My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Read by Raul Esparza
In this sequel to The House of the Scorpion, Matt Alacran finds himself back in Opium after his ordeal in Aztlan. El Patron is dead, and so are most of the people he surrounded himself with, including the remaining members of his family. It was the last act of evil from the megalomaniac former ruler of Opium. As his clone, Matt now finds himself legally a person, not an animal, and the new ruler of Opium. He vows to find a way to free the eejits from the microchips that control them, end the drug production that has been the source of Opium’s success under El Patron, and reunite with Maria, who is now with her crusading mother. But Matt soon finds that his ambitions are, as often found, easier said than done. Along with battling the other drug lords, unraveling the secrets of Opium itself, and trying to help heal the devastation of the outside world, Matt has to battle his own demons, not the least of which is the voice of El Patron himself.
I know there are some who feel this was not as good a story as The House of the Scorpion. One of the most common criticisms is that there is not enough action. But, really, this is a completely different sort of story. Where the first is concerned with getting Matt out of the dangers that face him in Opium, and his ordeals and trials after escaping, this second installment is more internal. This is Matt’s coming of age story, where he has to deal not only with the outside forces and issues that surround him, but also with his own internal struggle to find out who he really is. There is some action sprinkled throughout the book, and those parts are exciting and fast-paced. Much of the story here, however, is concerned with Matt’s learning the full extent of El Patron’s machinations in Opium, and discovering that even though the old man did everything for his own gain, much of the result can be now used for good. Matt is also plagued with his own doubts about himself: is he simply a direct, complete copy of El Patron? He certainly hears his voice enough in his head to believe that. Or is he his own person, able to use the things he learned from El Patron when necessary, but also to make his own, individual decisions?
The best part of the story for me is the way it asks questions about the morality and ethical responsibilities of cloning, and confronts the ages old question of nurture versus nature without becoming preachy or bogged down in philosophical wandering. The story remains rooted on Matt and his friends and enemies, and the struggles they confront in their attempts to achieve their goals.
There are some extraordinary characters here. The head of the farm patrol, Cienfuegos, is thorny at times, but much more than just a soldier. The Mushroom Master puts on the mask of an eccentric old scientist, but he is far more clever than he appears. And Matt’s friends from the plankton factory make a wonderful trio of Lost Boys. Even El Patron, as evil and despicable as he is, has aspects to his character that are fascinating to unravel. These are just a few of the intriguing people that populate Matt’s world.
The book is read once again by Raul Esparza, who is an excellent choice. Not only is he bilingual, which makes the Mexican aspects seem more authentic, but his voicing of characters and general pacing of the story help to bring it to life. I would recommend the audio version of this book simply for that.
Available now :
After five years away, Kaili is coming home for the ceremony to install her sister as head of the family business. When an old rivalry threatens the family, Kaili and her partner need to use all their skills to save the sisters’ lives. Learn more here
A collection of six short fantasy stories set in varied worlds of magic and mayhem. Learn more here.
A short novelette set in a dystopian Earth after the final environmental collapse. Sam is a genetically engineered chameleon who may hold the key to mankind’s survival. Learn more here.
In a world reeling under the effects of severe climate change, food shortages are common, and arable farmland is scarce. Unscupulous distributors like Beni Oligowma take advantage of the shortages for their own gain. When a promising new technology for growing food even under the harsh conditions is unveiled, grocery store owner Frank is determined to see that everyone is able to benefit from the results, not just the Benis of the world.
Feed My People is a short story, set in a dystopian science fiction world, and is free. Learn more here
Demon hunters Johnny and Cerise travel to the small town of Carroll Fork where they find a demon-possessed thrift store, a sweet old lady who is more than she seems, and an army of underworld inhabitants. Can Johnny and his trusty yo-yo save the town from a devil of a problem?
Five and Daemon, the Yo-Yo Files #1, is a short novelette in an urban fantasy setting, with elements of the supernatural and humor. Learn more here
Things have been quiet. No demonic possessions, no otherworldly intrusions, nothing. And then Lucifer shows up in Johnny’s living room, claiming that two archangels are missing, and something is definitely not right in the heavenly- and other- realms. Saying he has nothing to do with it- this time- he asks Johnny and Cerise to help him find out what’s happening, and who is behind the disappearances. While they are trying to do just that, Lucifer is devilnapped by a larger-than-life serpent. He manages to get a clue to Johnny before he disappears. Johnny and Cerise are left to puzzle out the disappearances and try to find the missing angels. Oh, and stop what could mean the ultimate destruction of pretty much everything.
Snake’s Alive, the Yo-Yo Files #2 is an urban fantasy novelette with elements of the supernatural and humor. Learn more here.