some adults may enjoy it as well. The book is an award winner, and many reviews have been positive.

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