“Flora 717 is a sanitation worker, a member of the lowest caste in her orchard hive where work and sacrifice are the highest virtues and worship of the beloved Queen the only religion. But Flora is not like other bees. With circumstances threatening the hive’s survival, her curiosity is regarded as a dangerous flaw but her courage and strength are an asset. She is allowed to feed the newborns in the royal nursery and then to become a forager, flying alone and free to collect pollen. She also finds her way into the Queen’s inner sanctum, where she discovers mysteries about the hive that are both profound and ominous.
But when Flora breaks the most sacred law of all—daring to challenge the Queen’s fertility—enemies abound, from the fearsome fertility police who enforce the strict social hierarchy to the high priestesses jealously wedded to power. Her deepest instincts to serve and sacrifice are now overshadowed by an even deeper desire, a fierce maternal love that will bring her into conflict with her conscience, her heart, her society—and lead her to unthinkable deeds.
Thrilling, suspenseful and spectacularly imaginative, The Bees gives us a dazzling young heroine and will change forever the way you look at the world outside your window.” ~Goodreads
The Bees is quite the impressive debut novel from Laline Paull. And yes, it is entirely about bees, narrated by bees and the hierarchy of the hive. These anthropomorphic bees “Accept, Obey, Serve” their Queen and are dutiful and diligent in their position within the hive.
Flora is unlike most sanitation workers, the lowest position within the hive, because she can talk, she has thoughts and opinions of her own, she is strong, resilient, able to fight off enemies, produce flow for infants, and the list goes on and on. So when her “deformity” is considered a threat and is about to be killed by two officers, priestess Sister Sage intervenes, decides to spare her and experiment a little to see what she is capable of. And let the games begin!
Some readers compared this novel to The Hunger Games (with bees), The Handmaid’s Tale (with bees), Animal Farm (with bees) or even Watership Down (yes, with bees). But I have only read The Hunger Games and Animal Farm and do see some slight similarities but not much. It was so utterly consuming with the lifestyle and hierarchy of the bees that some of the descriptions and terminology were lost on me, not having much of a background on the insect. There was also no reference to a time period but while reading it, some of the language felt like the Victorian Age with all the curtsying, bowing and entertaining of the Drones.
If you like your Dystopian/Science Fiction/Fantasy novels with some insects/animals and a lesson on the environment (I will never look at bees the same way again) then you will love this novel. And I must say, while I was at times not very interested in the subject matter I was highly impressed with Paull’s novel as a whole. When I come across books like these that are so unique, beautifully written, engrossing and open my eyes to something I have never experienced before, I just stare at the back cover at the author picture in awe and think, “How the heck do they come up with a story like this?!”