The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer

(discussed August 19, 2004)

On a ten-point scale (1=bad, 10=good), the people who read the book gave the following ratings: 4 (Alek), 6 (Ignacio), 6 (Jeff), 6 (Lisa), 6 (TC), 7 (Dru), 7 (Judy), 7 (Peter), 8 (Kate), 9 (Chris), 9 (Raja)
Average: 6.8

Note: The following is based on a meeting report posted August 20, 2004 on the SFDG Blog,

Peter Kuchera was back, and arranged for us to have good cookies, drinks coupons (for coffee or soda), and a large number of comfortable chairs. Peter said he would try to come to future meetings as much as possible.

Ignacio started the voting by giving the book a rating of 6, and most people sitting near him followed suit. Chris Stanley thought she might be alone in giving it a 9, but Raja also gave it a 9. (Raja thinks he and Chris and liked the book because it was a fast, enjoyable, reasonably-well-written story.) The voting record (in no particular order) was Ignacio 6, TC 6, Lisa 6, Dru 7, Jeff 6 ("5 out of 5 for writing, 1 for enjoyment"), Alek 4, Chris 9, Judy 7, Kate 8, Raja 9, Peter 7.

The discussion wandered a bit (which is fine, of course). One person (was it Judy?) started off by saying she enjoyed the (major) part of the book that took place in the compound, with the strange relationships; when protagonist Matt left the compound, it became less interesting. Judy also praised the book for its social consciousness, and for presenting a realistic view of how a child would look at and think about these things. Raja said that it took him a while to warm up to the book; it seemed a bit predictable and even a tad bit condescending at first. The stuff in compound was good, but seemed predictable … the twist with what his "mother" Celia was feeding him, and why. Alek wished that Matt had manifested, or at least struggled with, dark tendencies that paralleled El Patrón's very dark nature, and for him a perfect sequel would be Matt becoming very like El Patrón as he got older. Raja pointed out that that would probably have been too dark for a Young Adult book, and that the fact that genetics wasn't destiny was a key theme of the book, as shown by Matt's unexpected musical talent. Another softening that Raja thought was due to the book's Young Adult nature was the fact that at the end, Matt wanted to come back and free the eejits, removing their surgical brain damage. Raja was very skeptical that their brains could be fixed that easily.

The group also seemed to feel that except for the idea of the "country" of Opium, there weren't any new Science-Fictional ideas in the book. Indeed, the author didn't seem to know what to do with the antigravity(!) cars, and we never got a glimpse of what life was like in the future United States.