Sunday, June 8, 2014

Matteo Alacran

This is a review to both books in the series.

Matteo Alacran was not born; he was harvested with the DNA from El Patron, lord of a country called Opium. Can a boy who was bred to guarantee another’s survival find his own purpose in life? And can he ever be free?

The new book continues the story of Matt, the boy who was cloned from evil drug lord El PatrĂ³n in The House of the Scorpion. Now 14 years old, Matt rules his own country, the Land of Opium, the only thriving place in a world ravaged by ecological disaster. Though he knows that the cure for ending the suffering is hidden in Opium, Matt faces obstacles and enemies at every turn when he tries to use his power to help

I've had The House of the Scorpion on my to-read list forever now, and for some reason I could never bring myself to read it. The title sounds odd, almost like a book you'd read in junior high. The synopsis give very little information on what the book is going to be about. The cover, likewise, gives no hints. I knew it was some sort of dystopian/sci-fi book from the blurb, but a main character who's a clone? It doesn't sound very original. The edition I have didn't have all three of the medals it now has on its cover (and just in case, if a book has three medals on it's cover, that almost guarantees it's going to be good. Just saying.)

Anyway, I got down to read it, and it's one of the most wonderfully profound and deceptively enjoyable books I've read. I went on to read the sequel, The Lord of Opium, immediately afterwards, which tied up a lot of the loose ends from the first, and here I am reviewing both.
The House of the Scorpion is about the life of Matteo Alacran, the clone of one of the most powerful drug lords, El Patron. It starts off with Matt as a child and spans up until he turns 14, where the next books begins. There's a lot of world building in this book, which I really appreciated, because one of the biggest problems with most dysopian/utopian book is the lack of sufficient world building. It's set in a world about a hundred years into the future, although no dates are mentioned, set in Opium, a land between Mexico and the US. Long story short, drug lords were too powerful, and ended up making deals with the US and Mexican government that they would take the land between the two, and would freely manufacture and distribute drugs. It's so much more than just that, but to say anything more would be to spoil the book - I thought the world building was maybe better than the actual plot. The characters are beautifully done, and although there are a whole bunch of them, none of them are just stand ins. El Patron is probably my favorite character, because he's just so difficult to understand.  He's fit to be psychoanalyzed. Honestly, these books should be as popular as the Harry Potter series.

The books span a long time, talking about both Matt's childhood and his teen years, yet it's done artfully enough that it isn't confusing or boring. The plot goes full circle, and I don't think any questions were unanswered. I recommend you read the books in order, one after the other, because a lot of things are just left hanging in the first book but are answered in the second. Likewise, a lot of small things are mentioned in the first book and expanded on in the second. To me, they feel like one big book, divided up into two for space's sake.

Personally, I think the best things about this book was the ratio of enjoyability to ability to be analyses. Nancy Farmer does what I feel like is a lot of social commentary. Just the dystopian part is very imaginable, yet the book is also part sci-fi. Farmer talks about cloning, drug trade, rulers drunk on power...and shows both sides of all of them.