Saturday, April 28, 2007

begging for sleep

Nebula and Hugo award winning author Nancy Kress has yet another wonderful combination with her Beggars Trilogy (also known as Sleepless trilogy) which starts off with Beggars in Spain, continues with Beggars and Choosers, and comes (almost) full circle with Beggars Ride (although all three books can easily stand alone.)
Beggars in Spain started out as a novella and that novella still seems visible within the novel, which had three very distinct parts (in some ways it might have been better left as a novella~or in separate parts as it did seem to drag on a bit, and the breaks were quite visible). The basic premise (though there are so many philosophical ideas and arguments tossed about in these books it's a little difficult to narrow down) is that if people could be genetically programmed to function without sleep they would be able to accomplish a great deal more. These genetically enhanced humans are known (logically enough) as Sleepless and not only do they have superior beauty and intelligence, they also do not seem to age. What could be better than that? Well apparently being like everybody else, because as societies have proven again and again, "if it is different we must destroy it." Examining issues of diversity, genetic engineering, meritocracy, socialism, separatism, and enterprisism, Beggars in Spain offers much food for thought without being too didactic.
Kress displays her flexibility and versatility in Beggars and Choosers by effectively alternating the narrative between four extremely different voices. Beggars and Choosers picks up about 15 years after Beggars in Spain ends. The world is further enmeshed in economic and social upheaval, and we now have the "Super-Sleepless" even more cognitively advanced than their Sleepless progenitors, and thus, more feared. More questions than answers here, but well worth considering, nonetheless.
Beggars Ride advances this continuum even further. This third novel seemed to be a bit more brutal and graphic than the other two (though looking back they all had their moments~perhaps i just felt my senses to be more assaulted at the beginning of Beggars Ride~perhaps because it is a tale of a society already in visible crisis...) The trilogy both keeps a continual narrative line alive while introducing new stories and characters; each book has its own tale to tell, and each tale is well worth hearing. All three books address moral and ethical concerns without offering easy answers. These are books that make you think. Kress is a very wise woman.
I think sometimes in our quest for convenience and economy we forget about enjoyment and delight. There is absolute joy to be taken in a stolen nap or a good meal that might be left behind if we find ways to circumvent sleep or other sources of nutrition. I know i don't want to let that go. Kress addresses so many more issues than this, some of which might have even flown right over my head, but i did want to get that thought out.

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