The House of the Scorpion

BOOK: The House of the Scorpion
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Dear Book Lover,

I am writing to say hello, eight years after my retirement as a children's book publisher. Unofficially, I still work on a few books a year. Here is one I love particularly, and here is why:

Most fiction answers an overarching question: What does it mean to be human? In
Lord of Opium
, Nancy Farmer's sequel to her National Book Award–winning
of the Scorpion
, the hero becomes human, right before our eyes. Literally, figuratively. At age fourteen. The two books together, separated by just a minute from the end of the first to the start of the second, can be seen as a metaphor for adolescence. But they needn't be. Together—or even singly—they deliver one whale of a story.

My pleasure has been to edit Nancy's fiction since we met years ago—if “edit” is the word. Usually, as in
The Lord of Opium
, I see first a completed manuscript. I may want for an extra scene or two—as I did for this story. But each book comes to me essentially done, thoroughly imagined and understood. It's when I can't understand a connection or miss a bit of backstory that I ask for more. And always that more (maybe only a word or maybe a scene of several pages) helps to resolve my query. Two new sections of
Lord of Opium
came after the original—only two, really—and Nancy inserted them in unexpected places; not where I'd jotted a margin note or anticipated something new. Reading her work is therefore an ongoing amazement. She amazes me always with her wit; sense of pace and place; her serious concern for the fate of the world; and the zest that she finds in a wide cast of characters, not just the wonderfully wicked, but the good as well.

I think you will be amazed, too, at
The Lord of Opium
.

For readers wanting to track Matteo Alacrán from his harvesting as a clone raised for body parts, I recommend beginning with
The House of the Scorpion.
The title of that first book was suggested by an early reader of the manuscript, Nancy Farmer's friend (and mine), Ursula K. LeGuin. In a prepublication blurb she wrote: “It is a pleasure to read science fiction that's full of warm, strong characters—people who are really fond of one another, children who are ignorant and vulnerable, powerful evildoers whom one can pity, good people who make awful mistakes. It's a pleasure to read science fiction that doesn't rely of violence as the solution to complex problems of right and wrong. It's a pleasure to read science fiction that gets the science right. It's a pleasure to read
The House of the Scorpion
.”

Besides the National Book Award, the novel was named a Newbery Honor Book and a Michael L. Printz Honor Book for excellence in young adult literature. Not bad for a being grown in and cut out of a cow.

Richard Jackson

Editor, Richard Jackson Books

CONTENTS

YOUTH:
0
TO
6

Chapter 1: In the Beginning

Chapter 2: The Little House in the Poppy Fields

Chapter 3: Property of the Alacrán Estate

Chapter 4: María

Chapter 5: Prison

MIDDLE AGE:
7
TO
11

Chapter 6: El Patrón

Chapter 7: Teacher

Chapter 8: The Eejit in the Dry Field

Chapter 9: The Secret Passage

Chapter 10: A Cat with Nine Lives

Chapter 11: The Giving and Taking of Gifts

Chapter 12: The Thing on the Bed

Chapter 13: The Lotus Pond

Chapter 14: Celia's Story

OLD AGE:
12
TO
14

Chapter 15: A Starved Bird

Chapter 16: Brother Wolf

Chapter 17: The Eejit Pens

Chapter 18: The Dragon Hoard

Chapter 19: Coming-of-Age

Chapter 20: Esperanza

Chapter 21: Blood Wedding

Chapter 22: Betrayal

AGE
14

Chapter 23: Death

Chapter 24: A Final Good-bye

Chapter 25: The Farm Patrol

LA VIDA NUEVA

Chapter 26: The Lost Boys

Chapter 27: A Five-legged Horse

Chapter 28: The Plankton Factory

Chapter 29: Washing a Dusty Mind

Chapter 30: When the Whales Lost Their Legs

Chapter 31: Ton-Ton

Chapter 32: Found Out

Chapter 33: The Boneyard

Chapter 34: The Shrimp Harvester

Chapter 35:
El Día de los Muertos

Chapter 36: The Castle on the Hill

Chapter 37: Homecoming

Chapter 38: The House of Eternity

Reading Group Guide

‘The Lord of Opium' Excerpt

About Nancy Farmer

To Harold for his unfailing love and support, and to Daniel, our son. To my brother, Dr. Elmon Lee Coe, and my sister, Mary Marimon Stout.

Lastly, and no less importantly, to Richard Jackson,
il capo di tutti capi
of children's book editors.

CAST OF CHARACTERS

THE ALACRÁN FAMILY

Matt:
Matteo Alacrán, the clone

El Patrón:
The original Matteo Alacrán; a powerful drug lord

Felipe:
El Patrón's son; died long ago

El Viejo:
El Patrón's grandson and Mr. Alacrán's father; a very old man

Mr. Alacrán:
El Patrón's great-grandson; husband of Felicia, father of Benito and Steven

Felicia:
Mr. Alacrán's wife; mother of Benito, Steven, and Tom

Benito:
Oldest son of Mr. Alacrán and Felicia

Steven:
Second son of Mr. Alacrán and Felicia

Tom:
Son of Felicia and Mr. MacGregor

Fani:
Benito's wife

VISITORS AND ASSOCIATES OF THE ALACRÁNS

Senator Mendoza:
A powerful politician in the United States; father of Emilia and María; also called Dada

Emilia:
Oldest daughter of Senator Mendoza

María:
Younger daughter of Senator Mendoza

Esperanza:
Emilia's and María's mother; disappeared when María was five

Mr. MacGregor:
A drug lord

SLAVES AND SERVANTS

Celia:
Chief cook and Matt's caregiver

Tam Lin:
Bodyguard for both El Patrón and Matt

Daft Donald:
Bodyguard for El Patrón

Rosa:
Housekeeper; Matt's jailer

Willum:
Chief doctor for the Alacrán household; Rosa's lover

Mr. Ortega:
Matt's music teacher

Teacher:
An eejit

Hugh, Ralf, and Wee Wullie:
Members of the Farm Patrol

PEOPLE IN AZTLÁN

Raúl:
A Keeper

Carlos:
A Keeper

Jorge:
A Keeper

Chacho:
A Lost Boy

Fidelito:
A Lost Boy; eight years old

Ton-Ton:
A Lost Boy; driver of the shrimp harvester

Flaco:
Oldest of the Lost Boys

Luna:
Lost Boy in charge of the infirmary

Guapo:
Old man celebrating
El Día de los Muertos

Consuela:
Old woman celebrating
El Día de los Muertos

Sister Inéz:
A nurse at the Convent of Santa Clara

MISCELLANEOUS CHARACTERS

Furball:
María's dog

El Látigo Negro:
The Black Whip, an old TV character

Don Segundo Sombra:
Sir Second Shadow, an old TV character

El Sacerdote Volante:
The Flying Priest, an old TV character

Eejits:
People with computer chips in their brains; also known as zombies

La Llorona:
The Weeping Woman; mythical woman who searches in the night for her lost children

Chupacabras:
The goat sucker; mythical creature that sucks the blood out of goats, chickens, and, occasionally, people

BOOK: The House of the Scorpion
4.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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