I had heard great things about this book and had been wanting to read it for some time. This is a well done science fiction/dystopian novel that touches on a lot of social and political issues such as cloning, slavery, human rights, drug trade, and immortality. I had a bit of trouble engaging with the characters, but it was a fascinating story. A follow up to this book, Lord of Opium, was published in September 2013.
Matteo Alacran is a clone harvested from the DNA of the most powerful drug lord in the world, El Patron. He is given the best education and the best living accommodations. Despite this he is forced to continually face the fact that he is not human, he is a clone. In El Patrons household being a clone makes him something to be feared and scorned. He is there at El Patrons whim and there to ensure El Patrons survival. Can he ever escape this life and have one of his own?
I know there's been a lot of buzz around this book and it does have some interesting elements and is a well done dystopian book. I think I've just read too many dystopian novels over the last couple years to get super excited about it.
Matteo is brought up like a privileged young man, except he has no peers and is continually scorned and ridiculed for his status as a clone. Most clones have their minds destroyed at birth, they are meant as vessels to harvest organs from...not people. This makes Matteos existence an anomaly. Because of the way Matteo is brought up he is naive, ignorant, and childishly cruel at turns.
Yet, Matteo/Matt is smart, very smart. In addition to that the cook Celia, who basically raises him, is a kind woman who loves him. In his preteens he inherits one of El Patrons bodyguards, Tam Lin. Tam Lin treats Matt like just another kid and takes him on adventures, as well as being stern with him when he is wrong. These two characters help to temper Matts cruelty and shape him into a more conscientious young man.
Additionally Matt meets Maria at a young age. Maria is incredibly tender-hearted and at first treat Matt like the family pet. That is until she grows to love him, despite of how taboo it is to love a clone. Maria ends up being another driving force in Matts live.
The nearly immortal El Patron looms over the story. The people who he decides are his never leave his domain, his vast expanse of wealth and power mean that he has lived well beyond his natural years. He wants to be immortal, he doesnt trust anyone with his wealth or with his domain. He is an exceedingly complex and cruel character.
All the above being said you can see there are a lot of issues here. What makes a human, human? How would a clone be different from a human? How do drugs and power destroy people? What would happen if people lived well beyond their years; how would it affect them physically and mentally? This book is unique for the sheer number of controversial issues it comes in touch with.
Despite the fact that this is an interesting and thought-provoking story I didnt really enjoy it a ton. I really never engaged with the characters all that well. Matt came off as too naive and too cruel. Maria came off as too weepy and weak.
Given the context there is a lot of cruelty in this book, but it is never unnecessarily gory or over-the-top. People are beaten and tortured though, there are a lot of disturbing things that happen as well.
Overall this is a good book to read to expose middle grade and young adult readers to a lot of concepts around cloning and slavery. They are concepts that are probably somewhat foreign to younger readers and this book explores them in an interesting way that has an engaging story to go with it. I personally did not enjoy the book a ton and wont read any future ones in the series. I had trouble engaging with the characters and just felt like I have read many other dystopian books with similar story elements.
This book deals with the moral ethics of cloning in a futuristic world where drug lords have taken over the boarder of Mexico and the United States. Overall I found the book to be a bit lacking, given its numerous awards I'd expect better intergration of hispanic culture and a less predictable plot. However it was recommended me by a vary dear friend whose opinion on books I respect so clearly I'm in the minority in my opinion.
Matteo Alacran was not born; he was harvested. His DNA came from El Patron, lord of a country called Opium - a strip of poppy fields lying between the United States and what was once called Mexico. Matt's first cell split and divided inside a petri dish. Then he was placed in the womb of a cow, where he continued the miraculous journey from embryo to fetus to baby. He is a boy now, but most consider him a monster - except for El Patron. El Patron loves Matt as he loves himself, because Matt IS himself.
As Matt struggles to understand his existence, he is threatened by a sinister cast of characters, including El Patron's power-hungry family, and he is surrounded by a dangerous army of bodyguards. Escape is the only chance Matt has to survive. But escape from the Alacran Estate is no guarantee of freedom, because Matt is marked by his difference in ways he doesn't even suspect.
Matteo Alacran was not born; he was harvested. His DNA came from El Patron, lord of country called Opium-a strip of poppy fields lying between the United States and what was once called Mexico. Matt's first cell split and divided inside a petri dish. Then he was placed in the womb of a cow, where he continued the miraculous journey from embryo to fetus to baby. He is a boy now, but most consider him a monster-except El Patron. El Patron loves Matt as he loves himself, because Matt is himself......