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10 thoughts on “Beggars in Spain

  1. Ben Babcock Ben Babcock says:

    I love to sleep I prefer at least eight, preferably nine hours of sleep each night Going to bed at midnight and waking up at nine in the morning is a perk of my madcap, Bohemian university student lifestyle that I will have to abandon once I become a stern, starched collar high school teacher For now, however, I like my sleep, and I will defend to the death my right to snore it But if I did not need to sleep had, in fact, grown up without ever knowing sleep would I miss it How would I be different What if I weren t alone Beggars in Spain has a simple premise that certain children have been genetically engineered so that they do not sleep with enormous implications such as the Sleepless not aging Once again, Nancy Kress uses genetic engineering to explore what it means to be human and how our society treats those who are different I recognize her familiar themes from Nothing Human and Act One Kress is an awesome author of serious gene manipulation fiction, by which I mean she doesn t use genetic engineering just as a science fiction plot device or a background phenomenon, as one might see in other books where other motifs are important Whether she is altering the entire human genome, as in Nothing Human, or tweaking just a single trait, as she did here and in Act One, Kress considers the implications of her changes in how these altered humans think and behave More importantly, she considers how the un altered will react And Kress is writing posthuman fiction set not in the far off future but in the present and in the near future she is writing about what our lives might be like in a decade or three.So why did I have so much trouble with Beggars in Spain I was constantly aware of how far through the book I was, and I never had that urge to continue reading like I do with books that really grip me To be fair, I think I had a similar reaction to Nothing Human Kress writing style and my reading habits do not exist in perfect harmony, and sometimes that happens, even with authors whose work I admire on an intellectual or literary level There must be to it than that Otherwise, I would feel comfortable giving this book five stars.Beggars in Spain has an excellent premise, but its plot is unsustainable The tragedy is that the overall story makes a lot of sense, and it should work the Sleepless outperform the Sleepers, who channel their fear of difference into hatred and bigotry So far, so good none of this requires suspension of disbelief, at all, because it s a true story that has been repeated far too often in our history It s still happening today Groups fear those who are different, and then the fear turns to hate, people get stupid, and individuals die I don t begrudge Kress the parallels Intention is one thing, however, and execution is quite another.The first part of the book, essentially what got published as a novella and won both the Hugo and Nebula for it , is great I have few complaints about it The supporting characters are somewhat thin, and the family situation is somewhat clich d Aside from that, however, Kress nicely portrays an American society struggling to deal with the rising population of Sleepless among them The nascent internal divisions among the network of Sleepless is intriguing, and Kress follows up on this in the rest of the book.There are two problems with the rest of the book, and their names are Leisha Cambden and Jennifer Sharifi Leisha is the main character, theoretically the protagonist, though she does not do much protagonizing Although seeing the world through Leisha s Sleepless yet compassionate eyes is interesting, Leisha as a person is rather dull and credulous She talks a lot about Yagaiism and contracts and eponymous Spanish beggars, and once in a while she kidnaps abused Sleepless children Most of her actions, however, like the creation of the Susan Bell Foundation, take place offstage Plenty of characters around Leisha Richard, Alice, Jordan, Drew are doing things Leisha just seems to sit around lamenting the fact that people are short sighted and judgemental She s a bit of a downer.Jennifer Sharifi, on the other hand, is much interesting but, again, doesn t quite work as a character One of the two characters who come as close to antagonists as this book has, Jennifer is an ultra cool Sleepless who pursues rationality and pragmatism to the point of irrationality She is convinced the only route for Sleepless survival is voluntary exile first to an orbital habitat, then out into space completely All her energy is directed toward these efforts, laying the groundwork for the secession of the Sleepless Sanctuary from the United States She continues to tinker with the genes of Sanctuary s children, creating a new generation of Supers, Sleepless whose neurological functions are hyper accelerated at the price of a loss of motor control that manifests as twitches and stuttering Oh, and she stacks Sanctuary s ruling council with her own family members and viciously suppresses any dissent.Jennifer is a caricature of an ultra reactionary leader of the persecuted She s too bad, closer to a moustached villain than a devious leader fighting for the survival of the Sleepless There s never a question of whether she has crossed a line she has crossed it, and for that she receives no sympathy for me I don t view her as a credible threat or challenge, because the other characters will always have the moral high ground over her If she had been ambiguous, or at least formidable, I might have enjoyed her role as an antagonist .The other antagonist comes rather late to the party He frames Sleepless for attacks on Sleepers, including a Sleeper scientist who approaches Leisha to have develop a way of turning Sleepers into Sleepless He s a much less important figure than Jennifer, of course, so accordingly he has less depth Still, his involvement in the scientist s murder wasn t exactly my favourite revelation of the book I don t really hold it against him, but he does highlight a vacancy in the roster Leisha et al needed a true ally, a powerful Sleeper who nevertheless championed the cause of the Sleepless.I quite liked the Supers, and Miri, and their struggle as a faction within the Sanctuary faction The whole Other within the Other motif is appealing, and Miri is one of the easiest characters with whom I could sympathize Watching her struggle with her feelings for Tony, her own brother, and reconcile the knowledge that her mother could not look upon her with love, was close to heartbreaking And of course, Miri and the Supers are exactly Jennifer s mistake she tries to create an ultra superhuman being, something beyond even her own generation of Sleepless, but she haughtily thinks she can somehow control them While the Supers sundering of their Sanctuary shackles was predictable, it was also the most entertaining and riveting part of the book.Beggars in Spain isn t bad, but it is heavyhanded almost across the board characters, philosophy, and plot could all have done with a much lighter touch Just thinking of all the times the characters referred to beggars or beggars in Spain, as if Kress was not confident we would make the connection between the philosophy and the book s title, makes me wince I appreciate subtlety, and I notice its absence While seldom enough to ruin a book for me especially one as admittedly thoughtful and intriguing as this it does detract from my enjoyment Books are my drug of choice, and Beggars in Spain left me unsatisfied.My Reviews of the Sleepless trilogy Beggars and Choosers

  2. Apatt Apatt says:

    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 , to accomplish 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

  3. Wanda Wanda says:

    I read this original short story version of this title in July of this year I was sufficiently impressed that I ordered the novelized version through interlibrary loan and I m glad that I read both versions Ms Kress really managed to flesh out the ideas better when she had a bit elbow room.Now, I love to sleep It is one of the basic human pleasures and when I have occasional bouts of wakefulness during the night I am pretty cranky the next day I have never, ever wished to do without sleep although sometimes, during particularly exciting periods of my life, I ve declared that I ll sleep when I m dead I once had a coworker who just hated the idea of sleep like Roger Camden, father of our main character Leisha in this novel, she thought sleep was a complete waste of time Each night, she would try to shave off minutes of sleep, working her way towards eliminating it And she completely failed because sleep is really, really important to our health See Why We Sleep Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams for an excellent discussion of these ideas It really is the basis for avoiding illness and being able to reason and make sensible decisions.The one thing that bothered me about the assumptions in this work was the conflation of not needing sleep with increased intelligence It was my understanding that parents in the book could choose either or for their genetically modified offspring Just because a child was one of the Sleepless didn t necessarily mean that they would be super smart or would have driving ambition I guess those options were almost always chosen together And much longer life was an accidental genetic change, much likely to cause envy, in my opinion.One other assumption annoyed me why would being extremely smart curtail a person s compassion This whole idea that the rest of humanity consisted of beggars, not only not pulling their own weight, but relying on others for their support Leisha, although she appears to be emotionally stunted, maintains that everyone has their place in the economic ecosystem, as people actually do in our world I am left to suppose that the genes for sleep or lack of the need for it and or intelligence would somehow also affect the genes for feeling emotion, not a proposition that I accept.Despite these misgivings, I found the book to be an interesting exploration of intolerance, including taking it to the extremes to see what could happen There is, of course, the old warning against messing around with genetics without fully realizing the consequences and then our new demographic group goes on to repeat the pattern That particular message is becoming a bit boring, honestly, but I still enjoy a book in which it is approached with a new twist, such as this one.Book number 294 in my Science Fiction Fantasy Reading Project.

  4. Felicia Felicia says:

    I was reminded of this novel because I read an article on a woman who can t forget anything This book is about people who don t have to sleep Fascinating.

  5. Becky Becky says:

    This book came highly recommended, and of course it has also won a ton of awards, but I wasn t impressed at all There s very little characterization The characters seem to exist just to move the plot along, ie And then THIS happened and I m going to tell you about it now I was also reminded of Ayn Rand s Atlas Shrugged, in which the flat characters exist only as mouthpieces for Rand s philosophy.As for the plot, it s interesting, but it clanks along kind of relentlessly I couldn t help wondering if Nancy Kress did extensive outlining of the plot before she wrote this book, because I felt like I was reading a fleshed out plot outline As I said above, there was a feeling of, OK, and now THIS happens Andwait for itnow THIS happens I have read only this novel, and have not read Beggars in Spain in the original, shorter, novella form, but it was pretty easy to discern where the novella ended and the rest of the novel length book was tacked on.Maybe it was the hype that set me up for high expectations I was really disappointed.Also very telling Just prior to copying pasting this review into goodreads from my review page, I said to my husband I read Beggars in Spain Did I really I have no memory of reading it, but apparently I reviewed it on .After he jogged my memory about the plot, I remembered the book, and remembered that I didn t like it.

  6. Monica Monica says:

    I liked the book very much, however I struggle with trying to determine it s impact It seems to be between the crests of good and fantastic and couldn t quite make the leap across This book is bursting with interesting ideas and themes that carry it through a good, but flawed presentation This is a near future SF book and this future was not so far fetched as to be inconceivable.Shades of Ayn Rand in this book are so prevalent that it was hard to not see many of the Fountainhead character hybrids in this novel Jennifer Sharifi was Ellsworth Tooey Sharifi was appreciative of superiority as long as she could control it She led the sleepless like they were in fact mediocre that had to be controlled through manipulation Leisha Camden was Howard Roarke, less violent but none the less steadfastly held to her principles regardless of the personal cost because being right was far important than being accepted The characters had a clash of ideas and in the end the protagonist prevails because of her uncompromising belief in herself.Also in evidence is the preaching of ideas This had to do with poorly drawn characters who are critical to the story In particular, Jennifer Sharifi or any character whose views were opposed to Leisha Camden, were under characterized We never saw the struggle the Jennifer Sharifi endured that caused her to come to her views other than the murder of Tony In the last 50 pages we get a paragraph about some implied struggles but no real description of her upbringing We are simply told what she is thinking In contrast Alice, a minor character with a major role in the development of Leisha, is well drawn We aren t told what she is thinking, we given enough information to understand her frame of reference.Two interesting observations about this novel First is the characterization of the antagonist what little there was In the post 9 11 world, it is interesting to note that even back in the early 90 s when this book was written , there was a fear of the Muslim way of life There is only one character that is so rigid in her thinking that she could not entertain any ideas other than her own, and was so convinced of her own righteousness This dogmatic approach seemed tied directly to her faith There is an implied evilness to it Proof that the western view of Muslims was evident long before September 11th Secondly, in this current economy, it is interesting that the corporate types were also inherently evil Kevin Baker would do anything to keep the profits rolling including signing an oath he did not believe in He was considered a good guy compared to the Calvin Hawke of the We Sleep movement who murdered for his cause Once again we see themes of our current events, were observed up to 10 years earlier It does make one wonder if things ever really change.There is a lot to say about this book but the review is already long enough It definitely introduced many fine ideas that stuck with me long after I read the last page.

  7. Jenny (Reading Envy) Jenny (Reading Envy) says:

    I read the novella version of this last year, and the first novel of the Sleepless trilogy includes and expands on it this was one of the books from my speed dating project in April Those with a lot of money at their disposal have been able to genetically modify their children in utero, for looks, abilities, and one in particular taking away the need for sleep.Imagine what you could accomplish if you never needed to sleep, and you suffered no medical issues due to its lack The Sleepless can complete schooling quickly, hold down multiple responsibilities, and contribute to society in great and innovative ways.It doesn t take long for factions to develop between the Sleepers and the Sleepless This is basically four time periods ending with SuperSleeper children living in an orbital, the Sanctuary set up by many of the Sleepless remaining Interesting ideas, strong exploration of the ramifications of those ideas, and it ends with a different group of the Sleepless coming together It is tempting to pick up 2.ETA This book was discussed on Episode 062 of the Reading Envy Podcast.

  8. Stephen Stephen says:

    4.5 stars Excellent novel about the economic, social and political changes arising out of a group of people born without the need to sleep and as a result blessed with other abilities that set them apart from the populous sleepers Nominee Hugo Award best Novel the novella upon which this is best actually won the Hugo Nominee Nebula Award best Novel the novella upon which this is best actually won the Nebula Nominee Campbell Award for best NovelNominee Prometheus Award best NovelNominee Locus Award Best SF Novel.

  9. J L& J L& says:

    Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress uses speculative fiction to explore two fundamental questions What happens if you genetically engineer a group of people so that they are radically different from the rest of the humans in this case by eliminating the need to sleep in a group of children potentially accompanied by other intelligence enhancing modifications What do the strong wealthy intelligent owe to those they deem lesser non productive I don t remember if I read the Hugo and Nebula winning novella that forms the first section of the book, but I did read Beggars in Spain in print when it was new Somehow I missed that Ms Kress had written two sequels So I picked up the audiobook of Beggars in Spain 23 years after the original publication of the full length novel Some books hold up to time and to re reading and others quickly become dated Beggars in Spain belongs in the first category.

  10. Cindy Cindy says:

    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, emotionally stable, and 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 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 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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Beggars in Spain In this future, some people need no sleep at all 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 percenttime 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.