The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

What a strange book!  It just…didn’t do anything that I expected it to do. 518Eq5pqzcL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ I was anticipating a Hunger Games-style revolution, but…nope.  And I think I love it?  Because it was so unexpected, and I really like when books surprise me.  But because it’s outside the established narrative, my insides are all confused!  Probably you should also read it and draw your own conclusions, but here are a few thoughts anyway:

The setting is awesome.  400+ years in the future, an AI named Talis has taken over control of the planet, ruling with a semi-benevolent but iron hand.  To keep peace between nations (in a world where water is scarce so tensions run high), all rulers must send a child to specific Preceptures where they will learn to run nations…and be held hostage.  If a nation goes to war, their child is murdered.

Greta is a princess hostage, and until Elian comes, she never bothers to question the system.  It’s all she knows.  But then she begins to question things, and this is where I thought things would be typical, and they would revolt and start a new world order.  But…everything EXCEPT that happened.  There’s a revolution, of sorts, and also torture, stalemates, negotiating, AIs, and a LOT of ambiguity.  This is the book’s strong suit, I think.

Talis (who steps into the story about halfway through) is, like I said earlier, a brutal but semi-benevolent AI ruling the world.  He’s also hilarious and snarky, and I couldn’t help but like him while being terrified of his every move.  Then there’s the Abbot, an AI who runs the Prefecture and tortures students, but who saves Greta and is kind of a good guy?  And the humans!  They’re a mess!  They also torture people, hold people hostage, and murder people.  So….in the question of whether humans or AI should rule the world, this book answers with a resounding “¯\_(ツ)_/¯.”  And I like that.  Also I really like Talis, did I mention that?  Ambiguous AI are my new interest, apparently.   Continue reading