The Handmaid’s Tale meets The Hunger Games in this brilliantly imagined debut set in an ancient culture where only the queen may breed and deformity means death.
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.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
We’ve never read another novel quite like The Bees, an amazing fantasy set in a beehive. Laline Paull’s gorgeously imagined story follows determined worker bee Flora 717, who inhabits an oddly familiar world where class means power, competitive males vie for attention, and Flora’s personal desires clash with those of society. The novel’s setting is painted in sparkling detail—from the overpowering scents that permeate every walkway to minute vibrations in the hive floor that deliver important information. With tears in our eyes, we cheered on Flora as she challenges the laws of nature.
Dystopia meets the Discovery Channel in this audacious debut novel. Flora 717, a bee born to the lowest social strata at the orchard hive, is different than her kin. Her uncommon earnestness and skill lead her to various jobs from child rearing to food gathering and earn her the respect and admiration of her peers. But Flora's advances also expose her to the hive's questionable social order and attract negative attention from the elite group of bees closest to the queen. Like Animal Farm for the Hunger Games generation, Paull's book features characters who are both anthropomorphized and not insects scientifically programmed to "Accept, Obey and Serve," but who also find themselves capable of questioning that programming. The result is at times comic picture bees having an argument but made less so by the all-too-real violent stakes involved in maintaining beehive status quo (sacrifices, massacres, the tearing of bee heads from bee bodies). Dystopian fiction so often highlights the human capacity for authoritarianism, but Paull investigates bees' reliance on it: what is a hivemind, after all, if not evolutionarily beneficial thought control? And while Flora 717 may not be the next Katniss Everdeen, she symbolizes the power that knowledge has to engender change, even in nature.
Customer ReviewsSee All
A Fast, Fantastic Read
High time someone gave a eusocial insect the “Watership Down” treatment. Older Brian Jacques fans (among which I count myself) will also be enthralled, I am sure. I noticed E.O. Wilson in the acknowledgements - a similar treatment of an ant colony would be stunning!
Walked away wanting to learn more – true habits taken way were simply fascinating.
'The Bees' was an excellent read that helped me pass the time on a round way car trip between Memphis, TN, and Atlanta, GA. As others have noted, this story really encouraged my interest in the lives and manners of the honeybee – probably like others, I've been mildly interested as a news reader since colony collapse disorder started becoming more prominent in the states a few years back.
While Paull's story takes some obvious liberties with honeybee nature, many imaginative parts blended subtly in with true habits, making them seem almost – just within reach if we were a honeybee, too – plausible. Regardless, the true habits were equally if not more fascinating than those imagined, and I really walked away feeling as though I had learned something about the world around me.
Avid beekeepers – or those in the know – may quickly find this story ridiculous or simply silly; however, I encourage readers to keep in mind that this is a work of fiction – not a documentary. Paull attempts to blend the world between honeybees and human beings, inaccuracies will abound in that feat. Still, this is a great read for those with any level of interest in honeybees or an underdog's story of struggle and triumph. You will not walk away understanding everything about a hive, and a beekeeper wouldn't want you to anyways (they worked too hard for that knowledge).
You will most likely walk away wanting to learn more though, which is a win for all bee lovers, no matter where they stand with this story. If you're currently reading – or did read this book – and found Netflix's documentary section sadly lacking a selection exploring the honeybee, you may appreciate PBS's 'Tales from the Hive'.