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Beggars In Spain

by Rob Friesel

Last night I finished re-reading [tag]Nancy Kress[/tag]’ novel [tag]Beggars in Spain[/tag]. I’d read it once before when I was quite a bit younger. (High school, maybe?) An interesting [tag]sci-fi[/tag] read, it toys with a near-future scenario where genetic modifications are relatively commonplace and an arguably separate race of [tag]Sleepless[/tag] are created as a consequence of our genetics experiments. Combine Sleeplessness with the revelation that their bodies are essentially immortal and take it from there.

The novel plays a lot with themes of what it means to be free – – creatively, intellectually, politically, economically… It explores these spaces from a distinctly (and admittedly) American (where “American” is “United States”) perspective, playing with juxtapositions of the American Revolution and the American Civil War thoughout the text.

There’s also a curious subtext that follows the protagonist, Leisha Camden, that can be a bit hard to pin down. There’s a struggle between personal philosophies that are very Randian/Objectivist and more secularly humanist ethics that seem common to the genre. As implied from the title, this struggle revolves around the question of the what responsibility the strong have to the weak? What is the balance and currency in the economy of trade? The subject is approached from many angles throughout the novel and fortunately its done artfully to keep it from being too pedantic.

That said, the only major criticisms I have are two. First, although the novel admits several times to being Amerocentric, it seems to cut the rest of the world out too readily. Second, while you don’t necessarily need to be a scholar of Abraham Lincoln (or American history) to fully appreciate it, the novel’s balance between touching on that subject matter and really exploring those connections is sometimes tenuous (and maybe a little forced).

Onward to Beggars & Choosers!

currently playing: Frontside “Dammerung”

About Rob Friesel

Software engineer by day, science fiction writer by night. Author of The PhantomJS Cookbook and a short story in Please Do Not Remove. View all posts by Rob Friesel →

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