Dick Jackson, editor-at-large at Atheneum Books for Young Readers, has acquired The Lord of Opium by Nancy Farmer, the long-awaited sequel to Farmer’s 2002 SF novel, The House of the Scorpion, which he also edited. Scorpion has sold nearly a million copies in North America and remains the only book to win the National Book Award, a Newbery Honor, and a Printz Honor in the same year. Atheneum will publish Opium this September.

The new book continues the story of Matt, the boy who was cloned from evil drug lord El Patrón in The House of the Scorpion. Now 14 years old, Matt rules his own country, the Land of Opium, the only thriving place in a world ravaged by ecological disaster. Though he knows that the cure for ending the suffering is hidden in Opium, Matt faces obstacles and enemies at every turn when he tries to use his power to help.

“My pleasure has been to edit Nancy’s fiction since we met years ago,” Jackson said in a statement. “She amazes me always with her wit, sense of pace and place, her serious concern for the fate of the world, and the zest that she finds in a wide cast of characters, not just the wonderfully wicked, but the good as well.”

According to Farmer, Opium was a project that almost didn’t happen. “I started writing The Lord of Opium in 2008 and produced about 80 pages before disaster struck,” she said in a statement. “Three eye operations nearly put an end to my career.” I couldn’t work for months and when I was finally allowed to sit at a computer, we bought a house in Arizona.” Once things settled down, she said, she tried to get back to writing. “And guess what? I couldn’t think of a thing to say. I’ve never had writer’s block and I don’t think that was my problem. I was simply bone tired. This went on for several months before I made a wonderful discovery: music. Music has a tremendous effect on me. When it’s playing I can’t think or do anything other than listen. But I can write to it.” At last, she noted, “I’m delighted to offer readers the follow-up novel they have been waiting for, and I hope they enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.”

Justin Chanda, v-p and publisher for S&S Children’s Publishing, negotiated the deal with Farmer for worldwide and audio rights.