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Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress
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Beggars in Spain (1993)

by Nancy Kress

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Sleepless (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
1,325495,869 (3.89)1 / 104
  1. 11
    Amped by Daniel H. Wilson (TomWaitsTables)
  2. 11
    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.
  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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English (47)  Catalan (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (49)
Showing 1-5 of 47 (next | show all)
Huh. The first third was a good story (novelette?). The rest is getting too political for me. I can't imagine, at this point, more books later. We'll see.

Ok, I'm done. Too many boring characters, too many words. The ideas, the concepts, are interesting, but they could have been explored more concisely, which would have been more effective. I kept finding excuses to put the book down. ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 6, 2016 |
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 father, Leisha Camden, who is beautiful, blonde, intelligent, and who does not need to sleep. The story follows Leisha's growing up in an America that gradually grows to hate and resent Leisha and her peers. Leisha is one of the most three-dimensional characters I have ever read, and I agonized with her over the moral decisions she was forced to make. Calls into question everyone's rights as citizens and human beings. Was there ever a good decision made by committee? Is any man good enough to govern another without their consent? Like Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, but without the mind-numbing twenty-page speeches. Every time I read this novel, I get something different from it. A perennial favorite, I cannot recommend it enough if you like a good moral dilemma. ( )
1 vote memccauley6 | May 3, 2016 |
The premise of this sci-fi novel is that, in 2008, a scientific breakthrough allows for genetic engineering that creates people with no need to sleep. Together with other genetic advantages available to the rich, soon this creates a small but growing group of privileged and brilliant young people - the Sleepless. However, jealous and resentful, "ordinary people" rather than appreciating the super-talented Sleepless, are soon viciously prejudiced against them.
I found the first half of this book to be interesting and refreshing, because, although I didn't find the supposed benefits that Kress pairs with sleeplessness to be medically convincing, it was nice to see (for once) a scientific advance that has the ability to change humanity shown in a positive light, rather than as a Scary Mutation of Terror that makes us Inhuman.
However, the second half of the book spoiled all that, when it posits that a large percentage of the Sleepless, sick of the bigotry aimed at them, secede into a gated compound, and proceed to do more genetic research and create Inhuman Mutations and commit Terrible Acts. By taking the idea further, I felt that the novel, conversely, got more ordinary. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
Last book of 2012 for me, a good end to the year. Beggars in Spain is the sort of sf novel that posits a basic idea and extrapolate from that the foundation to look at the ramifications and implications of this idea from all possible angles. The "high concept" idea is very simple, in the near genetic engineering create a new race of people who do not sleep. While the basic idea is simple the numerous implications and ramifications of this development are far reaching and very complex. The main point is that not spending any time on sleeping gives a person a massive amount of extra time to do more, to accomplish more with their lives. In the context of this novel the "Sleepless" people even enjoy far longer lives, good looks and higher intelligence. The emergence of this new elite race creates all kinds of tension, envy, mistrust, hate and fear between the "Sleepers" (that would be us) and the Sleepless, to the point where most of the sleepers soon migrate to an orbital, an artificial world orbiting Earth in space.

I personally suffer from occasional bouts of insomnia and this book gives me hope, though possibly a false one as it is fiction after all, speculative fiction at that. Early on in the book the author posits the idea that sleep is not actually necessary as it is a genetic leftover from the stone age when people need to find somewhere safe to sleep and hide from predators. The reparations to the body during sleep can be done just as effectively during waking hours with the help of some gene modifications. I don't know how scientifically viable this is but it is very interesting to imagine how different our lives would be without sleep.

The main characters are well developed, both protagonists and antagonists, some are quite unpredictable which is always a virtue in a novel. The "bad guys" are not evil as such, their motivation is entirely understandable, and the "good guys" are believably flawed and complex. The prose style is very accessible, my only complaint is the frequent mentions of some of the female characters' long legs. A couple of times would have sufficed I think! The themes of racial prejudice, envy, intolerance and even hypocrisy are very well presented and mirror the human foibles we come across all too often. The pacing is generally leisurely but I did not find any part dull, and the book as a whole is highly readable.

An excellent book to end the year with, and well deserves all the accolades it has garnered (the original novella from which this book is expanded upon won the Hugo Award and Nebula Award).

Best wishes for 2013! ( )
  apatt | Dec 26, 2015 |
This novel, an expansion of the 1991 Hugo & Nebula winning novella of the same name, is an idea-heavy piece that drives it’s theme over the reader at top speed, then throws it into reverse and backs over you a few more times for good measure. That theme, in case you missed it’s license plate number, is 'Societal vs. Individual Responsibility’. Kress devises a situation where a genetically-altered portion of the population enjoy advantages over the remaining crowd, and become an economic powerhouse. Dubbed ‘The Sleepless’, they have no need for sleep, improved intelligence, and extreme longevity. Although they are a tiny minority, their abilities make it nearly impossible for other individuals and businesses to compete, and conflict naturally develops. While the characters are not the strength of this novel, there are a few who are followed for several decades to examine the changes in an increasingly polarized society. The protagonist, Leisha Camden, is a Sleepless who despite being raised in the strictest philosophy of personal responsibility, has a very interesting transformation into a mediator for extremes of political positions, and spends a lot of time trying to reconcile the Sleepless with the Sleepers (who are disparagingly called ‘beggars’). Kress demonstrates the evils of both the extreme welfare state as well as the splinter community Sleepless have created for themselves where individual excellence is required to maintain citizenship. Although I found it a very engaging book for its philosophical explorations, the slow-paced story held few exciting moments, no dramatic sense of danger or high-stakes, and very thin science used mainly in the set-up then never revisited. Others may find this a strength of the novel; that it uses the minimum amount of science fiction to enable a situation to tell a strong story of fiction. ( )
  SciFi-Kindle | Jan 14, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 47 (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 editionsconfirmed
Binger,BillCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jackson, KennethCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Picacio, JohnCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Epigraph
"With energy and sleepless vigilance go forward and give us victories." - Abraham Lincoln to Major General Joseph Hooker, 1863
Dedication
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.
Quotations
"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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Disambiguation notice
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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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0380718774, Mass Market Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:30 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

The product of an experiment in genetic manipulation, superintelligent Leisha Camden is forced to live a life apart from most "ordinary" people and seeks the companionship of other superhumans.

» see all 2 descriptions

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