Number 93: The House of the Scorpion
The House of the Scorpion is written by Nancy Farmer. It seems she is a prolific writer with a propensity for winning awards. This book, has three separate medals on the cover, one of which is the Newberry Award. As I’ve mentioned before, awards on a book make me wary of it because I know that I am going to put expectations on it that cannot be met. I tried not to, but I’m not sure I succeeded.
The story is about Matt, who is the clone of a drug lord, and his purpose in life to grow organs for the drug lord. Think of The Island.
This book feels like it was written to win awards. You know what I mean? Like when award season comes around and all of the movies seem to cover important issues and there is a lot of long silent moments where the actor just stares. Anyway, that’s what this felt like.
It has the right amount of creativity and good story telling, but it is just full of tragedy. A bit too much for my taste. I do enjoy when the character has to get through a terrible situation, but Matt goes through so much with very little payoff, and the payoff (when it eventually comes) feels as though it is something that he truly doesn’t earn.
With all of the creativity and writing skill that Farmer shows in this book, I found myself bored with most of it. There were some shining moments that really held me within the story, but those would fizzle out and the story would linger in one spot for a very long time. It lost my interest easily.
Also, for how many different characters there were, none of them really interested me. Actually, I will say that two of them, Tam Lin, the body guard, and the drug lord, seemed to be the most interesting to me and the most realistic. No one else seemed to react appropriately and every scene seemed to have someone screaming, someone crying, or someone being abused in some way (usually Matt).
The reason I think this book was written to win awards is because of the amount and the depth of the tragedies that Matt faces. It wasn’t entertaining to read. It just made me sad. One great thing that Farmer does is she cleverly takes on the question of nature vs. nurture. Since, Matt is the clone of Matteo Alacran, the drug lord, the reader sees that Matteo didn’t have to turn out the way that he did. Since Matt had people in his life that loved him, he turned out a better person, but he still did have that dark side to him. This is saying that how we are born plays a role in what person we become, but how we are raised also plays a role and maybe a more significant one. I feel it was a clever way to bring up this question. The end also looks at the perils of a communist society, and it kind of came out of nowhere, and I hated the feeling of helplessness that Matt constantly felt, especially during the communism scenes.
All and all, I see why this book would be on this list. It has a sad story which eventually ends in triumph. It has a large cast of characters, though inevitably, for me, uninteresting. Actually, now that I think about it, I didn’t find any of the dialogue between the characters interesting (anyone notice how often I’ve used the word interesting?). Nothing stood out. That is most likely just my opinion of the characters though. It is a decent science fiction with a throwback feel, and the questions of morality are pertinent for today’s generation, but could also be transferred to other generations. I see why this should be a good book, but I was just bored reading it. If anything, I see why it is toward the bottom of the list.
Wife: I’d say no. It’s not upbeat enough.