Ahoy there me mateys! This be the fourteenth book in me Ports for Plunder – 19 Books in 2019 list. This book was described as “The Handmaid’s Tale meets The Hunger Games in this brilliantly imagined debut” but takes place in a bee hive. Weird no?
So the story follows bee Flora 717 who is a mutant and the member of the lowest caste. She should have been destroyed but Flora 717 has unusual talents that keep her alive. All she wants to do is support her Queen and hive – “Accept. Obey. Serve.” Flora 717 is given lots of different jobs in the hive. Her unique position leads her to realize that something is wrong in the hive. Should she investigate? Or she keep her head down and go with the flow? Cause Flora 717 has secrets of her own.
This book was super odd but I rather liked it. That said, I didn’t really get a handmaid’s tale vibes from this even though it be a dystopian. And no hunger games vibes at all. It really is it’s own strange little story. I enjoyed the hive’s religion and social structures.
I did very much like Flora 717 and following her struggles as she both wants to do what’s expected and also use her skills to support the Queen. Her journey leads to questions about the ideals of conformity, an authoritarian state, class systems, and individual rights. There is literally a hive mind that controls the overall welfare of the bees.
Even with this commentary on society, the story really doesn’t get too bogged down by it. It really seems more of a personal journey of Flora 717 and her desire to find her place within the hive and feel useful and loved. I did really love the ending especially in that regard.
Even though that hive has problems, the book seems to suggest that it is not the system or culture that is broken but the bees (people) in charge. I really don’t think this book is good for every reader but it worked for me. I do think I will read this author’s second book, the ice. Arrr!
Side note: Apparently the author is working on a theatrical adaptation of the bees. I would LOVE to see the choices made in all of the production departments, especially costumes and directing!
Goodreads had this to say about the novel:
Born into the lowest class of her society, Flora 717 is a sanitation bee, only fit to clean her orchard hive. Living to accept, obey and serve, she is prepared to sacrifice everything for her beloved holy mother, the Queen. Yet Flora has talents that are not typical of her kin. And while mutant bees are usually instantly destroyed, Flora is reassigned to feed the newborns, before becoming a forager, collecting pollen on the wing. Then she finds her way into the Queen’s inner sanctum, where she discovers secrets both sublime and ominous. Enemies roam everywhere, from the fearsome fertility police to the high priestesses who jealously guard the Hive Mind. But Flora cannot help but break the most sacred law of all, and her instinct to serve is overshadowed by a desire, as overwhelming as it is forbidden…
Laline Paull’s chilling yet ultimately triumphant novel creates a luminous world both alien and uncannily familiar. Thrilling and imaginative, The Bees is the story of a heroine who changes her destiny and her world.
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