In Beggars In Spain, genetic manipulation has made it possible to make this adjustment in unborn children, removing the need to sleep and any detrimental effects of prolonged wakefulness; in addition, they become virtually immortal. The Sleepless soon get a tremendous advantage over their Sleeper competitors, and prejudice begins to spring up.
The book focuses mostly on Leisha Camden, one of the first Sleepless. She is born with a twin sister Alice who, unmodified and unplanned-for, is a mere Sleeper. She becomes one of the few Sleepless who does not retreat into the haven of Sanctuary, and remains in occasional contact with Sleeper society.
The recurring theme of the book asks the question, "How much do the more capable owe the less capable?" The majority of Sleepless decide that they owe nothing to the Sleepers who are capable of so much less; Leisha, who disagrees, remains with the "Beggars". The subrace of Supers, an even more intelligent engineered offshoot of the Sleepless, begin to disagree with the rest of the Sleepless.
Everything comes to a head when Sanctuary, an orbiting satellite, declares itself independent from the United States...
This is a great book--it has engaging characters, a gripping plot(in fact, several gripping plots for the various sections of the book), extrapolation of concepts that is the hallmark of grand SF, and it asks some pointed questions.
About the only annoying thing about the book is that it takes some concentration to keep track of what is referred to by "Sleepers" vs. "Sleepless". The words are just too similar, and one has to stop and parse them every time they come up, to remember which is which. But that's extremely minor.
I was a little bit disappointed when this didn't win the Hugo, but the original novella did, at least.
%A Kress, Nancy
%T Beggars In Spain
%C New York
%D April 1993
%G ISBN 0-688-12189-6
%P 438 pp.
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