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Beggars in Spain

by Nancy Kress

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Sleepless (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
1,680558,733 (3.88)1 / 121
In a world where the slightest edge can mean the difference between success and failure, Leisha Camden is beautiful, extraordinarily intelligent ... and one of an ever-growing number of human beings who have been genetically modified to never require sleep. Once considered interesting anomalies, now Leisha and the other "Sleepless" are outcasts -- victims of blind hatred, political repression, and shocking mob violence meant to drive them from human society ... and, ultimately, from Earth itself. But Leisha Camden has chosen to remain behind in a world that envies and fears her "gift" -- a world marked for destruction in a devastating conspiracy of freedom ... and revenge.… (more)
  1. 10
    Heart of Gold by Sharon Shinn (espertus)
    espertus: Both books deftly depict struggles between tribal and familial loyalty and broader humanitarianism among human races different from our own.
  2. 11
    Amped by Daniel H. Wilson (TomWaitsTables)
  3. 11
    Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood (Sassm)
    Sassm: This book explores the theme of genetic engineering but takes it in a very different direction.

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» See also 121 mentions

English (52)  Catalan (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (54)
Showing 1-5 of 52 (next | show all)
On its surface this book is a thoughtful examination of possible social and political implications of human genetic manipulation. But I was surprised when the book also addressed deeper questions about family, ambition, romance, and inequality with depth and subtlety. All that while examining the lives and choices of some very compelling and complex characters.

There's a feeling of realism in this book that is rare in Sci-Fi, even near-future stuff. The characters' way of matter-of-factly presenting dramatically amazing technological developments made them seem very attainable, and the way that there was pushback and downsides to every development struck me as more realistic than the typical Sci-Fi attitude of simple acceptance and integration of change.

I kept expecting the story of this book to begin building towards a conclusion and instead new characters and plot lines would rise to prominence as the old ones were resolved. I wasn't ever on the edge of my seat, since the book is focused more on characters than a fast-paced plot, but I was nonetheless continually surprised by the events of the story. The evenness of rising and falling action did make any sections drag if they were focused on characters I disliked, but overall I enjoyed the pace.

I'd recommend this book to anybody interested in a solid non-apocalyptic near-future story. ( )
  wishanem | May 27, 2021 |
This was a reread of a book I read probably a decade ago and remember lovingly.
I listened to it on audiobook.

This definitely contains spoilers.
Some aspects of this book just flat out make me uncomfortable: Richard marrying a 15 yr old 'Polynesian' girl when he's in his 70's, Jennifer Sharifi the only non white main character is a murdering tyrant and no homosexual, much less transgender, folks mentioned. Are all of The Sleepless straight and cis? How boring.

Disgusted at the idea that only certain people who contribute in certain ways are valuable to society.
Also the Sleepless are not marginalized at all. It's not numerical minority status that removes power and creates marginalization, after all the 1% is a minority as were slave owners compared to enslaved persons. No marginalized is a social caste and The Sleepless don't fit that ever. In fact, like the 1%, their advantage incurs anger and rightfully so.

Speaking about 'beggars' without any mention of the circumstances that cause poverty is manipulative and obscene. Poverty is created by an inequal distribution of wealth. That is not poor people's fault. Also the suggestion that rich folks work for their money when studies dispute that belief, is offensive. Poor folks aren't poor because they're lazy, they're poor because there is a finite amount of money and rich people are hoarding more than their fair share. Which is by design. Poverty can be eradicated by redistributing the wealth. Our system works exactly as it was designed to work.
It is almost impossible to leave the underclass you're born into through education and hard work. The bootstrap myth is a fallacy that has been disproven repeatedly. If you don't understand how this works, you should definitely read Joseph E. Stiglitz's 'The Price of Inequality'.

Also how is Eric not mentally unbalanced after crippling Drew? Eric is smarter, faster and supposedly the sleepless have no mental or physical health challenges. Yet, a child who injures another child in this way, virtually unprovoked has mental health issues. Yet fast forward to adulthood and Drew's the bitter loser and Eric is a productive member of society. I feel like the author is saying something about genetic predispositions to crime/poverty again without exploring the inequalities that create poverty, which is not naturally occurring at all.

The idea that politicians and rich people work for the good of all is laughable. What world does this author inhabit? Corporations that care about their employees barely exist, nonexistent are corporations that would EVER pay 80-90% in taxes. It's a ridiculous theoretical future.

"Governments serve one person's personal needs" this I agree with. They also serve certain group's needs, like the 1%. Or White Christian Land owning men-which is who our country was founded for and The Constitution was written to protect. The United States was never intended by the Founding Fathers to include freedom for all, only for them.

Ultimately I disagree with this author that Beggars in Spain have value because no one can determine what they may contribute in the future. Drew is clearly the 'beggar' who grew up to contribute.
People contribute by existing. The authors premise, again, presupposes that those who have more have earned it and as such are contributing to society. I completely disagree. Wealthy people are money hoarders. The only thing they contribute to society is poverty and oppression.
I also find it ludicrous that future poor people won't read. I have friends who hold multiple degrees, some of them from Ivy League Institutions, they don't read for pleasure. Reading has little to do with intelligence. Why do sci fi authors assume poor folk are lazy and unintelligent? This is a support of capitalism without acknowledging it's limitations or pitfalls. Just victim poor folks.. As if Capitalism is equal and drives humans to excel. Again just the opposite. Those that work hardest in today's society are those that earn the least. They aren't poor because they don't want to work or were too unintelligent to plan for their futures. The opposite in fact, they are poor because Capitalism requires have nots inorder to function.

In a future where everyone's not required to work just to survive, we may see a free exchange of ideas and science. Society would be free to advance without Capitalism oppressing 90% of the population who are forced to work just to survive. Without Capitalism the brc1 test would be cheap and available to everyone. Right now it's really only available to those who aren't poor. The price of medicines, like the epipen-which was developed with tax dollars only to be patented by a private company and now unaffordable for many who truly need it. How are those rich folks benefitting society again? How is Capitalism helping us to excel? Capitalism ignores global warming in an effort to benefit from wealth for the top wealthiest right now. Nevermind it's destroying the Earth's ability to sustain human life.
Without work we would be free to focus on our interests, to contribute truly to society in meaningful ways. Working just to survive prevents that. Who knows what exists in the mind of a poor kid who can't afford college and goes to a horribly underfunded public school? Possibly the cure to cancer, HIV, diabetes. We don't know because Capitalism has decided that child is unworthy of the resources and opportunities wealthier kids get. Without opportunity that child will work a labor job for which they are not appropriately paid and they will be lost in surviving, unable to contribute to society in all of the gifts they possess. They still contribute in a meanignful way just not their full capacity. Society is cheated of all of their gifts.

This novel feels like a defense of the system that is literally destroying the Earth's ability to sustain human life. To say nothing of the rampant transphobia, homophobia, racism, sexism and rape culture.

I read this novel years ago and loved it.
There are 2 versions of me: Me before #BlackLivesMatter and Me after #BlackLivesMatter. Pre #BlackLivesMatter I was a liberal Democrat. Post #BlackLivesMatter I'm a militant anarchist. Rereading books I used to love is often disappointing. This probably the most disappointing yet. ( )
  LoisSusan | Dec 10, 2020 |
I have enjoyed Kress in the past, but this book is preachy and convoluted. I made it to about the halfway mark then gave it up. ( )
  keithostertag | Jan 9, 2020 |
I first read Book I of Nancy Kress’s Beggars in Spain in Spring 2006, for a science-fiction literature course. The plot focuses on Leisha Camden, who was born in what was then the future of 2008, and is then the twenty-first human to have a genetic modification for sleeplessness, which is believed to increase her productivity. There are other benefits as well, including a higher IQ and better outlook on life. Later events reveal that the Sleepless do not physically age and may even be immortal. Leisha later meets other Sleepless, like Richard Keller and Tony Indivino. They face prejudice from “Sleepers” (the term for non-genetically-modified people) and are forbidden from running 24-hour convenience stores or competing in the Olympics. Rising prejudices force the Sleepless to retreat to Sanctuary, where Leisha reflects on social status and privilege.

On March 15, 2006, Kress visited Monroe Community College in Rochester, NY. I described her work as “a captivating story about what it means to be human set in a plausible vision of the future.” That description holds true all these years later. While the dates in the novel have since passed as a result of Kress first publishing it in 1993, the fears of genetic modification and what it means to be human continue to dominate our public discourse with each new advancement. Kress’s original novella, which makes up Book I of this novel, won both the Hugo and Nebula Award while the full novel was nominated for both. Fans of science-fiction and its role in examining our fears and concerns are encouraged to seek out this novel. ( )
  DarthDeverell | Jul 1, 2019 |
I applied the "50 page" rule to this one - if you're not drawn in by page 50, move on. The premise sounds great, but the writing and the characters never came alive for me. I've read that this book was originally a novella - maybe I'd have liked it better in concentrated form.
  badube | Mar 6, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 52 (next | show all)
BEGGARS IN SPAIN (Avonova/Morrow, $23), by Nancy Kress, suffers from an excess of ambition. ... Despite some nice touches -- what penalty do the Sleepless pay for their inability to dream? -- the narrative degenerates into a series of future-history vignettes, inhabited by unchanging characters who fail to engage our emotions or our intellect.

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Nancy Kressprimary authorall editionscalculated
Binger,BillCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jackson, KennethCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Picacio, JohnCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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"With energy and sleepless vigilance go forward and give us victories." - Abraham Lincoln to Major General Joseph Hooker, 1863
For Marcos - again
For my sister Kate
First words
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.
"Sleep served an important evolutionary function. Once Clem Pre-Mammal was done filling his stomach and squirting his sperm around, sleep kept him immobile and away from predators. Sleep was an aid to survival. But now it's a leftover mechanism, a vestige like the appendix. It switches on every night, but the need is gone. So we turn off the switch at its source, in the genes."
"Compared to their age mates, the nonsleep children—who had not had IQ genetic manipulation—are more intelligent, better at problem-solving, and more joyous."
He told them this very carefully, finding the right words for truth. Truth was very important, Leisha already knew. Truth was being true to yourself, your specialness. Your individuality. An individual respected facts, and so always told the truth.
"A man's worth to society and to himself doesn't rest on what he thinks other people should do or be or feel, but on himself. On what he can actually do, and do well. People trade what they do well, and everyone benefits. The basic tool of civilization is the contract. Contracts are voluntary and mutually beneficial. As opposed to coercion, which is wrong."
"No, the only dignity, the only spirituality, rests on what a man can achieve with his own efforts. To rob a man of the chance to achieve, and to trade what he achieves with others, is to rob him of his spiritual dignity as a man."
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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The novel and the novella are not the same. The novel is much longer and tells a more detailed story of Leisha's life.
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In a world where the slightest edge can mean the difference between success and failure, Leisha Camden is beautiful, extraordinarily intelligent ... and one of an ever-growing number of human beings who have been genetically modified to never require sleep. Once considered interesting anomalies, now Leisha and the other "Sleepless" are outcasts -- victims of blind hatred, political repression, and shocking mob violence meant to drive them from human society ... and, ultimately, from Earth itself. But Leisha Camden has chosen to remain behind in a world that envies and fears her "gift" -- a world marked for destruction in a devastating conspiracy of freedom ... and revenge.

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