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Page history last edited by RichiesPicks 10 years, 9 months ago

15 April 2002 THE HOUSE OF THE SCORPION by Nancy Farmer, Jackson/Atheneum, October 2002


"The day came when he implanted the tiny embryos in the brood cows. The cows were lined up, patiently waiting. They were fed by tubes, and their bodies were exercised by giant metal arms that grasped their legs and flexed them as though the cows were walking through an endless field. Now and then an animal moved its jaws in an attempt to chew cud.


"Did they dream of dandelions? Eduardo wondered. Did they feel a phantom wind blowing tall grass against their legs? Their brains were filled with quiet joy from implants in their skulls. Were they aware of the children growing in their wombs?


"Perhaps the cows hated what had been done to them, because they certainly rejected the embryos. One after another the infants, at this point no larger than minnows, died.


"Until there was only one.


"Eduardo slept badly at night. He cried out in his sleep, and Anna asked what was the matter. He couldn't tell her. He couldn't say that if this last embryo died, he would be stripped of his job. He would be sent to the Farms. And she, Anna, and their children and his father would be cast out to walk the hot, dusty roads.


"But that one embryo grew until it was clearly a being with arms and legs and a sweet, dreaming face. Eduardo watched it through scanners. 'You hold my life in your hands,' he told the infant. As though it could hear, the infant flexed its tiny body in the womb until it was turned toward the man. And Eduardo felt an unreasoning stir of affection.


"When the day came, Eduardo received the newborn into his hands as though it were his own child. His eyes blurred as he laid it in a crib and reached for the needle that would blunt its intelligence.


"'Don't fix that one,' said Lisa, hastily catching his arm. 'It's a Matteo Alacran. They're always left intact.'


"Have I done you a favor? thought Eduardo as he watched the baby turn its head toward the bustling nurses in their starched white uniforms. Will you thank me for it later?"


Ahhh, yes! Finally. Getting to read this new story by Nancy Farmer feels akin to a cold, clear drink of water after trekking across a hundred miles of desert. THE HOUSE OF THE SCORPION is that satisfying.


The baby they cut out of that cow is Matt--the clone of Matteo Alacran, El Patron, a 130+ year old drug lord. In a land where clones are treated like beasts, and other unfortunates are converted into zombie-like creatures, Matt begins life as a secret--the supremely intelligent, talented, and identical duplicate of an ancient and infamous figure who still rules the land called Opium where the story takes place. Appropriately-named Opium occupies a strip of land between the U.S. and what used to be Mexico.


To begin delving any further into the themes and issues of this landmark futuristic book would be to give away more than I care to at this point, six months before the book is released. But, be assured, I'll be waiting impatiently until it's more appropriate to do so, for this is one that we'll all be talking about long into next year. Rich both in literary merit and in cutting-edge social issues, THE HOUSE OF THE SCORPION is one you won't forget.


Richie Partington




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