I wish I would have been able to read this book along with my bookclub members because I found it intriguing and would love to have talked about it in a group. Instead, I’m about a year behind and have to just leave my own opinions here without discussion.
The book is set in an unspecified future where human cloning is possible, where opium is the drug of choice coming out of what is currently northern Mexico, and where hovercars exist. In contrast to this, there is still superstition from some and longing for the “good ol’ days” from others. The main character in the book is Matt, who is a clone of El Patron, the de facto ruler of Opium.
And, a majority of the book takes place in Opium on the estate of El Patron. The setting is described very well, so that it is easy to picture the estate and the way that El Patron keeps things like they were hundreds of years ago. The view we see is limited to Matt’s perspective, so it starts very narrow at first while he is kept in a small hut and then a small room on the estate, but gradually widens as he is able to explore and as get ages.
The main plot involves Matt learning who he is and how to live in his world. In many ways, it is a coming-of-age story. But it also explores cloning (of course), slavery, love, and sacrifice. I was especially surprised by the twist revealed toward the end about El Patron. But then it all made sense, so the weaving of hints throughout was masterfully done.
Matt sees lots of conflict in his so-far short life. He is threatened by a house keeper and doctor, El Patron’s power-hungry family and especially one boy, dangerous bodyguards, those wh0 would use him for their own benefit, and others. His intelligence, training, and personality (inherited from El Patron, a ruthless and evil man) supply lots of opportunity for conflicts to develop in the story. Matt’s survival is at stake through much of the book, and that drives things forward at an increasingly escalated pace, which helps to keep the reader engaged. I had a harder and harder time putting the book down as I got more and more into the story.
The characters all felt very real to me. In fact, I want to get the next book ASAP so I can keep reading about them. I really enjoyed Matt, Tam Lin, Maria, and Chacho, to name a few. They all felt so different and quirky in their own ways.
The writing was clear. I enjoyed the interspersal of Spanish words throughout the book. I also loved the metaphors and similes used in describing things. They were very fresh and evocative.
I highly recommend this book.