The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication Date: September 22, 2015
Pages: 384
Source: BEA 2015
Buy It: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
A world battered by climate shift and war turns to an ancient method of keeping peace: the exchange of hostages. The Children of Peace - sons and daughters of kings and presidents and generals - are raised together in small, isolated schools called Preceptures. There, they learn history and political theory, and are taught to gracefully accept what may well be their fate: to die if their countries declare war.
Greta Gustafsen Stuart, Duchess of Halifax and Crown Princess of the Pan-Polar Confederation, is the pride of the North American Precepture. Learned and disciplined, Greta is proud of her role in keeping the global peace, even though, with her country controlling two-thirds of the world’s most war-worthy resource — water — she has little chance of reaching adulthood alive.
Enter Elián Palnik, the Precepture’s newest hostage and biggest problem. Greta’s world begins to tilt the moment she sees Elián dragged into the school in chains. The Precepture’s insidious surveillance, its small punishments and rewards, can make no dent in Elián, who is not interested in dignity and tradition, and doesn’t even accept the right of the UN to keep hostages.
What will happen to Elián and Greta as their two nations inch closer to war? --Goodreads
Set 400 years into the future, Greta has lived most of her life as a hostage or Child of Peace.  A group of children, each from a separate territory of the world, are chosen as hostages to keep leaders from declaring war.  Talis, master of the world, holds a strong belief of keeping it personal.  If a leader is to declare war, the child from that territory is killed.  When a new hostage takes Sydney’s place, Greta realizes that the system she was following so blindly is incredibly wrong.  It is time to break some rules.

If writing a book had rules, Erin Bow broke them all.  The action was superb, keeping readers on their toes.  If those readers choose to stick around for that long, that is.  The Scorpion Rules sounds fantastic.  The premise is original; the idea of keeping royal children as hostages of peace is amazing.  It could have been a tremendous page-turner but instead, it fell short.  

With most science fiction and dystopian novels, authors need to take some time to describe their world—to build it up from scratch, or from our predicted world in the future.  Bow does this to an extent but stops explaining her world, as if she got bored with it.  There are robots (the correct Bow term is AI) but what do they look like? There are scorpions who are also robots, I think. 

This book is teetering on the edge of being a joke and being serious.  This is the book where Erin Bow translates goat bleats, the goats having even more ridiculous names then their conversations.  This is the book where royal children farm and garden.  This is book where holy utterances, a highly quotable piece of work by the master of the world, is written in overdramatic sass which is entertaining but also strange coming from a robot.  This is the book where the protagonist pretends to be in The Bachelor, while having less emotions than that sass robot. 

Talis, the master of the world (and he won’t let you forget it), is the only character worth mentioning—all the others fall incredibly flat.  It doesn’t surprise me that Greta herself chose such an ending.  I’m sure readers are meant to see a difference between first-page Greta and last-page Greta but I can’t find any.  She is flat and a bit boring.  It is still unclear as to why all the children choose her to be the leader of the pack; where does all this power come from?  Is it because she’s from Canada?  Talis, on the other hand, has spunk but is absent in most of the novel.

The Scorpion Rules could have been awesome—should have been awesome.  Instead it’s a mashup between Animal Farm and The Bachelor with robots; for me, those ingredients don’t make for a good or even okay novel.

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