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The House of the Scorpion
Cover of The House of the Scorpion
The House of the Scorpion
The House of the Scorpion Series, Book 1
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This modern classic takes on an iron-fisted drug lord, clones bred for their organs, and what it means to be human. Winner of the National Book Award as well as Newbery and Printz Honors.Matteo...
This modern classic takes on an iron-fisted drug lord, clones bred for their organs, and what it means to be human. Winner of the National Book Award as well as Newbery and Printz Honors.Matteo...
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  • This modern classic takes on an iron-fisted drug lord, clones bred for their organs, and what it means to be human. Winner of the National Book Award as well as Newbery and Printz Honors.
    Matteo Alacrán was not born; he was harvested. His DNA came from El Patrón, lord of a country called Opium—a strip of poppy fields lying between the United States and what was once called Mexico. Matt's first cell split and divided inside a petri dish. Then he was placed in the womb of a cow, where he continued the miraculous journey from embryo to fetus to baby. He is a boy now, but most consider him a monster—except for El Patrón. El Patrón loves Matt as he loves himself, because Matt is himself.

    As Matt struggles to understand his existence, he is threatened by a sinister cast of characters, including El Patrón's power-hungry family, and he is surrounded by a dangerous army of bodyguards. Escape is the only chance Matt has to survive. But escape from the Alacrán Estate is no guarantee of freedom, because Matt is marked by his difference in ways he doesn't even suspect.
 

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  • From the book

    Chapter 1: In the Beginning

    In the beginning there were thirty-six of them, thirty-six droplets of life so tiny that Eduardo could see them only under a microscope. He studied them anxiously in the darkened room.

    Water bubbled through tubes that snaked around the warm, humid walls. Air was sucked into growth chambers. A dull, red light shone on the faces of the workers as they watched their own arrays of little glass dishes. Each one contained a drop of life.

    Eduardo moved his dishes, one after the other, under the lens of the microscope. The cells were perfect -- or so it seemed. Each was furnished with all it needed to grow. So much knowledge was hidden in that tiny world! Even Eduardo, who understood the process very well, was awed. The cell already understood what color hair it was to have, how tall it would become, and even whether it preferred spinach to broccoli. It might even have a hazy desire for music or crossword puzzles. All that was hidden in the droplet.

    Finally the round outlines quivered and lines appeared, dividing the cells in two. Eduardo sighed. It was going to be all right. He watched the samples grow, and then he carefully moved them to the incubator.

    But it wasn't all right. Something about the food, the heat, the light was wrong, and the man didn't know what it was. Very quickly over half of them died. There were only fifteen now, and Eduardo felt a cold lump in his stomach. If he failed, he would be sent to the Farms, and then what would become of Anna and the children, and his father, who was so old?

    "It's okay," said Lisa, so close by that Eduardo jumped. She was one of the senior technicians. She had worked for so many years in the dark, her face was chalk white and her blue veins were visible through her skin.

    "How can it be okay?" Eduardo said.

    "The cells were frozen over a hundred years ago. They can't be as healthy as samples taken yesterday."

    "That long," the man marveled.

    "But some of them should grow," Lisa said sternly.

    So Eduardo began to worry again. And for a month everything went well. 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.

    About the Author-

    • Nancy Farmer has written three Newbery Honor books: The Ear, the Eye and the Arm; A Girl Named Disaster; and The House of the Scorpion, which, in 2002, also won the National Book Award and the Printz Honor. Other books include The Lord of Opium, The Sea of Trolls, The Land of the Silver Apples, The Islands of the Blessed, Do You Know Me, The Warm Place, and three picture books for young children. She grew up on the Arizona-Mexico border and now lives with her family in the Chiricahua Mountains of Arizona.

Reviews-

  • AudioFile Magazine Nancy Farmer's all-too-believable dystopia is the setting for the story of Matteo Alacran, born a clone of the evil El Patron, ruler of Opium. As Matt grows, so does his understanding of his purpose (to provide renewal body parts for El Patron) and the things he needs to do to stay alive in a society based on the abuse of brain-damaged slaves who tend the opium fields. As the suspense builds, narrator Raœl Esparza has convincing command of several languages and many accents for the adults, and he perfectly captures the arrogant intonations of entitled teenagers who, like most of the story's characters, consider Matt to be lower than an animal. Even amid Matt's most horrifying predicaments Esparza delivers brief moments of ironic or childlike wit in this thought-provoking story. R.H.H. (c) AudioFile 2009, Portland, Maine
  • Publisher's Weekly

    May 17, 2004
    In our Best Books citation, PW
    wrote, "In this eerily realistic depiction of society 100 years hence, the wealthy class harvests the organs of clones to prolong their lives. Farmer explores vital and soul-searching questions about what it means to be human." Ages 11-up.

  • AudioFile Magazine This world is an arid wasteland on either side of the Mexican/U.S. border. But 50 years from now it is a separate country: the land of Opium, a vast drug- producing territory ruled by the 140-year-old El Patron and worked exclusively by human clones. Only Matt, kept alive because he is himself a clone of El Patron, can restore its humanity. Robert Ramirez's narration echoes Matt's awakening to the evil around him and deepens the suspense of his attempted escape. As he hurtles through the land of Opium, Ramirez leaps from character to character, each one stranger and strangely dearer than the last. Ramirez's voice is subtly attuned to the humanity in all of them, even the clones. Winner of the National Book Award, The House of the Scorpion is a great mix of sci-fi, adventure, and powerful human values. P.E.F. Winner of the National Book Award, 2002 (c) AudioFile 2003, Portland, Maine

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The House of the Scorpion
The House of the Scorpion
The House of the Scorpion Series, Book 1
Nancy Farmer
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