Kress is an entertaining writer, but she does not always give her characters the depth that they ask for, and I found her science to be less than believable at times. She falls to the trap of many science fiction writers and treats science more like magic in a fantasy book than like real science. It just happens. There aren't any magic wands, but there might as well be for the ease with which the characters tinker with genetics. A certain amount of suspension of belief is definitely required, but even then my logical side nagged at me as I read the book.
Perhaps my quibble with the science of the book would not be so large if the characters and plot had been more engaging. Amusing, yes, interesting, yes, a good way to occupy a few hours, yes. But at the end of it all, I was left with that telltale feeling of disappointment and longing, as if the author could have done a lot more with her plot and characters. I cannot help but compare the book to Octavia Butler's excellent "Wind Seed," for their basic plots, if not their settings, are very similar. In "Wild Seed," the characters are so engaging and fascinating that whatever faulty logic may have existed was made nonexistant in the face of the conflict between two superhuman beings. "Beggars in Spain" tried, but failed, to do the same.
If you read voraciously as I do, this is a good way to occupy a couple of hours. However, if you read less often I'd suggest you go for something with better quality than this, something that is great, not just okay.
Overall, I enjoyed this book immensely. I highly recommend it as a great read.
Because the book was so highly recommended to me I attempted to enjoy it in spite of theses flaws. But the characters were flat and didn't seem grounded in reality at all. Their conversations never sounded true or honest. Instead they seemed like tele-marketers reading scripts to one another. The whole book seemed to boil down to a hair care commercial touting,"Don't Hate Me Because I'm Beautiful" as a central philosophy.
Over all I would say that this book this was one of the most hateful reads I have ever endured.
Nancy Kress illustrates a fast approaching issue - the impact of genetic engineering - with well-drawn characters in realistic situations. The premise is science has learned how to engineer humans such that they no longer need to sleep. Obviously, the "sleepless" have a huge advantage over the "sleepers," and Kress explores the chasm that develops between the two classes of humans. Not to give away the story, but the "sleepless" have additional gifts that notch up the intensity significantly.
My only complaint is that the story seems to run out of gas toward the end. Kress has ably developed the issues, but doesn't bring the plot to a definitive climax. Nevertheless, 'Beggars in Spain' is an excellent story, one that will stay with you over the years.
The author specializes in dialogue and thoughts and the tales of SMART (vs smarmy/hateful/creepy/sassy/whining) kids and their trials and tribulations was superbly written (similar in thrust to the Ender series). It is difficult to imagine ordinary folks becoming agents of hate and revenge, but what lurks right under the veneer of civilization? All in all, this was the superior of the series as is most often the case. That does not mean that you should skip the others, and the author continually introduces new ideas and curve balls to keep the action flowing and suspense suspenseful. The author also attempts what few sci-fi writers dare - a scientific explanation of the sci-fi within the book. Grab the series for a long vacation read at the beach.