Nancy O'Toole's Reviews > Beggars and Choosers

Beggars and Choosers by Nancy Kress
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Apr 12, 12

bookshelves: science-fiction
Read from April 02 to 06, 2012

The following review has spoilers for Beggars in Spain, the first book in the Sleepless Trilogy. There are no real spoilers for Beggars and Choosers.


Genetic modification has run amok in the 21st century, dividing America into two groups: genetically enhanced donkeys who rule the world, and livers who live work-free lives of supposed paradise. The tenuous balance between the two groups is about to topple over, but could the secret to survival be found with the ultra-intelligent SuperSleepers, who do not require sleep? Beggars and Choosers looks to three narrators: liver Billy Washington, who’s old enough to remember life before donkeys and livers; donkey Diana Covington, who is frustrated at her own inability to find a place in the world; and Drew Arlen, the liver who infiltrated the donkey world and became the influential Lucid Dreamer.

Beggars in Spain was one of my favorite readers of 2011. Although Beggars and Choosers falls short of the high standards set by Beggars in Spain (mostly due to the fact that ending felt a little sloppy), it is nevertheless a successful continuation of Kress’s intelligent and at times scary view of the future. It’s worth noting that Beggars and Choosers reads very differently than Beggars in Spain, the latter which took place over several decades and was written from a third person unlimited perspective. Beggars and Choosers instead takes place over a few months and alternates between three narrators, which give the story a more personal feel. Regardless of the smaller scope, the novel still tackles some weighty issues. One might assume a future where the genetically modified donkeys rule the world, while the livers do not have to work would be paradise for some, but the result is very different. Both sides struggle to fit into the roles that they have been given. This can be seen with Diana who jumps from job to job, and Lizzie, a highly intelligent liver adolescent who is told to feel shame for her inquisitive nature. There exists little besides resentment and scorn between both classes, and when things go wrong this relationship experiences significant strain.

Beggars and Choosers presents a future that is on the brink of collapse, which lends it to some dystopian elements. While reading the book, I couldn’t help but feel that big changes were on the way, and yet I was still caught off guard when they happened. Kress isn’t afraid to crush the readers' hearts a little bit, and she shows this quite successfully when she kills off a main character. I enjoyed all three protagonists. Billy proved to be probably the best person in the book, Diana’s struggles were easy to connect with, and it was nice to finally see what makes Drew tick, given he wasn’t the most likable person in Beggars in Spain.

I’m quite happy that I ended up picking up Beggars and Choosers, the sequel to Beggars in Spain, and plan on finishing off the trilogy by reading the final book, Beggars Ride.
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Reading Progress

04/02/2012 page 94
25.0% "Sequel to Beggars in Spain. Like it so far"
04/03/2012 page 164
44.0% "Big twist recently happened that I did NOT see coming."
04/05/2012 page 226
60.0% "Just realized that the page count on this thing is off (there's 315 pages, not 377), so I'm actually getting close to the end."
04/06/2012 page 377
100.0% "Done! Falls short of Beggars in Spain, but ultimately very enjoyable. Review coming soon."

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