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Beggars in Spain (Beggars Trilogy) Mass Market Paperback – March 1, 1994

4.0 out of 5 stars 118 customer reviews
Book 1 of 3 in the Sleepless Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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.

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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Product Details

  • Series: Beggars Trilogy (Book 1)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Avon (March 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0380718774
  • ISBN-13: 978-0380718771
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.1 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (118 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #614,753 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A. Wolverton VINE VOICE on February 11, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Before I read 'Beggars in Spain,' I read the short story that the novel is expanded from. To be honest, I thought turning such a powerful story into a novel would lessen its impact. I was wrong.
The novel version of 'Beggars in Spain' begins with a simple premise: What if science could genetically alter humans so that they needed no sleep? Think of the advances and discoveries mankind could make, think of all the achievements that would be possible if we never had to sleep for 6, 7, or 8 hours a day.
The theory becomes a reality for Leisha Camden and many other "sleepless." It doesn't take long before the sleepless are shunned by the rest of society and forced to develop their own community. But the persection doesn't stop there...
'Beggars in Spain' has so many things going for it that so many science fiction novels lack. First (and most important in my mind), Kress gives us believable characters that are interesting. You actually believe that these people could be real and would be fascinated to meet them. Leisha is a character I will remember for a long, long time. Next, Kress does something that I wish more science fiction writers would (or could) do: She explains how the science in her story works in a way that a non-scientist can understand it! (Imagine that!) Let me say for the record that I have an extremely weak science background, but thanks to the author's talent, I felt that I understood the basis for all the science that was included in the story. In short, I wasn't intimidated at all.
The characters and the understandable science are important, but I was really knocked out by the multitude of questions that are raised by 'Beggars in Spain.' The book admirably addresses such questions as genetic engineering (How far should science go?
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Reading the reviews it seems as though this is a book full of references and echos. The Ayn Rand echos are noted, as are the Ender Wiggins. I will add one more. I was struck that this was a more mature version of Anne McCaffrey's To Ride Pegasus.

I thought it was clever how the hatred for the super-talented sleepless is first seen in the fact that their competition is seen as unfair. I like very much the way that Kress developed the question of whether people who can contribute to such a high degree are obliged to help the "beggars", the sleepers who can never be as productive to the society. I even like the way that she turns the question of being a beggar on its head later with the super-sleepless (although I can imagine that people who were following along with the political thread were a little disappointed at the easy way in which art becomes the redemptive factor.)

Smart, very readable, and makes me want to read the next book in the series.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I like the way this book faces squarely a very real possibility -- that thanks to genetic technology, the next time we get paranoid over a kind of person, it could be a kind of person that really is better than we are. Kress avoids easy answers, yet writes a satisfying novel that's only occasionally preachy (and, which is very rare, becomes LESS preachy rather than more as it approaches the end!).
I think the way I read Beggars in Spain is best -- I read to the end of what was clearly the part of the book that was the novella that won the Hugo and Nebula, then put the book down for a week and read another one, then picked Beggars back up. The novella is the best part, and if the book had ended there, it would have been a better story. However, picking up after a while and reading the rest as though it were an inferior sequel, I was able to appreciate the novella and still enjoy the rest of the book for what it offered without judging it too harshly.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
In my opinion, Nancy Kress ranks among the best visionaries of the future, as original and philosophical as John Varley, without the outrageousness. She obviously has an excellent grasp of socio-political history and trends, which she uses to build a convincing and complete future society.

The book starts in the near future, 2008. Genetically modifying children is commonplace, and for rich entrepreneur Roger Camden, his daughter will get the best of what's available - including a new, experimental genemod for Sleeplessness. Leisha Camden, like the 19 others before her and the thousands after, is extraordinarily intelligent, cheerful, talented, and for all intents and purposes, immortal. Her unmodified twin sister, Alice, is a Sleeper, and the rift between them mirrors society's distrust, envy, and eventual hatred of the Sleepless.

To escape this hatred, another Sleepless, Jennifer Sharifi, creates Sanctuary, an orbital community of Sleepless. Separate from Earth, but still tied to it, Jennifer's obsession with Sleepless superiority and their liberation from the Sleeper "beggars" goads her into progressively more radical actions. Only Leisha resists her, remaining on Earth with her mixed Sleeper and Sleepless family.

Sprinkled with the perfect mix of science, history, economics, and politics, with an original and thought-provoking storyline.
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