Sonderbooks Book Reviews by Sondra Eklund

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I don't review books I don't like!

*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
***    = Above average
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*        = Good, with reservations


****The House of the Scorpion

by Nancy Farmer

Reviewed November 21, 2002.
A Richard Jackson Book, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, New York, 2002.  380 pages. 
Available at Sembach Library (JF FAR)

Here is some well-written, gripping science fiction, if not exactly heart-warming.  The House of the Scorpion is set in the future, in a country between the United States and Mexico run by the dictator El Patron, a drug lord.  It tells the story of Matt, who is the clone of El Patron.  Clones in that time are grown in the womb of cows and harvested.  Most clones have their brain development destroyed by an injection, but El Patron doesn’t want that to happen to his clone.  So Matt is a bright little boy who doesn’t understand why people treat him like an animal, no better than a thing.

The story is captivating and well told.  At the beginning, Matt is hidden away and doesn’t even know that he is different from other children.  We learn along with him and try to figure out why El Patron would be so kind to his clone and what plans he has for him.

I liked it that this book showed that a clone is not identical to the original source of the DNA, as is sometimes implied.  For example, Matt has a musical gift that El Patron had never discovered in himself.  It does show that ones choices and life experience help determine who a person is.  Unfortunately, an important plot point was that Matt had the same fingerprints and DNA as El Patron.  I believe that the fingerprints of a clone would be different, just as the fingerprints of identical twins are different.

One other quibble is that I didn’t think they should put a Cast of Characters at the front of the book.  When presented at the front, it makes the book seem daunting.  As you read the book, you find that the characters are introduced in the novel in a way that is not too overwhelming, and they aren’t hard to keep straight.  So there isn’t really a need for the list.  Also, it gave away some information that Matt doesn’t find out until much later.  I would rather learn about people along with Matt.

Still, this book is an excellent and suspenseful novel.  It gives the reader plenty to think about and mull over, exactly as the best science fiction should do.

Reader comment:  An anonymous reader gives this book five stars with the comment:  "This book has everything that a good novel should have. I could not put the book down and wanted to read more."

Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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