"We are of opinion that instead of letting books grow moldy behind an iron grating, far from the vulgar gaze, it is better to let them wear out by being read." - Jules Verne
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Thursday, February 10, 2011

The House of the Scorpion (audiobook) by Nancy Farmer

Recommended for middle schoolers through adults 
Limiting The House of the Scorpion to a young adult audience is a disservice to the book and to the themes it brings up. This would be a fantastic book for an adult discussion group - there are so many themes and controversial topics that a group could discuss for hours and hours.

Nancy Farmer
That being said, I nearly quit listening to this audiobook after the first hour. It was sooooo slow to get started. On top of that, it was often dark and opressive. However, after the character Tam Lin comes in to the story the whole book changes and you would have had to fight me to get me to give the book up. By the time the end came around I felt like I had lived a life with Mateo and was thoroughly satisfied.

So, what kind of themes are there? Well, this book, in my opinion, points out the dangers that many of the more Conservative thinkers warn us about with our current policies towards bio-technology and, to a lesser extent, immigration.

The future, as portrayed in The House of the Scorpion is often a dark place with clones created solely to provide body parts for their originals and "eejits" - people with computer chips inserted into their brains to make them completely docile and the perfect slaves who will literally do the task they're assigned to do until they are told to stop (or die). The United States is no longer the world's only superpower and there is a new country between Mexico (now called Aztlan) and the USA. It is called "Opium". Opium serves as a buffer between Aztlan and the U.S. that is run by a cartel of drug lords with drug plantations worked by eejits, most of whom are illegal aliens from the U.S. or Mexico who were captured and enslaved (the parallels with the American underground labor force comprised of illegal immigrants can be easily made).

Aztlan has become a country obsessed by economic success and the duty to the larger society as a whole. The goal there seems to be the bee hive - all workers know their place and sacrifice for the good of the society. The mantra is the "5 principles of Good Citizenship" and the "4 Attitudes Leading to Right-Mindfulness." The success of the state is paramount over the interests of any individual.

Grand themes run throughout the book such as:

-What does it mean to be human?

-Who is accorded human rights?

-What are the limits of cloning? Do we clone people just to use them for parts? Do we clone fetuses just to use their parts (as happens in the book)?

-The rights of the individual vs. the demands of the state? Where are the boundaries or should there be any? Is the individual entirely free? Can the state demand everything of the individual? Is there a difference between an eejit and an Aztlanian worker bee?

The audiobook lasts 12.5 hours and is read brilliantly by Robert Ramirez (NOTE: There are other audiobook versions out there with different readers). I'm glad I stuck through the initial slow parts - I was thoroughly rewarded.

I rate this book 5 stars out of 5.

This audiobook can be found on Amazon.com here: The House of the Scorpion

Reviewed May 21, 2009.

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