Reviewed by Jennifer Langreck
No life is worth more or less than any other, right? Well, in The House of the Scorpion that becomes a more complex question. In this imagined future world, Mexico is now called Aztlán, and the border between Aztlán and the US has become its own country called Opium. Opium is an authoritarian country of legal drug fields worked by eejits—captured illegal immigrants whose brains were destroyed by an implant that creates thoughtless slaves. Opium was created to guard the American border and exploits those who attempt to cross. The protagonist is Matt: a young clone sheltered from the realities of this world, spoiled and simultaneously abused. Matt learns that he’s kept as spare body parts for the elderly drug lord El Patrón. To survive, he must escape Opium and learn how the outside world works. The fate of Opium and all those who live in it rests, unknowingly, in Matt’s hands.
This emotionally intense story has implications that extend beyond the world of this novel. The reader is drawn to question what it means to be human and how future technology may change societies and morality. Can anyone, including illegal immigrants, be punished with the excision of their humanity? Nancy Farmer brings together diverse cultures—both real and imagined —and places them in difficult situations that would challenge even the most sane and moral human mind. The outcomes are surprising, but eerily relevant to the complex histories and human psychologies that play out across the world today. The House of the Scorpion seamlessly incorporates Spanish, and addresses human rights, power, identity, borders, and what it means to be human.
The House of the Scorpion
by Nancy Farmer
Atheneum Books, 2002
Jennifer is an English Education graduate student who currently teaches across the South Washington Public School district.