Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The House of the Scorpion: A tale of evil and what it means to be human

When i was given the copy of Nancy Farmers award winning The House of the Scorpion I had no idea what I was taking just that it was young adult literature. The cover of this edition was more an advertisement for a sequel that's coming out in September called The Lord of Opium without any description at all of the story. But still i took the book.

Inside the front cover in the foreword from the editor I discovered this was a science fiction.  Something considered good science fiction that tackles a few of the big questions that comes up in the genre:

a)What does it mean to be human?
b)Should humans play God?

These are things we can find throughout science fiction. How many stories are there where humans create something and it becomes self aware or just wants to be a real human. Look at things like the manga Zetman,  Frankenstein, I Robot to name a few. Just as those titles address the question so does The House of the Scorpion.

The premise of the story is that this is a distopian future where the United States and Mexico have made a deal with the a Drug Lord named Matteo Alacran know as El Patron forming a new country called Opium between them. The main character is a boy who finds out that he is El Patron's clone. Everyone treats him like he's filth even going so far to abuse him before the old man finds out. Everyone that is except for the kind lady who took care of him before he was discovered at the house and the girl he grows to love Maria. Even though he's given an education and treated well he has no idea about who he is and what his purpose is. He just understands that clones are not seen as being humans but why the need for clones if they aren't for pets or to replace a lost loved one?

What we have here is an evil world where the weak are exploited. A world controlled by El Patron. Illegals trying to get through Opium, from either the US going to mexico or vice versa are turned into mindless Zombies. Clones murdered to reap their body parts to extend ones life. The question here is who is the real monster? In this novel it is clear to see the evil in characters. Some of them may put of good faces from time to time but in the end their masks are pulled off. There are very very few characters who Matt meets who could be considered as being truly good.

There are a lot of moral and religious questions too. You can see the religious background of Catholisim but you can clearly see who the hypicrits are and who the faithful are. For instance Ceila who is the women who takes care of and loves Matt as her own child, she is a good Catholic woman. Even El Viejo, El Patrons grandson is a man who adheres to his faith. Also Maria she is someone who does acts of kindness for anyone in need. The rest of the characters just seem to go through the motions while letting evil fester within,

The first question is if its morally ok to create clones in the first place. Isn't this playing God. And do they even have souls? And why destroy their brains at birth? By saying they do not have souls and destroying their intelligence does this not help justify them being used as nothing but livestock?  Is using something born from a human this way even moral?

Then you also have questions about is it ok to take away peoples freedom and turn them into nothing but Zombies doing their masters bidding. But this question comes two ways really. Firstly taking someones freedom and individuality by actually physically messing with their brains either by destroying the brain or by implanting computer chips to program them. Secondly by using fear to control people or even brainwashing. In a way both do the same thing of taking away a persons will though the first one is more permanent. In a way El Patron treats people as though they were his belongings and no one is able to escape him once in his clutches because in a way they have lost their humanity. And as is seen in the book El Patron is not the only one doing such things.

I have to say that I found this book very riveting. I wanted so much more. Even though it was a dark world I wanted to see what would become of Matt who only wanted to be human in a world that sees him as a monster born in a lab. In some ways it reminded me of the giver because this is a dark future but it was also very different. The first few chapters of the sequel were included in the back and i have to say I really want to read more. The new book starts right where the previous one ends. I want to see what Matt will do next. What will happen to this clone who has become a human? Will he truly have the power to stop the evils around him? Unfortunately the book isn't even available for preorder yet. So looks like I will have to be as patient as possible in my wait. But yes I highly recommend this series.

edit: Actually I just found it is available for preorder. =)