When I was in high school my mother was a teacher and one of her “teacherly” duties is to choose a summer reading book and force kids to read it and pretend to enjoy it. And part of her motherly duties was to force me to read her chosen book as well.

One year, she chose the book, “House of the Scorpion.” On long car trips to my grandmother’s or aunt’s house, she would rent the audio tapes and I would hear a deceptively soothing voice telling me of the dystopian society that is depicted in this book.

The book is about a young clone named Matt. Matt has been brought up in a land called “Opium” (the space of land between present day Mexico and America). His “father” is a 140-year-old drug lord named El Patron, who uses his clones to replace his organs, keeping him alive.

Dystopian books are all the trend now, but this book is different. This book came out in 2003, much before the original craze. It’s not a romance book (at least not that I remember) more of an “actiony” book. Think The Giver mixed with Uglies; less romance more adventures.

The book will make you think about social justice issues and how they impact one another. The book is filled with horrors and, human rights violations, people being taken advantage of, and slave labor. There is not one person in this world who could get a warm, fuzzy feeling from the plot of this book.

Frequently Matt is treated like a second class citizen because of his status as a clone. Additionally, slaves are utilized and the question is asked as to whether or not they are people. This book fits in perfectly with our current problems with the race wars and political fighting between the classes. The way Matt is treated is an echo of how African Americans are treated time and again and the way the slaves are treated is how many of the Hispanic immigrants are treated, legal or illegal.

I don’t remember much of the exact plot (it was so long ago that I read it) and the plot is not something to make you feel all warm and fuzzy, but I remember the book fondly, not because of the feelings the book evoked in me, but because of how my mother and I read it together and how we bonded over how we both enjoyed it.

copyright 2015 Marielle Lyons

One thought on “House of the Scorpion

  1. It is a very memorable book and, as Marielle says, makes the prospect of institutionalizing the marginal social and economic positions of immigrants and other groups very very believable. Unlike Hunger Games, this world feels very familiar and it isn’t hard to see how easy it would be to get to this point.


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