cover image Beggars and Choosers

Beggars and Choosers

Nancy Kress. Tor Books, $22.95 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85749-3

This welcome sequel to Kress's acclaimed Beggars in Spain (which itself was based on a novella that in 1993 won both a Hugo and a Nebula) picks up 13 years after the events of the earlier book. The genetically engineered SuperSleepless-who need no sleep and have vastly increased cognitive powers-have established a protected island enclave where they can work on their beneficent plans for humanity away from the prying eyes of the genetic-purity police. Meanwhile, in the States, sharply divided into the ``Livers'' (who subsist on the dole but consider themselves aristocrats) and the ``donkeys'' (genetically enhanced, highly educated public servants who sneer at the Livers even as they support them), society's infrastructure is breaking down because the machines that feed, clothe and care for the Livers have stopped functioning. As conditions worsen, so do tensions between the donkeys and the Livers. Events are viewed through several characters who must confront the collapse of their society and (perhaps) the birth of another. Kress takes an admirably complex look at controversial issues-genetic engineering, the distribution of wealth and power, racism and political hatred-while offering no easy answers. Based on the real possibilities of genetic modification, nanotechnology and current social and economic trends, her latest novel isn't merely an excellent and thoughtful work of science fiction but is also an important commentary on some of the key issues we'll be facing in the next century. (Oct.)