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Beggars in Spain

Beggars in Spain

4.2 26
by Nancy Kress

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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


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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This thought-provoking though derivative book by the author of Brain Rose revists familiar territory. In 21st-century America, genetic engineering makes it possible for those who can afford it to become parents of improved, custom-made babies. The controversial procedure has produced a new breed that can function without sleep. Leisha Camden, daughter of a wealthy industrialist, is one of ``the sleepless,'' who are endowed with remarkable intelligence and other genetic enhancements. A generation of prodigies, Leisha and her peers are resented by the rest of the population, who begin to persecute them. To escape violence, the Sleepless retreat to an armed camp, the Sanctuary, where for decades they fight to legitimize their existence in an increasingly hostile society. Leisha, a brilliant, idealistic lawyer, finds herself ostracized by both Sleepers and Sleepless as she struggles to bridge the widening gulf between the two groups. Meanwhile, the Sleepless must learn to deal with the prodigies among them. Kress competently handles a well-worn science fiction concept and raises some intriguing scientific and sociological issues. Her dialogue sometimes lapses into stilted philosophical arguments, however, and many of her characters are thinly drawn. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Genetic enhancements have placed Leisha Camden and a few other individuals in a category of their own. Smarter and healthier than normal humans, born without the need to sleep, the ``Sleepless''--as they are called--grow up in a world that turns increasingly hostile toward the superachievers in their midst. The author of An Alien Light ( LJ 12/87) and Brain Rose ( LJ 12/89) explores the nature of humanity's fear of differences in this elegantly written novel set on tomorrow's horizon. A priority purchase for sf collections.
Kirkus Reviews
From the author of the splendid Brain Rose (1989), another telling near/medium-future sociological probe. This time: What if people no longer needed to sleep? Leisha Camden belongs to a new generation of genetically enhanced children: she's tall, slim, intelligent, beautiful—and she doesn't sleep. So, growing up, Leisha and her fellow-Sleepless rapidly outshine their Sleeper contemporaries. But later, after global economic changes, most Americans subsist mindlessly on the public dole while resenting the success of the Sleepless—especially when it emerges that the Sleepless are also immortal. So the Sleepless, led by the paranoid elitist Jennifer Sharifi, establish Sanctuary, a secure enclave where their genetic research can continue unobserved. Lawyer Leisha, who holds to sharing-caring values within a pluralistic society, rejects Sanctuary, preferring to offer practical advancement to ambitious Sleepers and Sleepless alike. Eventually, the Sleepless move Sanctuary into an orbiting habitat, where, having bred a third generation of Sleepless with even more astonishing abilities, Sharifi orders the preparation of biological weapons for a showdown with Sleeper Earth. But those freakish new children, their talents amplified by the lucid dreams developed by one of Leisha's Sleepers, overthrow Sharifi and jubilantly reaffirm Leisha's egalitarian principles. Though didactic (without being preachy) and uneven in places: thrilling drama, compelling dialectic.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Beggars Trilogy
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.93(d)

Read an Excerpt

Beggars in Spain

Chapter One

They sat stiffly on his antique Eames chairs, two people people who didnt want to be here, or one person who didn't want to and one who resented the other's reluctance. Dr. Ong had seen this before. Within two minutes he was sure: the woman was the silently furious resister. She would lose. The man would pay for It later, in Bale ways, for a long time.

"I presume you've performed the necessary credit checks already," Roger Camden said pleasantly, 'so let's get right on to details, shall we, Doctor?"

"Certainly," Ong said. "Why don't we start by your telling me all the genetic modifications you're interested in for the baby.

The woman shifted suddenly on her chair. She was in her late twenties-dearly a second wife — but already had a faded look, as if keeping up with Roger Camden was wearing her out. Ong could easily believe that. Mrs. Camden's hair was brown, her eyes were brown, her skin had a brown tinge that might have been pretty if her cheeks had had any color. She wore a brown coat, neither fashionable nor cheap, and shoes that looked vaguely orthopedic. Ong glanced at his records for her name: Elizabeth. He would bet people forgot it often.

Next to her Roger Camden radiated nervous vitality, a man in late middle age whose bullet-shaped head did ,not match his careful haircut and Italian-silk business suit. Ong did not need -to consult his file to recall anything about Camden. A caricature of the bullet-shaped head had been the leading graphic for yesterday's online edition of the Wall Street Journal: Camden had led a major coup in cross-border data-atollinvestment. Ong was not sure What cross-border data-atoll investment was.

"A girl," Elizabeth Camden said. Ong hadn't expected her to speak first. Her voice was another surprise: upper-class British. "Blonde. Green eyes. Tall. Slender."

Ong smiled. "Appearance factors are the easiest to achieve, as I'm sure you already know. But all we can do about slenderness is give her a genetic disposition in that direction. How you feed the child will naturally-"

"Yes, yes," Roger Camden said, "that's obvious. Now: intelligence. High Intelligence. And a sense of daring."

"I'm sorry, Mr. Camden, personality factors are not yet understood well enough to allow genet-"

"Just testing," Camden said, with a smile that Ong thought was probably supposed to be lighthearted.

Elizabeth Camden. said, "Musical ability."

"Again, Mrs. Camden, a disposition to be musical is all we can guarantee."

"Good enough," Camden said. "The full array of corrections for any potential gene-linked health problem, of course."

"Of course," Dr. Ong said. Neither client spoke. So far theirs was a fairly modest list, given Camden's money; most clients had to be argued out of contradictory genetic tendencies, alteration overload, or unrealistic expectations. Ong waited. Tension prickled In the room like heat.

"And," Camden said, "no need to sleep."

Elizabeth Camden jerked her head sideways to look out the window.

Ong picked up a paper magnet from his desk. He made his voice pleasant. "May I ask. how you learned whether that genetic-modification program exists?"

Camden grinned. "You're not denying it exists. I give you full credit for that, Doctor."

Ong held his temper. "May I ask how you learned whether the program exists?"

Camden reached Into an inner pocket of his suit. The silk crinkled and pulled; body and suit came from different classes. Camden was, Ong remembered a Yagaiist, a personal friend of Kenzo Yagai himself. Camden handed Ong hard copy. program specifications.

"Don't bother hunting down the security leak In your data banks, Doctor. You won't find It. But If it's any consolation, neither will anybody else. Now." He leaned forward suddenly. His tone changed. "I know that you've created twenty children who don't need to sleep at all, that so far nineteen are healthy, Intelligent, and psychologically normal. In fact, they're better than normal; they're all unusually precocious. The oldest is already four years old and can read in two languages. I know you're thinking of offering this genetic modification on the open market in a few years. All I want Is a chance to buy It for my daughter now. At whatever price you name."

Ong stood, "I can't possibly discuss this with you uni-laterally, Mr. Camden. Neither the theft of our data-"

"Which wasn't a theft-your system developed a Spontaneous bubble regurgitation into a public gate. You'd have a hell of a time proving otherwise—"

"—nor the offer to purchase this particular genetic modification lie In my sole area of authority. Both have to be discussed with the Institute's board of directors."

"By all means, by all means. When can I talk to them, to "You?"

Camden, still seated, looked up at him. It occurred to Ong that 'there were few men who could look so confident eighteen inches below eye level. "Certainly. I'd like the chance to present my offer to whoever has the actual authority to accept It. That's only good business."

"This Isn't solely a business transaction, Mr. Camden."

"It isn't solely pure scientific research, either," Camden retorted. "You're a for-profit corporation here. With certain tax breaks available -only to firms meeting certain fair-practice laws."

For a minute Ong couldn't think what Camden meant.. "Fair-practice laws

" . . . are designed to protect minorities who are suppliers. I know it hasn't ever been tested In the case of customers, except for redlining in Y-energy Installations. But it could be tested, Dr. Ong. Maori. ties are entitled to the same product offerings as nonminorities. I know the Institute would not welcome a court case, Doctor. None of your twenty genetic beta-test families Is either Black or- Jewish."

"A court ... but you're not Black or Jewish!"

Beggars in Spain
. Copyright (c) by Nancy Kress . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

DAVID BRIN has written or contributed to a dozen works of fiction and science fiction, has a Ph.D in astrophysics, and has been a professor and a NASA consultant.NANCY KRESS is the author of fourteen books of fantasy and science fiction, including both novels and short-story collections.

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Beggars in Spain 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 26 reviews.
4269512 More than 1 year ago
The first part of this novel (not the novella by the same name) is pretty good, with a thought provoking ending. However, I couldn't finish the rest of the book, even though I tried a dozen times. Important things happened without a leadup, and Leisha's response to critical events and other characters is muted, pretty much unemotional. A former lover marries someone else? Leisha's response is hohum. Her current lover dumps her? Oh well. An important event happens to Joey who is never mentioned before the event, so the reader doesn't really care about Joey. Most of the Sleepers are stupid and evil, one dimensional. I'm not a lawyer, but if the trial was based on US law, even I could tell that both lawyers should have been disbarred. All in all, the book tries to address important problems of racism and class distinction. But without the buildup to events and without character development, it comes off as a boring disappointment and a waste of money.
Petoht More than 1 year ago
The beginning felt quite rushed (probably due to its novella roots), but it was a very interesting read. Equally critical of collectivism and objectivism (and the odd blending of the two), it was an enjoyable read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The social concepts of freedom and equality are challenged anew in this novel--genetic engineering has upped the ante significantly in Kress's fantastic blockbuster. Orwellian/Randian concepts woven in with Abraham Lincoln's statements about the nature of freedom, all set in a technologically plausible future society--Bravo!
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EffieTX More than 1 year ago
What an absolutely great science fiction story this turned out to be. Loved it and highly recommend it.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
The book is thought provoking. I wonder about what eveloutionary stage are researchers going to do next and I ask is this next? Maybe not I hope.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I first read `Beggars in Spain¿ six or seven years ago and I enjoyed it then. I¿ve found that the better stories age well; come back a few years later and they still engage your heart and your mind. This is one of those stories. Nancy Kress illustrates a fast approaching issue ¿ the impact of genetic engineering ¿ with well-drawn characters in realistic situations. The premise is science has learned how to engineer humans such that they no longer need to sleep. Obviously, the ¿sleepless¿ have a huge advantage over the ¿sleepers,¿ and Kress explores the chasm that develops between the two classes of humans. Not to give away the story, but the ¿sleepless¿ have additional gifts that notch up the intensity significantly. My only complaint is that the story seems to run out of gas toward the end. Kress has ably developed the issues, but doesn¿t bring the plot to a definitive climax. Nevertheless, `Beggars in Spain¿ is an excellent story, one that will stay with you over the years.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A great book, reminiscent of Heinlein or Ayn Rand in that it intermixes philosophic concepts with great characters and action. It's done well - really well. Neat concept, good characters, a sense of history - and its not a rehash of stuff that I've read before. All in all a step above the pulp fiction I normally wallow in. Wow!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
then gave up after 90 pages. If you are not a fan of Ayn Rand, or don't enjoy page after page of objectivist propaganda, then this is not for you.