Monday, November 26, 2007

Genre 6 Fiction, Fantasy, & YA: The House of the Scorpion

The House of the Scorpion
1. Bibliography:
Farmer, Nancy. 2002. THE HOUSE OF THE SCORPION. New York, NY: Atheneum Books for Young Readers. ISBN 0-689-85222-3

2. Plot Summary:
In a futuristic world eerily similar to ours, Matteo Alacran was harvested instead of born. He is a clone of a rich and powerful drug lord and it is at his whim that Matt is allowed to live. When Matt realizes that his life was created to prolong El Patron’s, he decides his only chance for survival is to escape the compound and the bodyguards that surround him and take his chances in the world beyond. He is treated worse than an animal on the compound but the life that awaits him on the outside is one of child slavery. His daring escape and the friends he makes along the way give him the strength and courage to return victorious to his former home and right the wrongs of past generations.

3. Critical Analysis:
In her Science Fiction novel, The House of the Scorpion, Nancy Farmer brings us into a futuristic world where clones are harvested for body parts to prolong life and others are rendered mentally void of original thoughts. This book deals with several complex themes such as cloning, humanity, civil rights, immortality and self-awareness. In Matt’s world, clones are treated worse than barnyard animals and most are turned into ‘eejits’, which are implanted with a chip to suppress original thought, and make them totally subservient. When Matt and Tam Lin come across a man lying dead in the field, Tam Lin explains that the Farm Workers are eejits, “That’s why they work without resting until the foreman orders them to stop and why they don’t drink water unless someone tells them to.” The reader is exposed to the horror of slavery and the idea that the government allows humans to be turned in to robots used primarily at one’s will. Matt’s world closely resembles our own and his thoughts and fears are similar to many children’s. He has a desire to be loved, live freely without humiliation and embarrassment, and explore his dreams. Readers can identify with Matt’s fears and frustrations and he realizes his role in ‘life’. He was created to prolong his benefactor’s life, El Patron. El Patron’s death symbolizes Matt’s freedom as he escapes from the compound, but he is still not free. He is captured on the outside and forced to work in a shrimp harvesting camp. Here he is able to show his true self and use his intelligence and leadership skills to lead his newfound friends on an escape back to his original home where he has the chance to live as the new Matteo Alacran and make good choices instead of selfish ones.

4. Review Excerpts:
Newbery Honor Book 2003
Michael L. Printz Honor Book 2003
Starred in KIRKUS. “Farmer has a talent for creating exciting tales in beautifully realized, unusual worlds. With undertones of vampires, Frankenstein, dragons' hoards, and killing fields, Matt's story turns out to be an inspiring tale of friendship, survival, hope, and transcendence. A must-read for SF fans.”
Starred in HORNBOOK. “Farmer has shown great imagination in creating a unique, plausible, and disquieting view of the future.”
Starred in BOOKLIST. “This is a powerful, ultimately hopeful, story that builds on today's sociopolitical, ethical, and scientific issues and prognosticates a compelling picture of what the future could bring.”

5. Connections:
Other books by Nancy Farmer:
THE SEA OF TROLLS. ISBN 0-689-86744-1
Related books:
THE GIVER by Lois Lowry ISBN 0-553-57133-8
TUCK EVERLASTING by Natalie Babbitt ISBN 0-374-37848-7
Make a new book jacket for the cover
Find and research scorpions in books or on the web
Create a Reader’s Theater from Chapter 26 The Lost Boys

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