Readers of Nancy Farmer’s award-winning 2002 novel, The House of the Scorpion, are familiar with the country of Opium, epicenter of the Drug Confederacy, and an imagined future when drug lords have the power of kings. After the death of Matteo Alacrán (aka El Patrón), attendees at his funeral unknowingly consumed poisoned wine, killing all possible heirs to Opium, save one—El Patrón’s clone, 14-year-old Matt Alacrán.
In Matt’s earlier adventures in Opium, he was much maligned due to his clone status. Now, however, Matt is no longer a copy of an existing person, but a unique human being, a bona fide heir. But first Matt must prove himself worthy of command, facing both his own security force and menacing foreign drug lords.
Matt’s top priority becomes the fate of the eejits, people with microchips implanted in their brains, reducing them into soulless zombies, unable to act without command. With their spooky, unresponsive eyes, eejits appear to have lost all traces of personality. But when Matt tries to befriend a beautiful eejit called Waitress, he notices that she seems to “come alive” when eating baked custard. Is she connecting with her past?
Determined to discover the truth, Matt teams up with Cienfuegos, an intelligent, dry-witted soldier who is grappling with his own demons, and Listen, a smart and sassy 7-year-old. Matt is also reunited with Celia, his longtime caregiver; Maria, his true love; and his Lost Boy friends from the plankton factory.
As with The House of the Scorpion, The Lord of Opium encompasses great and relevant themes, such as ecology, autonomy, the greater good and absolute power. Suspenseful and creepy, funny and wise, Farmer delivers a sequel with all the satisfying clout of its predecessor.