www.whyville.net Dec 14, 2014 Weekly Issue

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Book Review: The Lord of Opium

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"I am the cat with nine lives, you will not prevail against me."

These are the words of Matteo Alacran, the new ruler of Opium. His story was told in "House of the Scorpion" by Nancy Farmer, and "The Lord of Opium" is the sequel to "House of the Scorpion". I recommend reading the first book before its sequel, as it (and this article) has spoilers for people who haven't read "House of the Scorpion".

Matteo Alacran (Matt), the clone of El Patron, is now the ruler of Opium after El Patron died, taking almost everyone in the country with him. Matt, a teenager, is now technically a human, as his original is now gone. He is overwhelmed with power, not feeling quite right as the new leader of Opium, a country in between the United States and Aztlan (which used to be called Mexico) that is part of the Dope Confederacy. The Dope Confederacy produces the world's drugs, and it is plunged in war, with UN peacekeepers trying to keep it together. The world itself is in bad condition, referred to as God's Ashtray, where things are ruined ecologically. The country of Opium, Matt finds, is the key to ecological restoration -- it has clean air and an abundance of animals.

But Matt has other problems. He is most concerned with trying to find a way to free the eejits, people controlled with microchips in their brains who have no free will. And the borders of Opium are closed -- so he can't supply drug dealers with opium, which means the opium the eejits produce are piling up. With the borders closed, Opium can't get enough supplies to sustain themselves. Matt can open the border to deliver the opium to the dealers, but then he'll have to continue the cycle -- that is, take in Illegals from Aztlan to turn into eejits so Opium can produce more of the drug.

"How much wickedness could you do in the service of good before it turned into pure evil?"

Matt goes about the daily perils of being the Lord of Opium, but he is scared of his own potential -- of turning into the person El Patron was.

I think The Lord of Opium was one of the best books I've read this year. The first book, "House of Scorpion" left me with a lot of questions at the end. "The Lord of Opium" gave a deeper look into the world of Opium -- the author, Nancy Farmer, was brilliant at continuing the story of the eejits, who play an important role, the fate of Opium, and Matt's future. The only thing I don't really like is how one subplot, while crucial to the story, felt out of place. Everything fell into place at the end, however. During the book, I could see how Matt changed and became ready to take on challenges, and I also learned a lot more about Opium because unlike House of the Scorpion, the book takes you around the country, whilst book 1 was mainly in El Patron's estate. After the first book I felt like I really needed to find out what happened next -- "The Lord of Opium" answered everything for me.

I felt like one of the most interesting parts is all the new characters, and they were just as well-developed as the original cast. Nancy Farmer also included lots of twists, so there was always something going on. She actually never intended to write a sequel because writing the first book for her was depressing, but she felt like the first book still had some unresolved problems. Then, she dealt with some eye surgery which delayed the process, but she was finally revived by listening to music and finished writing the book in just 6 months. She doesn't plan on writing a third book at the moment.

All in all, I really enjoyed "The Lord of the Opium". It really tied up the unsolved problems in the first book and gave me a story that I won't forget.

Author's Note: Source: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/authors/interviews/article/58783-q-a-with-nancy-farmer.html, http://www.amazon.com/The-Lord-Opium-Nancy-Farmer/dp/1442482540


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