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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
1,245506,363 (3.9)1 / 101
  1. 20
    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
    Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood (Sassm)
    Sassm: This book explores the theme of genetic engineering but takes it in a very different direction.
  3. 11
    Amped by Daniel H. Wilson (TomWaitsTables)
  4. 01
    Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (sturlington)
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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 | Apr 14, 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 |
I’m somewhat conflicted with this book. Overall, I “think” I liked it. It sustained my interest to the end, and regardless of some flaws, I do recommend it because I consider it a smart read.

Its sci-fi lining is incidental, an excuse to come up with a fresh way of addressing themes as old as humankind: the eternal conflict between the haves and have-nots (class warfare), prejudice stemming from the threat of difference (intolerance), the difficulty in finding the balance in social contracts driven by the abuses of both sides. The author comes across as a very intelligent individual that has given human nature a lot of thought while bravely posing some tough questions that are intertwined at several levels requiring you to dig deeper and deeper if you are up for the effort. For me this is good, since I like thought-provoking challenges.

Now some bad: First, the story lacks a cohesive structure, meaning that it almost seems as if the author put it together as 4 slightly different chunks united by a common underlying theme. This is especially true for the first part, which was initially published as a self-standing novella, but a couple more seams are all too obvious further along the story. Second, the author fails to provide a believable conflict to justify the great divide, and has to portray society’s flaws to the extreme to make up for it. To summarize it “roughly”, the haves (those genetically advanced), a minority very capable of excelling on its own and who never harm, abuse or enslave anyone, end up finding it unfair to have to share more than their “fair share” with the rest of a society that hates them. While the have-nots (genetically disadvantaged through voluntary choice), are portrayed as a bunch of dumbed down, envious losers prone to violence (lynching) for no other reason than their complex of inferiority which, I repeat, they choose voluntarily -There is no repression.

And thus the reason for my conflict… On one hand I thought the philosophical debate was masterfully presented, but rooted in a story that I found a little weak. ( )
  VictoriaCaro | Nov 24, 2014 |
*This review has spoilers.*

In the near future, Leisha is one of the first generation of children genetically engineered not to need sleep, and finds herself hated and feared because of the advantages that gives her.

I first read this novel long ago, and I just reread the novella it was based on to refresh my memory, so this review will focus on the novella, which is the opening section of the longer novel. I have seen this book listed on many libertarian book lists, but it is my opinion that it considers but ultimately refutes libertarian ideals, at least those ideals that we often associate with Ayn Rand.

Like most of the Sleepers, Leisha subscribes to a philosophy popularized by Kenzo Yagai, who also invented the cheap energy source that is transforming the world. In that philosophy, a person's greatest dignity comes from being able to do what they do well, freely and without coercion, and to trade that skill with others. This is symbolized by the contract. If a person is not allowed to achieve or must operate under coercion, then that robs them of their spiritual dignity.

However, there is the problem of the so-called beggars in Spain, who have nothing to give and want what you have--and may be willing to do violence to get it. They cannot live on their own merits, and they aren't willing to abide by the rules of civilizations. What does the world owe them? The libertarians, or Yagaiists, would argue, the world owes them nothing. Leisha feels there is something wrong with this, but it takes her a while to realize what.

The Sleepless are superior in nearly every way to the Sleepers, and that is why they come to be hated and feared. They cannot engage with the rest of the world in equal trade because they are not born equal. They come to the conclusion that their only recourse is to withdraw from society into an isolated refuge called Sanctuary. Again, Leisha does not think this is the right move.

Finally, as she and her twin sister Alice (who is not a Sleepless) rescue a sleepless child from an abusive home--and Alice basically saves everybody, much to Leisha's surprise--she realizes the truth. This is where the refutation happens. Trade is not linear. It is more like a web. A "beggar in Spain" is not fated to permanently be a beggar; they may have something of value to give that only becomes apparent later, like Alice. Human society is an ecology, so you give what you can when you can, not knowing whether you will receive something in return now or later, or even if the person you benefit will go on to benefit someone else. However, by giving when it is needed, and not expecting something in return immediately, the whole ecology benefits--including the so-called elite.

This is where we get stuck when we consider libertarianism in the political arena today. There is often the attitude of "what's in it for me?" The benefit may not be immediately apparent, but there is a benefit to us all. We are not individuals free-floating out there, tethered to no one, reliant only on ourselves. We are part of an ecology, and all of us are necessary parts of that ecology. Even the beggars.

First read in 1990s; reread novella in 2014. ( )
1 vote sturlington | Feb 10, 2014 |
I've had this on my Kindle for far too long & decided to finally read it. I'm so glad that I have! The story follows Leisha & others genetically modified before birth not to require sleep. They don't age in the usual way either & with all the time they save sleeping, they are able to achieve much more than their sleeping counterparts. The novel spans many years & gives a broad look at how their lives proceed & the effects of the society they create. Ideas explored are what the strong owe to the weak & why & how much control does one need to exercise over others. What is truly evident is that regardless of intelligence, paranoia, zealotry & extreme tribalism can captivate humans to the point of criminality & cruelty. Most specifically this is displayed in Hawke & Jennifer. They're two sides to the same coin.

I admit that I was most interested in Leisha's relationship with her non-modified twin, Alice. It was Leisha's most constant & interesting relationship for most of the story even when they were estranged. Second to that, I found Drew an interesting sort & wanted more detail on the followup to his accident as it's not even mentioned that his attacker had any consequence for his action. Many of the other characters aren't given depth either & simply help moving along the plot but I did want to know more about them & how they felt & were motivated in the world in which they lived. Still, I found it an engaging story & couldn't put it down for long (when I didn't have my Kindle to hand, I continued reading it on my phone).

The ending was solid but felt a little heavy handed. I will likely read the rest of the trilogy but as of the time of this review, they aren't available on Kindle. Perhaps they will be soon or I'll find them at the library. ( )
  anissaannalise | Jan 1, 2014 |
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 (3 possible)

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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(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 complete 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.

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