Review: The Bees by Laline Paull

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Source: Borrowed 
Publisher: Ecco
Edition:
 eBook, 288 Pages
Genre:
 Dystopian
Purchase: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Book Depository*
*I receive a small monetary kickback from Amazon purchases
Rating: 4/5

This brilliantly imagined debut tells the story of Flora 717, a devout young worker bee who finds herself in possession of a deadly secret

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 assets. She is allowed to feed the newborns in the royal nursery and then to become a forager, flying alone and free to collect nectar and pollen. A feat of bravery grants her access to 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 preeminence—enemies abound, from the fearsome fertility police who enforce the hive’s strict social hierarchy to the high priestesses jealously wedded to power. Her deepest instincts to serve and sacrifice are now overshadowed by a greater power: a fierce maternal love that will bring her into conflict with her conscience, her heart, and her society—and lead her to perform unthinkable deeds.

Thrilling, suspenseful, and spectacularly imaginative, The Bees and its dazzling young heroine will forever change the way you look at the world outside your window.

The Bees takes a concept we are all very familiar with and brings it to an unexpected place. This isn’t just a dystopian world, it’s a beehive and our main character is a worker who finds her way into every element of the hive’s day to day. In something reminiscent to Animal Farm, we get anecdotal look at religion with a little of the “save the bees” tossed in.

It’s no secret that the dystopian market is somewhat saturated, over saturated in some tropes, so it’s always nice to find that one book that stands out. The Bees stands out without really having to try…I mean it is about bees. We get to see the inner workings of a hive (totally fictional in most aspects) and see some interesting parallels drawn to real world class systems, religious zealotry, and being different. It’s also rare that a summary actually knows what it’s talking about, it actually is fairly suspenseful and incredibly imaginative. Suddenly the world of insects seems a bit more alive, and less…annoying. I loved that it made use of the act that our bee populations are taking a hit from both mysterious illnesses and pesticides, and showed the turmoil that the sickness causes within the hive.

Flora 717 is a worker bee, who is born different. She’s larger, bulkier, and has the ability to speak…something somewhat unheard of for a bee of such low standing. Right away she begins her life as an exception to the rule and soon finds herself not only on sanitation duty but attending to larva, pacifying the drones, and talking wing outside the hive. She’s brave, somewhat bold, and eager to learn far more than she’s supposed to. I wouldn’t necessarily call her a character I could relate to…she is a bee after-all, but I definitely liked her. She has a thirst for knowledge that isn’t welcome in the hive, but she desperately wants the hive to survive and be successful. She’s not out to upset the status quo, it just sort of starting getting all messed up on its own. I also really liked the way each class of worker was different and held a common name. There are Flora, Sage, Thistle, and other various flowers…all of which denote their place in their society. They don’t have names but instead have numbers, and personalities are only for the drones…who if we’re being honest are basically driven by the need to find a mate.

I did have two issues. One, the word choices. I don’t see the word ‘engine’ and thing of any living thing, let alone a bee. The other has to do with how much of a departure from reality there was. I of course expected it to be different reality seeing as we have bees living in a dystopian world with staircases and such…but I did expect to have some real inner workings happening. Flora is technically the only bee in the hive doing what real bees do…working all portions. But even with these two, rather small caveats, it was still a great read!

4 stars

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One Response to Review: The Bees by Laline Paull

  1. This sounds uniquely interesting. I will have to check it out. 🙂

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