“The House of the Scorpion” – An Exploration of Humanity, Ethics and Society

Book Review : The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

Spoiler Alert!

One clone has survived. The doctor wonders if he will be thanked or cursed because he has left the clone’s intelligence intact as directed.

Matt has lived with Celia, and she has warned Matt to never go outside. One day Matt is seen by two children and he is drawn to them wanting to play. The next time Matt breaks a window and jumps out of the house to play, but his foot is deeply cut. The children carry him to the Big House where the maid discovers the tattoo that reads Property of the Alacrán Estate. In horror the creature is thrown out of the house onto the grass.

Matteo Alacrán, or El Patrón as he became known, developed a strip of land between Aztlán (formerly known as Mexico) and the United States filled with poppy fields for opium. Patrolling the boarder for illegals provided El Patrón with an enslaved workforce.  He installed a computer chip in the illegals’ brains that caused all self-will to be disrupted, these workers became known as eejits. El Patrón who is now 140 years old, rules his family and his land, Opium, and personal estate with an iron fist. He discovers the mistreatment of his clone, Matt, and provides him with a body guard, Tam Lin. Matt’s only associates who do not despise him are Tam Lin, Celia and Maria the youngest daughter of Senator Mendoza. Eventually, Matt is helped in his escape and finds himself embroiled in the problems of Aztlán as an orphan. Matt must rescue himself and his new found friends which ironically leads him back to Opium, the original land of his enslavement.

Adult Point of View

The House of the Scorpion is one of the most interesting young adult novels that I have read. Farmer has created a complicated, realistic future with alarming ethics. The one downfall in this novel is that it should have been broken into two novels, the first ending with Matt escaping Opium. The second novel could then have been developed into a full length book, rather than wrapping up all of the problems too quickly. As it stands, the ending is unfortunately weak compared to the first two thirds.

I really enjoyed each character because each was distinct. Though she only has a cameo role, the mother of Tom is particularly fascinating because she seemed insipid and yet harbored such a depth of evil.

Farmer’s novel The House of the Scorpion raises wonderful questions that could easily be explored in a classroom setting.

Questions I would ask for a discussion could include:

What does it mean to be human?

Is it ethical to harvest organs?

Why do we want to prolong human life beyond what is natural?

Why are many people concerned about cloning?

In what way does society support modern slavery? Is is intentional or unintentional?

How does drug trafficking change our society?

What does it mean to live in a drug culture?

How can we love someone when they don’t deserve our love?

How do we define who are our parents?

Does forgiveness always accompany love?

What role should government play in our personal lives?

How do people escape poverty?

What are the benefits of socialism?

I highly recommend The House of the Scorpion to all readers over the age of 12.

4 out of 5 stars


– the Mother

Teen Point of View

I thought this book was very unique and interesting. It really made me think and I suggest it to people looking for a good book. I liked the characters most of the time, but I wished the language was more proper. I didn’t like the nicknames and the Spanish threw me off the boat into the raging waters of the nile river!!!

3.5 out of 5


– the Daughter

About Tales Untangled

I am a mother of four children and have a passion for reading. I love sharing my treasury of books with my kids. I also do experiments in cooking which includes such things as Indian Tandoori Chicken slow-cooked in a tagine. I write stories and illustrate in ink.
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