The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Beggars in Spain opens in the year 2008 with the birth of Leisha Camden. The world is prosperous, thanks to the discovery of a cheap energy source by Kenzo Yagai. Roger Camden is a leading Yagaiist, embracing Yagai’s philosophy of an individual’s responsibility to do the appropriate thing. He is determined to produce a perfect daughter and insists on a modification to ensure that Leisha never needs to sleep, so that she will be more useful to the community.

Leisha is intellectually brilliant and develops rapidly. As she grows older, she is aware of the resentment toward her from her unmodified sister and others. Unable to talk to her family about her feelings, she discovers the existence of other Sleepless, and they form a community, keeping in regular contact. Sleepers become fearful and envious of the achievements of the Sleepless, particularly following the discovery that it is sleep that causes the aging process, so that the Sleepless will not age at the same rate as ordinary people. Some members of the Sleepless community propose building themselves a community apart from the Sleepers, but Leisha believes in the integration of Sleepless and Sleepers and refuses to go into Sanctuary, a space station orbiting Earth.

This first schism among members of the Sleepless community is mirrored by a further schism within Sanctuary when one group, led by Jennifer Sharifi, begins genetic experiments to further enhance the abilities of the Sleepless. Sharifi is ruthless in pursuit of her goal. Adopting a radical definition of community as a group of people whose purpose is to serve the whole, she ruthlessly expels or murders anyone whom she considers incapable of being part of the community, even her own grandson. She also has no sympathy for Sleepers and is keen to form her own nation distinct from the United States. The country benefits from taxing Sleepless technology, so it is unwilling to agree to secession. Sharifi...

(The entire section is 797 words.)