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Review: Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress

>>Sunday, October 9, 2011

Title: Beggars in Spain
Author: Nancy Kress
Series: Sleepless Trilogy #1
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Pages: 400
Genre: Science Fiction
Publication Date: December 1st. 2004
Publisher: Eos
Rating: A-

From Goodreads: 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.

Why did I read this book? It came up as September's pick in Calico Reaction's Book Club!

Source: Library

My Review
This novel is seperated into four parts spanning the years from 2008 to approximately 2091. It follows the story of a group of genetically modified children who were created to not need sleep (called Sleepless), but who are also of superior intelligence than the rest of humanity. By covering so much time, Kress is able to explore their creation, their persecution, their evolution, and everything inbetween. On top of the ideas surrounding genetic modification, there also is the underlying theme of how you treat others and how society should work. This is where the title comes from, to the Sleepless, unenhanced humans are beggars since they cannot begin to compete with them in terms of economic and intellectual power. The question that arises is, should you offer charity to the beggars in Spain?

There are characters that take different stances on how Sleepless should conduct themselves in a world where they are a minority, but in fact control most of the economy. I found the entire novel fascinating, and in particular, I loved following Leisha Camden's (one of the original Sleepless) journey. Kress creates an intricate web of characters that illustrate how nearly 100 years of genetic modification can change our world. I found myself steadily interested throughout the book, but Part IV titled 'Beggars' really catapulted this book into awesome territory for me.

Rating: A-
This is the type of science fiction book I live for - one that offers unique scientific ideas (sleeplessness) and uses that to further ideas on our society. I was absorbed in Kress' view of our future based on these scientific ideas, but also on her ideas about people and what drives us into community or self-preservation. On top of that, I felt this novel had one of the most satisfying and exciting endingsI have ever read. I would definitely recommend this book to others interested in genetic modification, or just looking for a novel that speculates on our future over many years. This books is part of a trilogy, but I don't know if will continue, just because I feel so satisfied with Beggars in Spain as a standalone. We shall see.

1 comment:

  1. I ended up being confused on the books, and read part one of this book, and then Beggars and Choosers (instead of tracking down parts 2-4).

    The second book is very much focused on the Livers, and how their society is incredibly dependent on the genetically modified "donkeys" - and what happens when things start breaking down.

    I did find the premise interesting - how the "normal" people had been convinced that they were the "aristocracy" who *deserved* to have the genetically modified donkeys do all the hard work of keeping society running - but *clearly* the Livers were still in charge. Meanwhile, the donkeys were keeping an elaborate system of bread and circuses going, so that the "normal" people wouldn't interfere in the important tasks of keeping the country running.



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