Book Review: Lord of Opium
I thought this was a fairly interesting book. The author covers many topics: cloning, education, immigration, drugs, drug cartels, farming, the nature of evil, freewill, murder, freedom, religion, mythology, death, ecology, hope and a lot more besides. Sometimes the plot was a bit thin for me and I wanted the main character to to be a lot more heroic than he was–given that he was el Patron! The ending was satisfying, even if there were a few questions left unanswered. (I can't ask those questions without spoiling some of the plot.)
All that said, I like the imagination the book requires. At times the characters seem to be hopelessly wandering and merely exploring the Alacran estate (Opium) which is huge. And as new discoveries are made, more questions are raised. (And there were a lot of questions left lingering for me.) It seems to me that perhaps another volume is needed to answer all those questions, but maybe it is important the author didn't answer the questions and I am left simply to use my imagination and create my own satisfying conclusions. Or, better, to continue wrestling with the questions and balancing their answers against an already formed worldview.
Could a world such as the one described in The Lord of Opium exist? The author has her characters struggle with a lot of different things. The main character, Matteo, is especially good at this and as he struggles, so do we. What should he do with the eejits? Is it enough to merely 'set them free'? What is death? Can he, or will he, be a clone of El Patron or will he choose a path that's clear by choosing freewill (especially as El Patron continues whispering in his ear). In some ways, perhaps Opium does already exist and perhaps we are all slaves (eejits) to its cause. Or perhaps as we travel around Opium we will continue to find oases here and there where we might find respite and answers to the questions that plague us most here on earth.
The author, frankly, doesn't answer a lot of those questions and neither does Matt. We are left to discover our own answers by approving and/or disapproving of the choices Matt makes.
Personally, I thought the pacing was a bit strange. It starts slowly, moves slowly, but when the action really takes off it just takes off and leaves the reader almost breathless. I would have appreciated more balance to the pacing, but that is, again, a personal preference. I wanted to see more of the discoveries made during the characters' exploration of Opium play a role in the plot, but it seemed to me that it just did not get there.
I liked this book and I would probably be inclined to read more of Farmer's work based on this (and the prequel) alone. I rate this book 4/5 stars. It is a quick read (took me about 2 days or so) and the short chapters make for easy digestion of the text.
PS-I appreciated that at the end of the book the author included an appendix where she gave us some of the 'real life' ideas behind some of the fictional ideas in the book. This was helpful.