Review: Beaker’s Dozen by Nancy Kress

BEAKER’S DOZEN by Nancy Kress, Tor Books, August 1998, Hc, 352 pp., ISBN: 0-312-86537-6

Nancy Kress is known as an Idea writer (Capital I with fanfare and flourishes) with a tendency toward polemic. I don’t think the reader can find better examples of both traditions often in the same story as are found in BEAKERS DOZEN. I also don’t think there’s a better capsule summary of both the potential rewards and pitfalls of either approach.

Kress starts the collection with her Hugo Award winning “Beggars in Spain.” This is arguably Kress’s most well known story, and it’s also a good introduction to her fascination with biotech. As the story opens, Roger and Elizabeth Camden are meeting with a geneticist to order the enhancements they wish for their planned child, rather like a young couple of an earlier time might meet the architect of the house they wished to build. The enhancement that Roger–but not Elizabeth—wants most is sleeplessness. He gets his way, with one glitch: instead of a single daughter, two are conceived. One with the enhancement, Leisha, and one, Alice, without. Continue reading