- Paperback: 416 pages
- Publisher: Harper Voyager; Reprint edition (November 23, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0060733489
- ISBN-13: 978-0060733483
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 121 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #872,893 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Beggars in Spain Paperback – November 23, 2004
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Many of us wish we could get by with less sleep. Beggars in Spain extrapolates that wish into a future where some people need no sleep at all. Nancy Kress, an award-winning author of novels, short stories, and columns on writing, has created another thoughtful but dramatic statement on social issues.
Leisha Camden was genetically modified at birth to require no sleep, and her normal twin Alice is the control. Problems and envy between the sisters mirror those in the larger world, as society struggles to adjust to a growing pool of people who not only have 30 percent more time to work and study than normal humans, but are also highly intelligent and in perfect health. The Sleepless gradually outgrow their welcome on Earth, and their children escape to an orbiting space station to set up their own society. But Leisha and a few others remain behind, preaching acceptance for all humans, Sleepless and Sleeper alike. With the conspiracy and revenge that unwinds, the world needs a little preaching on tolerance. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
This thought-provoking though derivative book by the author of Brain Rose revists familiar territory. In 21st-century America, genetic engineering makes it possible for those who can afford it to become parents of improved, custom-made babies. The controversial procedure has produced a new breed that can function without sleep. Leisha Camden, daughter of a wealthy industrialist, is one of "the sleepless," who are endowed with remarkable intelligence and other genetic enhancements. A generation of prodigies, Leisha and her peers are resented by the rest of the population, who begin to persecute them. To escape violence, the Sleepless retreat to an armed camp, the Sanctuary, where for decades they fight to legitimize their existence in an increasingly hostile society. Leisha, a brilliant, idealistic lawyer, finds herself ostracized by both Sleepers and Sleepless as she struggles to bridge the widening gulf between the two groups. Meanwhile, the Sleepless must learn to deal with the prodigies among them. Kress competently handles a well-worn science fiction concept and raises some intriguing scientific and sociological issues. Her dialogue sometimes lapses into stilted philosophical arguments, however, and many of her characters are thinly drawn.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
I recommend this book on several levels: ramifications of selective genetics within a population and the consequences thereof, interpersonal conflicts and the struggle to become better and persecution, the role of bigotry and how it is all too easy to change from the persecuted to the bigot when your own children/grandchildren are 'special'. I can't wait until I get my mitts on the sequel, 'Beggers and Choosers'.
But the author was unable to leave her original character and concept hanging. She (shrewdly, I think) expanded upon her novella about genetically mutated humans who don't need sleep and who live in a society that regards them as nightwalking freaks with unfair advantages: the extra hours they have each day, their ability to focus for extended periods, and (it turns out) the unexpected side effect of never growing old. The Sleepless have become Ageless.
The challenge Kress tackles in this extended remix, as she acknowledges in a foreword, is to address political and economic principles more explicitly, pitting "Ayn Rand's belief that no human being owes anything to any other except what is agreed to in a voluntary contract" against Ursula Le Guin's fictional utopia of a property-free (and thus government-free) society, as depicted in "The Dispossessed." This admission almost kept me from reading the book; I tend to become impatient with novels that bludgeon its readers with faux-academic sermons, rigging their fiction to support some metaphysical position or impossible ideal, but Kress eschews black-and-white worldviews and sees life in a rainbow of nuance. Her characters struggle between the lure of individual independence and the demands of social responsibility; Kress believes that neither extreme is all that human--or humane. She doesn't preach to us with a dogmatic answer but subtly suggests that the solution is to be found somewhere in the middle--an obvious point too often forgotten by extremists of every type.
As for the story itself: the remaining three parts of the novel are exciting, intriguing, and challenging, but they can't help but suffer in comparison to the opening segment. Part of the problem is their episodic nature; what we have here is less a cohesive novel than a tetralogy of novellas of variable quality (with the final two sections linked more strongly than the first two). Each succeeding chapter feels a bit tacked on. In addition, by the middle of the novel, several of the lead characters lose the very quality to be found in Kress's philosophical musings: nuance. All too often, the plot pits a veritable Dragon Lady (like Jennifer Sharifi) against a virtual saint (like Leisha or Miri). And the second generation of Sleepless mutant children, while they certainly provide one final (if far too predictable) plot twist, all suffer from a hyper-caffeinated stutter that is faithfully--and annoyingly--recorded on the page.
Yet, in spite of my quibbles about the last three sections, I must confess that I couldn't stop reading this book, not only because Kress ably enchants the reader with her bizarre and believable mutant dystopia, but especially because of the socio-political underpinnings that made me hesitate to read this book in the first place. In its full-length form, in spite of its disjointedness, "Beggars in Spain" is that rare novel that inspires both imagination and thought.
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Recommended Age: 18+
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