El Patron is dead. Long live El Patron!
At the conclusion of Nancy Farmer’s award winning THE HOUSE OF THE SCORPION, Matt found himself as the new heir to El Patron’s kingdom: a strip of land between Mexico and the United States called Opium, the drug capital of the world. Matt was formerly an outcast in Opium as he was nothing more than a clone grown from a strip of the original El Patron’s skin, grown to provide major organs to El Patron should he need them. However, Matt escaped with the help of some caring individuals, El Patron died, and now Matt is left to rule and pick up the pieces of a crumbling kingdom.
"Nancy Farmer brings back the acclaimed characters and world in THE LORD OF OPIUM that made THE HOUSE OF THE SCORPION such a success."
At first, Matt isn’t sure what to do with his newfound power. The adults around him tell him he needs to quickly assume command and deal with all of the problems the original El patron left behind. Matt would rather spend time with his friends and his love interest, Maria, even though they aren’t allowed in Opium. One thing does catch Matt’s eye, though, and he decides that this is where he will focus his efforts: the eejits. Eejits are humans embedded with microchips that render them docile workers and slaves. Most eejits work in the opium fields harvesting the drug and live under terrible conditions. Matt is immediately compassionate towards them, but it soon becomes apparent that all the doctors in the world may be able to do nothing to return them back to ordinary humans.
In the meantime, Matt discovers seemingly a whole different world in the country of Opium that he never knew existed. The original El Patron was more interested in snuffing out his enemies and having total control over what goes in and out of his country that he left most of what was actually in Opium unmolested. Matt discovers an abundant wildlife and fresh, clean water whereas the rest of the world currently suffers from ecological disaster. Matt also learns about a large biosphere that contains rooms filled with the different landscapes and climates from around the world. Could this biosphere, located within the dangerous country of Opium, be the answer to saving the world?
Matt may never know, as not everyone in Opium is thrilled that he’s taken El Patron’s place as supreme ruler. In a land of eejits who are forced to follow and obey orders, Matt still isn’t sure whom to trust. El Patron hid a lot of secrets from everyone, and Matt has only just begun to uncover them, whether he’s ready or not.
Nancy Farmer brings back the acclaimed characters and world in THE LORD OF OPIUM that made THE HOUSE OF THE SCORPION such a success. Matt, still very much the clone, struggles throughout to be himself even as he hears El Patron in his mind at every twist and turn. The miserable existence of the multi-faceted eejits is explored more in depth in this novel, and you can’t help but wonder if mind control isn’t too far off in the future. Greed and power corrupt absolutely in THE LORD OF OPIUM, but if you’re looking in the right places, you just might find a little bit of hope in the uncertain future.
Reviewed by Benjamin Boche on May 23, 2013