Review: The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

Nothing says dystopia like killing children to keep your population under control. The Capitol knew that in Hunger Games, and so does the robot overlord Talis, who took over the world of The Scorpion Rules when human society dissolved into endless wars. If you want to hear about artificial intelligences taking over the world, teens strong enough to look death in the face, and what happens when you put two scorpions in a bottle, read on…

The title The Scorpion Rules refers to the rules Talis developed to halt the world wars, and the anecdote he uses to explain why his measures don’t always work. When this human-turned-A.I. came into power, he mandated that all of the world’s leaders send their children as hostages to various Preceptures under his control. If two countries went to war, the child hostages of each would be killed. You would think this would be an effective way to ensure world peace, but sometimes countries are willing to pay the price of the blood of their children. An anecdote about two scorpions in a bottle has been used throughout history to describe when two forces have the means of stinging (destroying) each other, but only at the risk of being stung themselves. Talis applies it now because no matter who wins the war, both sides will lose their heir and will face the A.I.’s wrath.

scorpions in a bottle

Greta is the crown princess of the Pan Polar Confederacy and the other kids at her Precepture look to her as a leader. At age seventeen, she is only one year away from ending her term as a hostage, but her time left isn’t looking like a smooth run, especially with the arrival of Elián, hostage of the Cumberland Alliance. Cumberland is threatening war with the Pan Polar Confederacy over water rights, and Greta and Elián are the ones with the most to lose.

scorpionrulesI found this novel to be an extremely compelling read. I finished it in about three sittings (very long sittings because two of them were aboard long plane rides, but still). The writing style is skillful and the world building has just the right amount of detail. The characters and their relationships with each other are realistically complex. There is no simple love plot, but there is love. There is no obvious enemy (the Abbot, Talis, the Cumberland General, all have their good sides and their bad sides) but there is adversarial conflict. Greta as a protagonist has her moments of strength and weakness, of wisdom and stupidity, of nobility and cowardice. If you’re looking for your next sci-fi adventure, I whole-heartedly recommend this book when it comes out.

The Scorpion Rules will become available on September 22, 2015. You can find it at your local bookstore or pre-order the book now from Amazon.


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