Cindy's Reviews > Beggars in Spain

Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress
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Oct 13, 09

bookshelves: book-club, female-authors, biopunk, sci-fi, near-future, social-sf, gender-or-sexuality-issues
Recommended to Cindy by: Hard SF group
Read in October, 2009

In a near-future world, where genetic engineering of embryos is as possible as choosing the color and features of your new Prius, scientists create people who lack the need (or ability) to sleep - for the right price. The knock-on effect is that these Sleepless are smarter, more emotionally stable, and more rational than us Sleepers.

Around the same time, a brilliant scientist creates a new power source, eliminating the need for fossil fuels or distributed power grids - a cold fusion fuel cell for every home and vehicle! America enters a long era of economic prosperity. However, the Sleepers and Sleepless have problems coexisting peacefully, both socially, economically, and philosophically.

Although it has genetic manipulation and technological advancement at its heart, Beggars in Spain is not just a fun cyber- or bio-punk story. It's more a study of social and philosophical consequences of creating a small group of superior humans. When the Sleepless are shunned and hated even as children, their reactions will set up a chain of events that spans generations.

The story is at its most interesting when Leisha, an original Sleepless child, interacts her twin sister Alice, a Sleeper. Theirs is a complicated sisterhood, full of misunderstanding, regret, jealousy, love, and more. The novel generally lacks a lot of characterization, however Leisha, Alice, and at the end, Miri, are the most fleshed out, dynamic characters and make the story sing.

As enjoyable as I found the epic story, I would warn that if pushing a philosophical agenda turns you off, you might well hate this book. Yagaiism, Kress's version of Rand's Objectivism could be considered to have the starring role, and she pushes the philosophy endlessly. Despite this, there are so many fun concepts and situations to think about long after you put the book down. Seriously, how much fun is that?!
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Reading Progress

10/09/2009 page 99
24.75% "Scientists create children who genetically don't require sleep. They're smarter, happier & healthier, but outcasts of society. v interesting"
10/11/2009 page 253
63.25% "Seems like the right amount of technology advancing per generation."

Comments (showing 1-3)




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Sarah Out of curiosity, why did you put this on a gender-and-sexuality shelf?


Cindy Hmmm... good question. Once upon a time I had a shelf called "women" or something like that for strong female characters and a "sexuality" shelf, but then I realized there was much overlap so I combined them.

So, yeah, I suppose this doesn't really belong on that shelf?


Hesper I love your assessment of the character relationships. So spot-on!


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