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by Nancy Kress

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-312-85749-7
Publisher: Tor

 In the splendid Beggars in Spain (1993) Kress wondered what might happen if some people no longer needed to sleep. This sequel, with a depressing, written-to-order weariness, clambers aboard SF's current bandwagon, nanotechnology. In return for votes, gene- modified donkey politicians provide the unemployed masses of Livers with all the necessities. Meanwhile, the handful of SuperSleepless have retired behind impenetrable barriers on an artificial island in order to extend their already unimaginably advanced researches. As illegal and highly dangerous gene-modification labs spring up like weeds, a power struggle slowly develops among the government's ruthless Genetic Standards Enforcement Agency, the SuperSleepless (whose goals remain unknown), and fanatic fundamentalist revolutionaries, whose method is to capture illegal labs and use their often horrifying products against their opponents. So, as artificial viruses and nanomachines destroy the food, transport, and communication networks, and as lethal new diseases appear, the desperate Livers look for help to the godlike SuperSleepless, whose solution is to transform the entire human race. With plenty of new ideas but a plot deficiency, Kress's narrative dodges all the really tough questions to take refuge in windy patriotism. Measured by the author's own lofty standards, a grave disappointment.