Beggars in Spain Mass Market Paperback – Mar 1994
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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.
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.
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.
The second half shows she didn't think socialism was any better then absolute Libertarianism. However, it is less plausible & mildly surrealistic. Still it was nice to see Leisha Camden lighten up & the way the Super-Sleepless thought was interesting. The second half is an above average sf story, but not as much of a phenomenon as the first.
To wrap it up I think Kress is better in short form then long. In fact I think she is one of the best sf short story writers of the 90's. Still I like the first half so much I had to give it 5 stars. It's melancholy, but ultimately more uplifting & humane then most recent sf. Despite that I'm not planning on reading the sequels. One last thing READ SF ANTHOLOGIES OR SUBSCRIBE TO THE MAGAZINES if you like Kress's work.
First off, the easiest: the phonetically written speach of the "super-sleepers", characters who suffer from extreem stuttering problems. Now, on Kress's own website, she lists some "writing basics", wherin she says that when one is writing a character with an odd regional dialect or abnormal speech patters, after the first few lines of speech are presented phonetically, you should switch back to standard english. In this book there is a 75-page chunk where stuttering characters talk alot, and every second word is st-st-stuttered. This is distracting and really quite annoying, and in itself adds nothing to the story.
The characters: Jenifer Shafari(?), presented in a third-person limeted POV, occupies many pages, and she is a quite unlikeable character. She is the antagonist, so being unlikable goes with the territory, but Leisha (protagonist), while not being exactly unlikeable, isn't particularly compelling. Sure, she's a three-dimensional character, but she isn't one that I could feel any compassion for, so who cares? And the vast majority of the supporting characters don't hold your attention, and my reactions varied between indefference (Richard, Kevin) to disgust (Sandalos, Eric). The few truly compelling characters were relegated to very little time on the page. As I said before, all because a character is well drawn doesn't mean they are automatically worth spending time with.
Then the science. ....Now, this book was primarilly a socialogical extropolation, so I could have swallowed a terse "we can make children who don't have to sleep, and the side effect is that they will be near immortals" without any further exploration.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
A good friend sent me Beggars in Spain about a year ago, and I enjoyed it, but not enough for a reread. Read morePublished on June 16 2004 by Clara Arak
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 and what a better execution!!! Read morePublished on July 29 2003 by Avid Reader
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 liked the book very much, however I struggle with trying to determine it's impact. It seems to be between the crests of good and fantastic and couldn't quite make the leap... Read morePublished on Sept. 7 2002 by monicae
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