Beggars in Spain Paperback – Nov 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 the Mass Market Paperback edition.
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.
Inside This Book(Learn More)
They sat stiffly on his antique Eames chairs, two people who didn't want to be here, or one person who didn't want to and one who resented the other's reluctance. Read the first page
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.
Shades of Ayn Rand in this book are so prevalent that it was hard to not see many of the Fountainhead character hybrids in this novel. Jennifer Sharifi was Ellsworth Tooey. Sharifi was appreciative of superiority as long as she could control it. She led the "sleepless" like they were in fact mediocre that had to be controlled through manipulation. Leisha Camden was Howard Roarke, less violent but none-the-less steadfastly held to her principles regardless of the personal cost because being right was far more important than being accepted. The characters had a clash of ideas and in the end the protagonist prevails because of her uncompromising belief in herself.
Also in evidence is the preaching of ideas. This had more to do with poorly drawn characters who are critical to the story. In particular, Jennifer Sharifi or any character whose views were opposed to Leisha Camden, were under-characterized. We never saw the struggle the Jennifer Sharifi endured that caused her to come to her views (other than the murder of Tony). In the last 50 pages we get a paragraph about some implied struggles but no real description of her upbringing. We are simply told what she is thinking. In contrast Alice, a minor character with a major role in the development of Leisha, is well drawn. We aren't told what she is thinking, we given enough information to understand her frame of reference.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
In the not-so-distant future, it becomes possible to genetically engineer children. This is the story of one such child built to the specifications of her wealthy industrialist... Read morePublished on June 7 2004 by Melissa McCauley
The reviewer who gives this book one star claiming Kress doen't understand the science of sleep is actually the one who does not understand science. Read morePublished on March 20 2004 by Too Cold in Madison
I was deeply disappointed with the science in this book. Clearly Nancy Kress hasn't bothered to do much research on sleep(its importance to long term memory) the immune system(the... Read morePublished on March 10 2004
After I read this book I immediately bought the others in the series. What an idea!!! With all the reports popping up every day about the widespread lack of sleep in our society,... Read morePublished on July 17 2003 by Avid Reader
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'll add one more. Read morePublished on Jan. 26 2003 by frumiousb
I really enjoyed this book, right up until the end. Kress gives us a world full of great new ideas, very well thought out and believable. Read morePublished on April 21 2002 by Heliomphalodon Incarnadine
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... Read morePublished on Feb. 11 2002 by A. Wolverton
Brilliant, thought-provoking stuff from one of my favorite authors. The implications of the creation of a superior branch of mankind is fully realized in a rich, detailed... Read morePublished on Jan. 15 2002 by Joseph Prisco