Nancy Kress – Beggars in Spain

Second book i have tried from this author and so far i am loving her style and plots. This time unlike “An Alient Light” the story happens not on an alien planet with weird factions and culture, but it is not less interesting. Book starts actually in not so distant past for us now (but book was written in 1993, so it was a future for that time). On Earth, with currently existing geopolitical and economic landscape. But there are a few scientific breakthroughs at that time. Like very efficient and practically free source of energy that makes US as patent holder a very rich country and advancements in DNA modifications to create children with improved abilities. This is where it gets especially interesting as scientists find way to remove necessity for sleep. Which also brings improved health and reduces rate of aging. This creates a cast of people with lots of time to be active, improved IQ, healthy, essentially immortal. And then, similar like in the first book i have read, it all starts revolving around various social effects of such biological advancements. As expected, tensions arise both from envy and fear of such “freaks” among common people. Non sleeping are blamed to take jobs from regular people, conspiracy theories pop up constantly about them planning to take over the world. Some even get killed. This can be compared to actual events in human history when certain groups or races of people were being discriminated or isolated. Although in this case it is actually more advanced type of people who get such treatment. Nancy Kress managed to make me glued to the book with various events unfolding, with jumps 10-50 years to the future following same characters and watching how landscape changes, country evolves, conflict between sleeping and non-sleeping goes to the next level. As in the last book we learn about main characters emotions, internal tensions. It is not just dry recounting of events. But not too much as i sometimes found in the last book. Just enough to get attached to key figures, understand some of their feelings and motives. The most fascinating aspect in Beggars in Spain was the fact that self-isolated cast of Non-sleeping people managed to create even more advanced Super-human race among them and then they became kind of discriminated in their own community for being too weird and freaky. No matter how righteous a group of people might feel, they can always devolve into the same mentality that they were fighting against. Because people are people. The ending was a bit muted and i was expecting a more devastating outcome of the conflict between US government and Non-sleeping colony. Also at the end some events were happening a bit too quickly, like Super mutants finding a cure to their stutter and it is just gone on the next page after reading their troubled speech for a chapter. But that’s a problem with most books. It gets very interesting by the middle, but it is hard to get a very exciting ending. So it ends in a bit melancholic, and mildly optimistic vein. But nonetheless the book kept me captivated for the whole read. Even thinking what if we were really able to avoid sleep, how our lives would be then, with years of continuously being conscious, being able to work 12-24 hours a day. 8/10

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