Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The House of the Scorpion: A Borderland Critique

I have lived in southern New Mexico my entire life. In 2000, I moved to Las Cruces to attend New Mexico State University, and have lived here ever since. That means that I am fairly aware of border politics, border culture, and some of the intricacies of living near the United States / Mexico border.

The House of the Scorpion, by Nancy Farmer, is a great book that has so many interesting layers to it. It works as a critique of politics, cloning, caste systems, and slavery, among many others. One of the most glaring layers is its references to border politics and actions. The book goes in to pretty glaring detail to explain how the land lying between Aztlán (formerly known as Mexico in the book) and the United States became its own country, called Opium.

The way this reads out almost sounds like it could be true. The wealth and power of influential drug lords in the border region leads to them basically usurping power and causing a rift between the United States and Mexico, in the guise of 'helping' them take care of their drug problems by dealing overseas instead.

The book never directly says it, but knowing the importance of the relationship between Mexico and the United States, who are almost equally dependent on one another, helps explain Mexico collapsing and America losing its super power status in the book.

It's an interesting read with so many different views, and offers some of the greatest dystopic critique for children I've seen. This book goes up on my shelf next to the likes of 1984, A Brave New World, Anthem, and Fahrenheit 451.


Anonymous said...

Yes it was a very intriguing book! I must say its on my top 10. I just have one question, what does this book have to do with politics. Well i know it has politics in it, but in what ways, in your opinion?

The Buss said...

There's nothing out there quite like responding to a comment 5 months after the fact. Sorry about that, it was an oversight on my end. Anyways, to answer your question...

The basic premise of Scorpion is this future where the United States has fallen, and the borderland of the US and Mexico has been turned over completely to the drug lords, who rule in a fashion similar to that of war lords or governors under the old monarchichal systems of Europe.

The political issue of human cloning is ongoing for the entire book, but the issues of drug culture, the downfall of capitalism, and the border issues that are currently in the news come up again and again in the book. I don't want to delve too much deeper here because I'd give too much away, but these are a start.