Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Beaker's Dozen Paperback – August 1, 1999
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Customers who bought this item also bought
Although you can't judge a book by its cover, sometimes you can make a few good guesses about it based on the title. This is definitely true of Beaker's Dozen, a collection of short stories by renowned SF author Nancy Kress, who writes, "Of the thirteen stories in this book, eight are concerned with what might come out of the beakers and test tubes and gene sequencers of microbiology." What modesty prohibits Kress from adding is that all of the stories are excellent works by one of SF's finest writers. The highlights here are Kress's Hugo and Nebula Award-winning story "Beggars in Spain" (later expanded into an acclaimed novel of the same name), and the Nebula Award-winning story "The Flowers of Aulit Prison." --Craig E. Engler --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
A crucial aesthetic issue in SF is how well the science and fiction meld. In Kress's writings, there are never the crude info-dumps or token, thin characters endemic to much of the genre. Every story of the 13 reprinted in this volume has, in addition to the science?sometimes rigorous and detailed, sometimes extrapolated and fantastically ramified?compelling human beings (or other sentients) entangled with one another in ways that are psychologically real. Leading off is the Hugo-winning novella "Beggars in Spain" (1991), which led to Kress's highly regarded Beggars series of novels. From the simple premise of a genetically engineered ability to do without sleep, Kress weaves a compelling tale of factional and personal conflicts in a future meritocracy. Closing the collection is another novella, "Dancing on Air," in which Kress explores the implications of genetic enhancements against the perfectly apt background of stage mothers and their thoroughbred ballerina daughters. This story contains some of the best "alien" POV narrative anyone is likely to see, with the "alien" being a genetically enhanced Doberman. Nearly perfect is "Always True To Thee, in My Fashion," a parodic take on the fashion world in which mood-altering designer drugs go in and out with the clothes. Other stories explore chaos theory, alternate history and, exquisitely in "Summer Wind," the human experience of aging and the passage of time. A recurrent weakness is the crowding of thematic metaphors in a heavy-handed way, so that the plotting at times is greatly overworked. Subplots sometimes converge and provide resonance to the theme as if they created a mathematical proof rather than an organic story. Even in these tales, however, there is much to admire and fascinate.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
Beggars in Spain occurs in the near future when genetic modification of children has become possible, although it is generally available only to the wealthy. Roger Camden, a prominent financier, overrides his wife's reservations and has a genetic change carried out on their unborn daughter that eliminates the need for sleep as well as improving her intelligence. As might be expected, so-called Sleepless children completely outpace their normal counterparts (Sleepers) as they function at full capacity twenty-four hours every day. The story primarily focuses on the growing antagonism from the normal population as the Sleepless become an increasingly successful and powerful minority.
The others stores in this collection range from as little as three to about fifty pages. Like Beggars in Spain, these stories largely explore a future world changed by beakers, test tubes, and DNA sequencing.
Ars Longa is an unsettling look at how a dedicated teacher contributed to Walt Disney's success. Flowers of Aulit Prison pictures an alien world that is truly alien; it reminds me of imaginative stories by Ursula Le Guin.
Feigenbaum Number is a creative story about attractors and strange attractors, convergence and divergence, all in the context of iterated function theory as applied to linear and non-linear differential equations. Jack, a post-doc mathematician that studies chaos theory, is immersed simultaneously in two worlds, concretely residing in an imperfect, scarred, damaged reality, but continuously aware of a shimmering, overlapping image that offers worldly perfection. Although Feigenbaum Number does not deal directly with a future world modified by advances in the biological sciences, it is a fine example of the remarkable imagination of Nancy Kress.
The remaining stories range from good, to interesting, to not so bad. Beaker's Dozen is somewhat uneven in quality, but even the not so bad stories have potential to stimulate the reader's imagination. Beggars in Spain, Feigenbaum Number, Ars Longa, and Flowers of Aulit Prison are really quite good and warrant five stars. Overall, I gave this collection four stars.
This collection starts off with a bang. "Beggars in Spain," the Hugo and Nebula winning story deals seriously with genetic engineering and prejudice when a group of "sleepless" children are born. Also outstanding are "Ars Longa" (about what it may have been like to have been Walt Disney's grade-school teacher) and "Flowers of Aulit Prison." All of the stories are very, very good, but these three are my favorites. If you like great characters and great writing, they may be yours also.
Kress has the amazing ability to communicate complex scientific ideas (like genetic engineering, microbiology, and cloning) and make them very understandable. Combine this skill with the ability to create characters that the reader really cares about, and you've got a collection of entertaining and thought-provoking stories.