Nancy Kress’s Beggars in Spain first appeared as a novella, and some critics believe that its expansion to novel length was to the work’s detriment. It could be argued that the expansion of the novella and the subsequent writing of a sequel obliged Kress to speculate ever more improbably, creating not only the Sleepless but also the Supersleepless. In a novella, space constraints oblige the author to focus on one small fragment of the greater whole; Kress clearly believed she had more to say. There can be no doubt that the future Earth she created raises many fascinating speculative points.
It is rare, for example, for science fiction to deal with the idea that one can never really know what a new invention or technological development will do, except by using it. Extrapolation from experiments always will be insufficient. It often is supposed that cheap energy for all will be the salvation of the world’s problems, yet, as Kress clearly shows, there is a downside to the prosperity. People become indolent, working for other people loses its respectability, and society begins to disintegrate as basic community ties are weakened and then severed.
Kress also presents a complex series of ethical arguments for the reader to consider. Kenzo Yagai believed that he was benefiting the world by releasing his cheap energy source to one and all, assuming that people would respond as generously toward one another as he had. The Sleepless are...
(The entire section is 589 words.)
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