The Scorpion Rules

It’s not very often that Canada becomes the world’s biggest superpower. Most of the time we’re just grateful that YA acknowledges our existence, let alone makes us the be all and end all of political powers. Finally, a Canadian author proud of her roots. All bow down to the great Nation of Canada, holder of 20% of the world’s freshwater supply. Behold the great Canadian north.

…And all that jazz. The apocalypse: Global warming causes ecological catastrophes and countries around the world, unable to sustain themselves, end up in an all-out cage match. The dust clears after the UN steps in to curtail fighting and Canada, with its large supply of fresh water, ends up as one of the strongest nations in the word. The crux of the matter though is how the UN managed to deescalate World War 3.

The new system works very simply: Your country declares war and your hostage gets it. It’s an amazingly effective system run by a very effective leader called Talis. Talis came up with this brutally efficient system, and will be in charge of the system until the end of time because he is an AI.

Honestly, it’s just nice to find a dystopia novel that doesn’t divide everyone up into districts or houses or by horoscopes or whatever. Thanks, The Scorpion Rules!

Talis is the shining star of this non-polarised narrative. He is quotable, quick, and an enigma. Talis’s presence jumps off the page even when he’s not around. We meet him through his quotes, with Greta reciting his words like some people recited Bible verses. His character shines through everything he does.

[quote]Once upon a time, humans were killing each other so fast that total extinction was looking possible, and it was my job to stop them.

Well, I say “my job.” I sort of took it upon myself. Expanded my portfolio a bit. I guess that surprised people. I don’t know how it surprised people–I mean, if they’d been paying the slightest bit of  attention they’d have known that AIs have this built-in tendency to take over the world. Did we learning nothing from The Terminator, people? Did we learn nothing from HAL?[/quote]

When we finally meet him, he (and he identifies as a man) spends the book walking around in the body of a woman because it was the closest things he could reach at the time. In one of the most fascinating examples of showing-not-telling I have ever encountered we are shown that Talis’ has a very strong personality. Instead of simply telling you this, Bow has his extremely masculine gestures and mannerisms transform the female body he is wearing into something quite male and Talis-y. He is who came up with the system of the Children of Peace (child hostages) and he firmly believes in sacrificing the few for good of many.

What gives this narrative so much credibility is the fact that Talis isn’t vilified for enforcing this system. It was a necessary means to end the war and the world does not operate in terms of good vs. evil. And it’s one that will keep you thinking about it after you put the book down.

The main character of The Scorpion Rules, Greta, is one of the many child hostages demanded from the world leaders hailing from, you guessed it, the great Canadian superpower. She is worried because what is left of the States inching towards declaring war with her country, which means her head will probably be on the chopping block in the near future.

Her status as unofficial leader of the Children of Peace comes off slightly unbelievable. All of the other children seem to understand that the peace their house experiences is only maintained through group coercion and in some cases even torture to those who step too far out of line. Greta has lived most of her life oblivious to this, so how she became so looked up to is beyond me.

The romance in the story is passable at best. Greta is smart but has lived her life in an emotional box. She has two love interests, Elian and Xie. Elian challenges her views on the status quo and forces her out of her comfort zone. Xie has been Greta’s friend for many years. Greta seems to fall for them without much reason and then switch between them without much reason, so if you’re looking for a ship I guess you’ve got options. Shipping Greta with Talis is the easiest, though; his personality is so big.

Scorpion Rule drags a lot through the beginning and middle. If you want fast-paced dystopian action this is not the place to get it. By the end the action picks up a little, but if you can’t find something else in this book to hold you until then, you’re not going to enjoy it. Mostly, it’s a lot of talking around things, contemplative thoughts, and arguing – oh, and goats. Lots and lots of goats.

The Scorpion Rules: the only YA with goats in trees.

Written by
I graduated with a BA in English and minors in Film, Women Studies, and Religion and Culture. I adore fantasy and sci-fi, especially when it comes to the YA section, but that doesn't mean I don't read anything else. When I'm not reading, I'm writing, biking, taking my dog for long walks or watching anime.

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