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#73 Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress

In the near future, scientists have discovered how to genetically engineer babies not to require sleep, resulting in highly intelligent, rational children called “Sleepless.” Leisha is one of the Sleepless. Although she has a happy childhood, as she begins to mature she realizes that her place in the world is much more complex than she expects. “Sleepers” unable to compete, treat Leisha and her kind with jealousy, and disgust. Is there a way for the Sleepers and Sleepless to find peace? How can you create a society based on equality when all people are not, technically, created equal?

Beggars in Spain is the September selection for calico_reaction's bookclub here on livejournal. I was a little skeptical about it first, but I'm glad that I picked it up, because I ended up falling in love with Leisha's story. Beggars in Spain is an intelligent novel about a woman struggling to find equality in a world of genetically engineered inequality. It's about judging people on their individual productivity, while still paying attention to the “beggars in Spain” or people that cannot be productive. Throughout the book as Leisha shapes and reshapes her personal philosophies, the reader is right there with her, trying to find answers in an increasingly complex world.

Beggars in Spain is divided into four sections that take place over eighty years of time. During this time you encounter a large variety of characters, watch them grow from birth to old age, and are able to see their impact on the world. This allows us to cover a lot of territory in one book. Under a lesser writer, covering so many characters and concepts could result in the entire cast feeling undeveloped, playing second fiddle to the author's big ideas. I did not find that this was the case here in Beggars in Spain, as I really enjoyed getting to know the characters. Outside of Leisha, the character that fascinated me the most was actually the main villain. As the book continues, she ends up doing some pretty awful things, but she is so rational about it in her thought process, that you can almost see where she's coming from. I also enjoyed the character Alice, who is Leisha's Sleeper twin sister, and watching the different paths their lives took as a result of their differing statues.

Beggars in Spain is a fascinating sci-fi book that will really get you thinking. It is also the first book in a trilogy. I am very curious as to where the series will go next, as the author has already covered so much ground in book one. I will pick up the second book, Beggars and Choosers, soon.

Rating: five stars
Length: 448 pages
Source: Lewiston Public Library
Other books I've read by this author: this is my first

Next I will be reviewing Little Brother by Cory Doctorow.

Xposted to temporaryworlds, bookish, and goodreads
Tags: xxx author last name: i-q
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