68k Mentat

Beggars in Spain, by Nancy Kress

Rating: good, but very long!

Plot

Gene-modification leads to the development of children who physically do not need to sleep. The extra hours in the day, in addition to other genemods, make these “Sleeplesses” radically more intelligent than regular people, and soon leads to a worldwide distrust/hatred of them. All but a few of the Sleepless cloister themselves inside of an intentional community, which eventually moves to space. The Sleepless secretly develop a new genemod, which creates super-intelligent humans, who become outcasts themselves due to the extreme xenophobic paranoia that Jennifer Sharifi, leader of the Sleepless, holds. Jennifer declares sovereignty against the United States, using the threat of devastating biological weapons. Thankfully, the Super children had already secretly implemented failsafe overrides, and stage a coup that forces a multilateral decision of independence.

Politics

The first section of the book offers a laughable, and unfortunately obvious satire of free-market capitalist ideology. Later, the U.S. devolves into an odd class-system where virtually everyone is upper-class because of energy-technology breakthroughs, and is also uneducated because they no longer need to work. Oddly, the elected officials are their own class of people who do work, and consequently are “lower-class”. The Sleeper/Sleepless conflict is obviously a parallel to racism, but also an allegory for anti-intellectualism. The ultimate argument is for equity, community, and empathy. The villain of the book is a muslim woman, which feels a little uncomfortable in a post-9/11 context, but her faults are completely unrelated.

Women

written by Nancy Kress, women are naturally written as if they were regular people.