Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Review: The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

In the midst of the chaos that has been my life of late, I had the chance to finish listening to The House of the Scorpion, by Nancy Farmer on audiobook. While a strange concept and read, I did find myself thinking about the ideas presented in this multi award winning young adult novel.

Synopsis: Centering on the life of a clone by the name of Matt, who is the property of a man so powerful that he owns more "eejits" (workers with computer chips embedded in their brains) as illegal field workers, than anyone can ever imagine. El Patron. Not only is El Patron rich and powerful, but over 140 years old thanks to illicit sciences and technologies that include his own clones...such as Matt. Mistreated because he is a clone, Matt faces multiple challenges that create tension and adventure in the story, and that lead to his eventual escape from the estate, only to face even more challenges across the wide desert of Northern Mexico and SouthEastern U.S. Will Matt, a lowly clone, be granted a happy life, one where he is recognized as a real person?

Review: I really must start my own response to the novel by stating how fascinating I find the idea of human cloning. Not because I necessarily think cloning is a smart idea at this point, but because it really asks us to question how "human rights" might be applied to these genetically engineered humans. Should we rightfully be afraid of clones? Should humans get into the business of creating a clone? For what valid reason would one need to create a clone? Shouldn't any being, enervated with life, be granted decency...and who decides what that means? You see the questions and dilemnas that I faced while reading the novel.

Honestly, I appreciated the questions posed by Farmer's work. The story, however, felt as though it took various strange turns, such as after Matt leaves the estate. Other than to deepen the story and make it more complex, I wasn't 100% sure why we needed the additional knowledge of the outside world, or did I overlook something? The voice of the audiobook was a huge negative for me, as he instantly reminded me of the man from "Reading Rainbow." I'm not against that show for one second, but found the reader's over the top readings of the novel, combined with that voice, to be absolutely grating! This was one case where I felt that I might have gained much more from the novel by reading it myself, rather than by listening to it.

On the whole, The House of the Scorpion is not only a novel full of great discussion points, but also a straight forward, interesting story. I was left with a lot to consider about the use of science, and did question them. However, I also would have to be honest in my opinions that this audiobook was a bit too over the top and a little too difficult to follow at times. If you're interested in this topic, I would suggest picking up the actual book, rather than listening to it.

For more information, see: The House of the Scorpion.


  1. I LOVED this book when I read it. I don't remember thinking there were random informational bits about the outside world, but it has been a while...

  2. I haven't read this book yet but I've been meaning to. The problems you had with listening to audio is one of the biggest reasons I stay away from them.

  3. I tend to have problems staying focused while listening to audiobooks anyway, so I think if I do pick this one up, I'll read the book.

    I love human cloning as a plot device, too. Also robotic intelligence.