The children of world leaders are held hostage in an attempt to keep the peace in this “slyly humorous, starkly thought-provoking” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) novel.
Greta is a Duchess and a Crown Princess. She is also a Child of Peace, a hostage held by the de facto ruler of the world, the great Artificial Intelligence, Talis. This is how the game is played: if you want to rule, you must give one of your children as a hostage. Start a war and your hostage dies.
The system has worked for centuries. Parents don’t want to see their children murdered.
Greta will be free if she can make it to her eighteenth birthday. Until then she is prepared to die with dignity, if necessary. But everything changes when Elian arrives at the Precepture. He’s a hostage from a new American alliance, and he defies the machines that control every part of their lives—and is severely punished for it. His rebellion opens Greta’s eyes to the brutality of the rules they live under, and to the subtle resistance of her companions. And Greta discovers her own quiet power.
Then Elian’s country declares war on Greta’s and invades the prefecture, taking the hostages hostage. Now the great Talis is furious, and coming himself to deliver punishment. Which surely means that Greta and Elian will be killed...unless Greta can think of a way to break all the rules.
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The Scorpion Rules
We were studying the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand when we saw the plume of dust.
Gregori spotted it first—in truth he spent a lot of time watching for it—and stood up so fast that his chair tipped over. It crashed to the flagstones of the orderly little classroom, loud as rifle fire. Long and careful training kept the rest of us from moving. Grego alone stood as if his muscles had all seized, with seven pairs of human eyes and a dozen kinds of sensors locked on him.
He was looking out the window.
So, naturally, I looked out the window.
It took me a moment to spot the mark on the horizon: a bit of dust, as might be kicked up by a small surface vehicle, or a rider on horseback. It looked as if someone had tried to erase a pencil mark from the sky.
Terror came to me the way it does in dreams—all encompassing, all at once. The air froze in my lungs. I felt my teeth click together.
But then, as I began to twist toward the window, I stopped. No, I would not make a spectacle of myself. I was Greta Gustafsen Stuart, Duchess of Halifax and Crown Princess of the Pan Polar Confederacy. I was a seventh-generation hostage, and the future ruler of a superpower. Even if I was about to die—and the dust meant I probably was—even if I was about to die, I would not freeze and tremble. I would not gawp.
So. I put my hands one on top of the other and pushed them flat. I breathed in through my nose and blew out through my mouth as if blowing out a candle, which is a good way to cope with any kind of distress or pain. In short, I pulled myself back into being royalty. All around me I could sense everyone else doing the same. Only Grego was left standing, as if caught in a spotlight. That was clearly out of bounds—he’d be punished in a moment—but in my heart I did not blame him.
Someone was coming here. And no one came here, except to kill one of us.
At the front of the room, our teacher whirred and clicked. “Is something troubling you, Gregori?”
“I— No.” Grego broke himself from the window. His hair was the color of a cirrus cloud, and the sun caught the wiry sweep of it. The implanted cybernetic irises made his eyes look alien. “World War One,” he said, his accent sharpening the Ws almost to Vs. He looked down at his upturned chair as if he didn’t know what it was for.
Da-Xia glided to her feet. She bowed to Grego, and then righted his chair. Grego sat down and pushed at his face with both hands.
“Are you all right?” asked Da-Xia, pushing—as she ever did—the edge of what we were allowed.
“Of course. Žinoma, yes, of course.” Grego’s eyes flicked past her to look at the dust. “It is only the usual impending doom.” Grego is the son of one of the grand dukes of the Baltic Alliance, and his country, like mine, was on the brink of war.
But mine was closer to that brink than his.
On her way back to her seat, Da-Xia laid her hand on top of my arm. It rested lightly, momentarily, like a hummingbird on a branch. The rider wasn’t coming for Xie—her nation was nowhere close to a war—so her touch was pure gift. And then it was gone.
Da-Xia sank back into her seat. “The assassination of the archduke is a great poignancy, is it not? That the death of one minor royal figure could lead to so much loss of life? Imagine, a world war.”
“Imagine,” I echoed. My lips felt numb and stiff. I did not look at the dust. No one did. Beside me I could hear Sidney’s breath shudder. I could almost feel it, as if our bodies were pressed together.
“It’s only a world war if you don’t count Africa,” said Thandi, who is heir to one of the great thrones of Africa, and touchy about it. “Or central Asia. Or the southern Americas.”
The seven of us had been together for so long that in times of great stress we could have whole conversations that were assembled from everyone’s most typical reactions. This was one of them. Sidney (his voice cracking a little) said that it could be penguins versus polar bears and Thandi would still call it Eurocentric. Thandi answered sharply, while Han, who is bad with irony, noted that penguins and polar bears did not live on the same continent, and therefore had no recorded wars.
In this prefabricated way, we discussed history like good students—and kept our seats like good hostages. Grego stayed silent, his white hand knotted in his whiter hair. Little Han watched Grego as if puzzled. Da-Xia tucked her feet up under herself in a posture of formal serenity. Atta, who has not spoken aloud in two years, was alone in looking overtly out the window. His eyes were like the eyes of a dead dog.
Talk in the classroom was drying up. Trickling away.
There was a tiny noise at the desk beside mine: Sidney, tapping his fingertips on his notebook. He lifted them a millimeter, dropped them, lifted and dropped. There were pinpricks of sweat on his cheekbones and lips.
I pulled my eyes from him, and saw that the dust was much closer. At the base of the plume was the bump-bumping dot of a rider on horseback. I could see the rider’s wings.
It was certain, then. The rider was a Swan Rider.
The Swan Riders are humans in the employ of the United Nations. They are sent out to present official declarations of war—to present the declarations, and to kill the official hostages.
We are the hostages.
And we knew which of our nations was likely to be at war. The Swan Rider was coming to kill Sidney, and to kill me.
Sidney Carlow, son of the governor of the Mississippi Delta Confederacy. He had no title, but still he had an ancient profile, a face you could have imagined on the sphinx, though his ears stuck out. His hands were big. And our two nations . . .
Sidney’s nation and mine were on the brink of war. It was complicated, but it was simple. His people were thirsty, and mine had water. They were desperate, and we were firm. And now, that dust. I was almost, almost sure—
“Children?” whirred Delta. “Must I remind you of our topic?”
“It’s war,” said Sidney.
I locked my eyes onto the map at the front of the room. I could feel my classmates try not to look at Sidney and me. I could feel them try not to pity.
None of us has ever wanted pity.
The silence grew tighter and tighter. It was possible to imagine the sound of hoofbeats.
Sidney spoke again, and it was like something breaking. “World War One is exactly the kind of stupid-ass war that would never happen today.” His voice, which normally is like peaches in syrup, was high and tight. “I mean, what if Czar, um—”
“Nicholas,” I supplied. “Nicholas the Second, Nicholas Romanov.”
“What if his kids had been held hostage somewhere? Is he really gonna go off and defend Italy—”
“France,” I said.
“Is he really going to go off and fight for a meaningless alliance if someone is going to shoot his kids in the head?”
We did not actually know what the Swan Riders did to us. When wars were declared, the hostage children of the warring parties went with the Rider to the grey room. They did not come back. A bullet to the brain was a reasonable and popular guess.
Shoot his kids . . . The idea hung there, shuddering in the air, like the after-ring of a great bell.
“I—” said Sidney. “I. Sorry. That’s what my dad would call a fucking unfortunate image.”
Brother Delta made a chiding tock. “I really don’t think, Mr. Carlow, that there is any cause for such profanity.” The old machine paused. “Though I realize this is a stressful situation.”
A laugh tore out of Sidney—and from outside the window came a flash.
The Rider was upon us. The sun struck off the mirrored parts of her wings.
Sidney grabbed my hand. I felt a surge of hot and cold, as if Sidney were electric, as if he had wired himself straight into my nerves.
It surely could not be that he had never touched me before. We had been sitting side by side for years. I knew the hollow at the nape of his neck; I knew the habitual curl of his hands. But it felt like a first touch.
I could feel my heartbeat pounding in the tips of my fingers.
The Rider came out of the apple orchard and into the vegetable gardens. She swung down from her horse and led it toward us, picking her way, careful of the lettuce. I counted breaths to calm myself. My fingers wove through Sidney’s, and his through mine, and we held on tight.
At the goat pen the Swan Rider looped the reins around the horse’s neck and pumped some water into the trough. The horse dipped its head and slopped at it. The Rider gave the horse a little pat, and for a moment paused, her head bowed. The sunlight rippled from the aluminum and the glossy feathers of her wings, as if she were shaking.
Then she straightened, turned, and walked toward the main doors of the hall, out of our view.
Our room hung in silence. Filled with a certain unfortunate image.
I took a deep breath and lifted my chin. I could do this. The Swan Rider would call my name, and I would go with her. I would walk out well.
Maybe—I found a scrap of doubt, not quite a wish—it wouldn’t be Sidney and me. There were other conflicts in the world. There was always Grego. The ethnic disputes in the Baltic were always close to boiling over, and Grego had spent a lifetime afraid. There was Grego, and there were littler children in the other classrooms, children from all over the world. It would be a terrible thing to hope for that, but—
We heard footsteps.
Sidney was crushing my knuckles. My hand throbbed, but I did not pull away.
The door slid open.
For a moment I could cling to my doubts, because it was only our Abbot, shuffling into the doorway. “Children,” he said, in his gentle, dusty voice. “I’m afraid there is bad news. It’s an intra-American conflict. The Mississippi Delta Confederacy has declared war on Tennessee and Kentucky.”
“What?” said Sidney. His hand ripped out of mine.
My heart leapt. I felt dizzy, blind, sick with joy. I was not going to die; only Sidney was. I was not going to die. Only Sidney.
He was on his feet. “What? Are you sure?”
“If I were not sure, Mr. Carlow, I would not bring you such news,” said the Abbot. He eased himself aside. Behind him stood the Swan Rider.
“But my father,” said Sidney.
It would have been his father who’d made the decision to declare war—and made it knowing that it would send a Swan Rider here.
“But,” said Sidney. “But he’s my dad—”
The Rider took a step forward, and one of her wings bumped against the doorframe. They tipped sideways. She grabbed at the harness strap. Dust puffed out from wings and coat. “Children of Peace,” she said, and her voice cracked. Anger flashed through me. How dare she be clumsy, how dare she be tongue-tied? How dare she be anything less than perfect? She was supposed to be an angel, the immaculate hand of Talis, but she was just a girl, a white girl with a chickadee cap of black hair and sorrow-soft blue eyes. She swallowed before trying again. “Children of Peace, a war has been declared. By order of the United Nations, by the will of Talis, the lives of the children of the warring parties are declared forfeit.” And then: “Sidney James Carlow, come with me.”
Sidney stood unmoving.
Would he have to be dragged? We all lived in horror of it, that we would start screaming, that we would have to be dragged.
The Swan Rider lifted her eyebrows, startling eyebrows like heavy black slashes. Sidney was frozen. It was almost too late. The Swan Rider began to move—and then, hardly knowing what I did, I stepped forward. I touched Sidney’s wrist, where the skin was soft and folded. He jerked and his head snapped round. I could see the whites all around his eyes. “I’ll go with you,” I said.
Not to die, because it was not my turn.
Not to save him, because I couldn’t.
“No,” croaked Sidney. “No, I can do it. I can do it.”
He took one step forward. His hand slipped free of mine and struck his leg with a sound like a slab of meat hitting a counter. But he managed another step, and then another. The Swan Rider took his elbow, as if they were in a formal procession. They went out the door. It closed behind them.
Nothing and nothing and nothing. The silence was not an absence of sound, but an active thing. I could feel it turning and burrowing inside my ears.
The seven of us—or rather, the six of us—stood close together and stared at the door. There was something wrong with the way we did it, but I did not know if we should stand closer together or farther apart. We were trained to walk out, but we got no training for this.
At the front of the room, Brother Delta clicked. “Our topic was World War One, I believe,” he began.
“Never mind, Delta.” The Abbot tipped his facescreen downward and tinted it a soft grey. “There will be bells in a moment.”
The Abbot has been doing this longer than any of us, and he is kind. We stood and stood. Three minutes. Five. Ten. Cramps came into my insteps. Sidney—was he already dead? Probably. Whatever happened in the grey room happened fast. (I’m not a cruel man, Talis is recorded as saying. Only rarely is the next bit quoted: I mean, technically I’m not a man at all.)
High overhead, a bell tolled three times.
“It’s your rota for gardening, I think, my children,” said the Abbot. “Come, I can walk you as far as the transept.”
“No need,” said Da-Xia. She’d told me once about the Blue Tara, fiercest and most beloved goddess of her mountain country, known for destroying her enemies and spreading joy. I had never quite shaken the image. There were ten generations of royalty in Xie’s voice—but more than that, there were icy mountains, and a million people who thought she was a god.
The Abbot merely nodded. “As you like, Da-Xia.”
The others went out, huddling close together. I wanted to go with them—I felt the same desire for closeness, for a herd—but found myself staggering as I tried to walk. My knees were both stiff and shot with tremors, as if I had been carrying something heavy, and had only now set it down.
And so very nearly, me.
Xie’s hand slipped into mine. “Greta,” she said.
Xie and I have been roommates since I was five. How many times have I heard her say my name? In that moment she lifted it up for me and held it like a mirror. I saw myself, and I remembered myself. A hostage, yes. But a princess, a duchess. The daughter of a queen.
“Come on, Greta,” said Xie. “We’ll go together.”
So I made myself move. Da-Xia and I went slowly: two princesses, arm in arm. We walked out together, from the darkness into the summer sun.
Reading Group Guide
A Reading Group Guide to
The Scorpion Rules
By Erin Bow
About the Book
Greta is a crown princess—and a hostage to peace, held by the de facto ruler of the world, the great Artificial Intelligence, Talis. Greta and the other royal hostages are Talis’s strategy to keep the peace: if her country enters a war, Greta dies. Greta will be free if she can make it to her eighteenth birthday. Until then she is prepared to die with dignity, if necessary. But everything changes when a new hostage arrives, a boy who refuses to play by the rules and opens Greta’s eyes to the brutality of the system and to her own power.
1. War has been with us throughout human history, but there has also been a corresponding desire for peace. Do you think world peace will ever be attained? Can you suggest how that might happen?
2. Define and discuss the term “artificial intelligence.” Could computers, smartphones, and robots ever be truly “intelligent”? If not, why not? If so, what are the benefits they provide, and the dangers they pose to humans? Do you think it will ever become possible for humans to “upload” their consciousness into machines? Would that be a good idea?
1. What genre would you consider The Scorpion Rules to be? Is it strictly a science fiction story, or is it also a dystopian novel? How are the two genres alike and different?
2. The Utterances are the collected quotations of Talis. Do you feel they are a political work or more like a holy text? Why are the Children of Peace expected to know them by heart? What purpose do they serve as a writing device?
3. Discuss Greta’s stoicism. How has her study of classical philosophy contributed to this aspect of her personality? How does her upbringing as a Child of Peace influence it?
4. At one point when Elián first arrives, Greta thinks: “He looked like someone who’d been told he was going to die.” What do you think that looks like? How would you feel if you’d been given that news?
5. Discuss the “morality of altitude”—the ability of pilots and drone operators to kill people without looking any of them in the eye. Is this type of war more or less savage than a bloody, close-up conflict?
6. The Children of Peace have been trained to behave in a dignified manner, even when they are facing death. Do you think this training is cruel?
7. In the title, do you think the word “rules” is a noun or a verb? Could it be both?
8. The political conflict in The Scorpion Rules is about access to fresh water. Discuss whether this seems plausible.
9. Is Talis a multidimensional character? What do you know about him before his physical appearance in the story? How does the author present him as male even though he inhabits a female body? What more do you learn about him in the latter part of the novel? Talis was once human—does he display any humanity? Does he display any “monster” qualities?
10. Greta finds herself falling in love with Xie while she is also drawn to Elián. Does that feel natural to you that she could care for both of them? Does it seem to matter in their society?
11. Discuss the following quote from Chapter 11: “You cannot control a man if you take everything from him. You must leave him something to lose.” Do you agree? Is there a certain freedom that comes from being unencumbered?
12. The Abbot is a Class Two Artificial Intelligence with full rights of personhood. Do you think this is right? Can an AI who was once human still be a “person?” In what ways does the Abbot demonstrate human qualities?
13. In Chapter 8, shortly after Elián’s arrival, Greta says, “I had changed.” Describe Greta before this statement. How has her relationship with the Abbot and her mother shaped her character? How has she changed? How has knowing Elián helped cause these changes?
14. Xie and Elián tell Greta that they think about escaping all the time, but Greta has never thought about it. Is it because she thinks being a Child of Peace is her destiny, or is she just resigned to her fate? Imagine that you are a prisoner—would you feel like Greta or the others?
15. Greta says that something she’s learned is that “the weaknesses we perceive in others are often the ones we fear in ourselves.” Do you agree? Can you think of personal examples? Historical examples?
16. Early on, it’s clear that the Abbot and the other children see Greta as a leader even though she doesn’t realize it. As the story progresses, she begins to discover and claim her power—give examples of incidents or insights that demonstrate this to readers. Is Greta pleased about it? Are you worried that once she has joined Talis she will misuse her power?
17. “In the midst of life we are in death.” Greta believes this to be a reversible statement: In the midst of death we are in life. Do you agree? If you were facing death, would you be able to fully embrace living? Could you have a meaningful life if you were immortal?
18. Almost as soon as Cumberlanders invade the Precepture, Tolliver Burr begins planning Greta’s torture with the apple press. Why do you think that torture is one of the rituals of war? Do you think torture always gets “results”? Why does it still exist when laws have been passed against it? Are all torturers evil people, or do societies at war create systems that make ordinary people into torturers?
19. Greta describes the proctors: “They might technically have been intelligent, but they weren’t sentient.” What do you consider to be the difference between the two?
20. Greta describes Elián’s stupidity in challenging the status quo: “Like any force of nature, it sought new channels.” Do you agree with her that he is being stupid, or is he being heroic, like Spartacus?
21. At the beginning of Chapter 20, after the Abbot tells Greta there might be an alternative to dying, she thinks: “Stirring inside me was the kind of fear that comes with hope.” What does Greta mean? Do you think that hope can inspire fear? Can you give an example?
Writing and Further Research
1. Greta’s world is highly technological and has been “saved” by machines, and yet she and her fellow hostages live in a mostly pastoral, primitive setting. Write an essay comparing the positives/negatives of both settings. The beginning of Chapter 6 discusses the technological choices of Greta’s society. Is our society headed for the same future?
2. Research and write a report on the history of artificial intelligence in our world, or a report on the depiction of artificial intelligence in our popular culture—books, movies, and television.
3. Write a short story that imagines a future meeting between Greta and Xie, or Greta and Elián, after she returns from the Red Mountains.
4. Read another science fiction or dystopian novel, such as Divergent or The Hunger Games. How does it compare to The Scorpion Rules? How are the worlds alike or different: government, computers, and citizens? How does Greta compare to the protagonist in the novel? Discuss your thoughts with a partner in class, who should also share his/her thoughts about a science fiction novel that he/she has read.
5. Research and write a report on the life and works of Marcus Aurelius, one of the pillars of Greta’s classical education.
Guide written by Bobbie Combs, a consultant at We Love Children's Books.
This guide has been provided by Simon & Schuster for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book was brilliant. There were moments that made me laugh, moments that made me tremble in my chair, moments that made me cry, moments that melted my heart, and moments that made me want to rip my hair out at the roots. This book has it all, and it delivers it through a cold but much needed message. Full Review: http://reedsreadsreview.com/2015/09/24/the-scorpion-rules/
Heck, yeah! Bisexuality! I suppose it could also be pansexuality... The main character is gay and a badass and not at allvperfeft and I love her, okay? Read this book. That is all.
I loved this even though sci fi isn't usually my thing. I was totally delighted by the unexpected bisexual love triangle and by how that turned out, and I found the premise ethical dilemmas faced by Greta totally fascinating, and I totally cried at the end.
pooled ink Reviews: So first and foremost one cannot deny that Erin Bow has presented us with quite the intriguing concept. I love it. Oh yes I really do. Is it harsh? Is it cruel? Is it far-fetched? Is it quite near? That I will leave up to you to decide for yourself but in my humble opinion I daresay it’s at least in the seat next to chastisingly brilliant and worth a ponder. The calmest thriller one may ever read weaving terror with utter composed dignity at a regally appropriate stomach-churning pace. Royalty, Artificial Intelligence, hostages, order, two-steps forward, one-step back, and a world-saving villain that will give you a double-take conflicted between nodding and despising his no nonsense tactics. Read it and weep at its alarming possibility, then look down and realize you’ve run off the edge of a cliff suspended only so long as you don’t look down so be sure to catch the little bauble of hope floating by before you fall. P.S. You might have to warm up to it, or you might have to read in the right mindset, but you won't regret it. Read my FULL review here: https://pooledink.com/2015/11/20/the-scorpion-rules/
It was wonderful!!
Even though I got lost a few times reading this, I enjoyed it. It was a very interesting book and kept my attention. I liked that it was our Earth but with after all the wars and the robots/AI's brought in; that it became a world where the most precious becomes a hostage. I really liked that idea even though I wouldn't really want it to happen, it was still a cool factor to the story. Even though I liked Greta, at times I felt she could have been more. In example: her feelings for the romantic prospects. The romance comes off as a love triangle but not? There was two people that had feelings for her but I didn't know it was going there until BAM all the sudden it happens; it wasn't a bad thing, but I wished beforehand there was an inkling of it. Besides that, I loved the diversity of the characters in it. My favorite would probably have to be Talis. I know, I know he's the supposed bad guy in the story, but I felt there was more to him and I liked his interactions with everyone. So yeah, if you want a book that has robots, romance not as a main focal point, death, torture, and some funny moments with goats then this is the book. *I received this through NetGalley*
I have mixed feelings on this book as a whole. There were things that I liked about it, and other parts of it that I had more trouble getting into. I think part of this was because this isn't really my type of genre. I was more invested in the parts with Elian, Xie, and Greta, and the relationships with them. I especially loved the relationship between Xie and Greta. And I basically loved Elian as a character from the first scene that he stepped onto the page. So overall, I wanted to like it more, but I certainly wouldn't say I disliked it. There were times when I felt the pacing was a bit slow, and I wanted to put it down, and other times, I couldn't put it down because I was so invested.
3 star Posted on: Brandi Breathes Books Blog Disclaimer: I received this book as an ARC (advanced review copy) for free. I am not paid for this review, and my opinions in this review are mine, and are not effected by the book being free. I was glad to get this in the mail because the idea of holding royalty/leadership's kids hostage to prevent war is a pretty compelling premise. I wanted to find out the general of how a society could end up there, and how this group of up and coming leaders bonded, but also were always on the brink of death. I liked Greta, the main character. She is a good blend of smart, cautious, funny, sympathetic and tough. She's accepted the way of life, caring for animals and basically farm work along with lessons, all controlled by robots/AI (artificial intelligence). She has bonded with the group of royalty that is at the school/Precepture with her, but she's never gotten too close or involved with the guys. But when spirited, defiant, and different Elian shows up, things begin to change, and she begins listening and pondering some of the issues he talks about and how he bucks the authority of the AI even when it causes him physical harm. I was so immersed in the story. Even though it dealt a lot with politics which usually goes right over my head, it mostly was a lot of character development. Greta realized so much about herself and the others she grew up with. She has really hard choices to make as well, dealing with the AI, the things she knows, and whether to help and protect Elian. I was shocked more than once at the plot twists. There was one thing that I didn't really see coming, and I am not sure how I feel about it. Things were wrapped up with the immediate plot but I hope that there is another one, because I am not sure what the choices mean for the future, and for her as a person who meant so much to the others. The things that I have read though indicate it is a stand alone so that takes my rating down because I was left confused about a few things, like the layers, as well as what peace might exist or not. The romance also surprised me, I thought that it was going one way but went another, so it wasn't precisely a triangle, it just wasn't going with the obvious at first option at least to me. There were some humorous moments, and I liked the theme of loyalty, friendship and duty. Talis, the writer of the prologue and the one who set up the current political situation with the hostages, actually amused me rather than feeling villianesque. I understand why could be hated, but its an AI, and he accomplished his purpose. Bottom Line: Liked the characters and friendship the ending wasn't the best for me though.
Excellent. For mature readers.
This is another book that when I saw it I was thrilled to pick up a copy and start reading it. While I did find the concept of this book very engaging, that was not the case then I actually opened the book and started reading it I got have way into the book and put it down. I kept reading this far because I liked the world but I really did not find either Greta or Elian to share a strong connection with me. Greta came off annoying some with her naïve attitude. Then there is Elian, who I felt was too much of a know it all. I was so turned off by them both that I could barely remember details of what happened in the first half of the book.
Oh man. This book. I’m not even sure how to write a coherent review. I don’t read a lot of sci-fi but I’m so happy I read this one. The Scorpion Rules was just a phenomenal books that I will definitely push onto any and all readers. 400 years ago, Earth was dying and water was going scarce. Countless wars were being held and the UN turned to their Artificial Intelligence, Talis, for answers. And Talis surprised them all, by blowing up cities until humans listened to him. Now, Talis is still leading and has all the world’s leaders prized possessions hostage, their children. When a country declares war, their children are taking to the grey room. And they never come out. Greta is the Crown Princess of the Pan Polar Confederacy and is only 16 months from being free. That all goes haywire when Elian, grandson of an opposing leader, arrives. Soon, the two countries are at war and Greta has to figure out what she’s willing to put at stake to protect those she cares about. Greta was an amazing protagonist. She felt so real and dynamic. I loved how she not only wanted to understand more about her world and how she learned more about herself. The world-building was also equally amazing. Despite its sci-fi aspects, it felt so real and natural. It was definitely planned out and it really shows. The plot was equally thrilling and I really enjoyed it. It was definitely fast-paced and I enjoyed it so much. The romance was freakin’ amazing. Based on the synopsis, it seems that Elian and Greta would be together. But that isn’t the case. While Greta learns to care about Elian, she also learns about the difference between platonic and romantic love. But who is the other person that Greta learns to care for? None other than her roommate Xie, one of her best friends and an overall amazing person. I just loved the romance so much. Not only is it about Greta discovering her romantic feelings, it’s about her learning about the different types of love. I enjoyed it so much. Overall, The Scorpion Rules was an amazing diverse sci-fi novel that I highly recommend to everyone. Just go read it, seriously, you won’t regret it.
Talis's first rule of stopping wars is to make it personal. Charged with saving humanity from itself, the powerful artificial intelligence swiftly establishes a series of rules and initiatives to keep humanity at peace. Oh, and he also takes over the world. Four hundred years later, Talis's every word is recorded in the Utterances and some cultures believe he is a god. They might be right. To ensure that the world's leaders know the exact cost of any declaration of war, Talis takes hostages. The Children of Peace are the heirs to thrones and ruling positions around the world. They are hostages living under the constant threat of execution. If war is declared the lives of both nation's hostages are immediately forfeit. Greta Gustafson Stuart, Duchess of Halifax and Crown Princess of the Pan Polar Confederation, is a seventh generation hostage at Precepture Four in Saskatchewan where she has lived most of her life. She embodies the ideals of the Children of Peace and knows to follow the rules even with her country on the brink of war. Elián Palnik is a new hostage who arrives at Precepture Four with none of the dignity ingrained in the other hostages. Instead he refuses to accept any of the tenets of the Children of Peace, forcing Greta to question everything she believes as she struggles to save Elián from Talis, the Precepture and even himself in The Scorpion Rules (2015) by Erin Bow. I'm hesitant to say I enjoyed The Scorpion Rules, or even that it's a favorite, simply because parts of it are so harrowing and so difficult to process. But I can say this: Bow delivers a knock-out dystopian that I devoured with my heart in my mouth. Greta is a pragmatic and analytical narrator with a wry sense of humor even in the worst situations. Goats also help bring levity to the otherwise weighty narrative in countless ways. Masterful, electric prose and wit make even the hardest moments bearable as Greta and her friends endure countless hardships with grace and aplomb befitting the world's future leaders in this powerful story. The Scorpion Rules is further strengthened by a diverse, memorable cast of characters with realistically complicated relationships (both romantic and platonic), brilliant plotting and shocking twists.The minute readers get a handle on the story, Bow turns everything upside down and moves the novel in a new direction. A gripping story about rebirth, transformation and choice. The Scorpion Rules weaves together science, ethics and humor in this story that delves deep into the human condition and questions the nature of choice and what must be sacrificed for the sake of the greater good. Guaranteed to have high appeal on many levels. Highly Recommended.
I absolutely loved “The Scorpion Rules”. It’s a wonderful addition to the YA dystopian genre. The first thing that made me love it is the diversity. Racial diversity is merely the beginning. There is cultural diversity and religious diversity, including a Jewish protagonist, which is something rarely seen. And to take things to an entirely different level, there is sexual diversity, including a female bisexual main character. I don’t think I have ever read that in a young adult dystopian novel, and I was quite literally bouncing with the excitement of it. Absolutely none of it felt forced or gratuitous. Well done. Then we have the villain. I think he may be my favorite villain ever. He’s hilarious while being really, truly evil. This is not someone (something?) you would want as your enemy. I also enjoyed the other characters and their development. Some of them may seem flat at first, but their traits unfold slowly and organically. Greta is an unreliable narrator on the level of Katniss, and it is fun to go along with her on her journey of awareness. Elian, well, I’ll let you find out about him for yourself. Finally, the book brings up some incredible points about the nature of humans, society, wars, and the climate. It is quite heavy on the philosophy, and yet it is also hilarious. Some parts had me laughing so hard it was difficult to catch my breath. The author has a good sense of comedic timing. Overall, I recommend “The Scorpion Rules” for anyone eighth grade and up who loves a good dystopian novel. The flow and humor make it a good choice for the reluctant reader, as well. This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
I've seen some pretty impressive and highly complimentary reviews of this book, and that's part of the reason I wanted to read it but, unfortunately, it didn't resonate with me as much. Something I really liked was the unique concept of this YA dystopian novel. Holding hostage the sons and daughters of world leaders in order to maintain peace? Amazing. It's obvious the author put a lot of time and imagination into her world-building and I especially liked the idea of AIs making the rules and the humans acceptance of this. The diversity of the characters was refreshing and although there was a love triangle, it was between the MC, a man, and a woman, adding some interesting dynamics. A couple of things that just didn't work for me were the pacing and characterization. Despite the slow pace of this novel, where I learned far more about goats and farming than needed, I stuck with it because of the other reviews I've seen. Somewhere around page 100, it picked up a little, but not enough to hold my interest. The characters felt flat, with none really standing out, and I had difficulty connecting with any of them. I also couldn't buy into the fact that Greta was considered the leader among her cohorts. To me, Greta was who everyone expected her to be, following all the rules and never questioning them, so I felt as if I never knew the real Greta. When she finally stood up to someone, I was completely shocked, because it seemed so out of character based on her previous actions. Judging by so many rave reviews, I'm definitely in the minority on this one, but it just wasn't for me. If you're a dystopian fan, you should check into The Scorpion Rules and decide for yourself. This review is based on a digital ARC from the publisher through NetGalley.
***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog*** The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books Publication Date: September 22, 2015 Rating: 1 star Source: ARC sent by the publisher Summary (from Goodreads): 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 Prefectures. 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 Prefecture. 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 Prefecture’s newest hostage and biggest problem. Greta’s world begins to tilt the moment she sees Elián dragged into the school in chains. The Prefecture’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? What I Liked: I think this might be a huge case of "it's not you, it's me". Or maybe it IS the book. I don't know. The ratings on Goodreads are very polarizing (at least, in my mutual friend group - but even outside of that group). To be honest, I wasn't really interested in this book. If the publisher hadn't sent an ARC, I wouldn't have read it. I don't make a habit of reading unsolicited review copies, but given the massive amount of flailing that people were/are doing over this book, I decided to give it a shot. Read on. What I Did Not Like: I gave this book a shot. It failed. Epically. And to be honest, there is no venom or sting in my one-star rating. I just couldn't think of a single thing I liked. I wasn't overly upset over this one, or disappointed. It was so meh and blah, and I couldn't recommend it to anyone (if you hadn't heard of it before, keep walking). I know some people liked the beginning but found the ending lacking. And some people loved the ending but found the beginning slow. For me, I found the entire book dry and boring, so there was no one part that I absolutely hated or absolutely loved. I will say, I had an easier time reading the beginning - the first one hundred pages. But keep in mind, this is largely due to the fact that I knew NOTHING about this book before reading it. So the first hundred pages were boring... but I still had hopes that maybe I was just tired, or it would pick up soon. It never picked up. And I got even more tired, even as I got more awake (I had started this book on a car ride around 8:30 am, but picked it back up around 2:00 pm). This book was draining me, and not because it was so exciting or action-packed or emotionally investing. No, I was bored. Read the rest of my review on my blog, The Eater of Books! - eaterofbooks DOT blogspot DOT com :)
Can some e lend rhis to meo