Author: Laline Paull
Touted as part Hunger Games part 1984, The Bees proves more than that. Paull successfully engulfs us in the life on one unusual worker Bee, Flora 717, on the lowest caste of the bee hierarchy. Intertwined in Flora’s story, Paull introduces the parallels of our society and Flora’s: a caste system that cannot be overcome, a system sterile in its rigid structures and rituals, an environment that delivers death with no feeling. As she swings into the three dimensional, Paull enthralls us with a story about life and death and the survival of adaptation. Darwinian, “a gripping Cinderella/Arthurian tale with lush Keatsian adjectives” (Margaret Atwood), The Bees creates its own energy and sparkles with creativity and imagination weaved and threaded into a story as well as an analogy.
Shimmering originality, stunning prose, The Bees is one of those novels that has fiction award written all over it.
Flora 717 is a sterile worker bee whose task is to clean the hive. She is too large for a worker bee and ugly and she has several mutations that become apparent to the Sage priestesses, the heiresses to the throne and of royal blood. When one Sage priestess sees that she can feed the Queen’s royal babies in the nursery and has strength and courage, the priestess decides to test her talents. The hive is experiencing a time of trouble and famine, and because of her abilities Flora is spared. After saving the hive by single handedly attacking a wasp and saving the hive, Flora is made a Forager, the bees that bring nectar and pollen back to the hive to be made into honey and she is also given an entire day with the Queen. Flora learns the history of the bees from the magic panels in the Queen’s foyer, and when she goes to sleep with the beloved Queen, she senses that the Queen is sick. She returns to her duties and has an egg. It dies. Then she has another egg. It also dies. She watches as the Queen and the priestesses turn on the drones and kill all but one, Linden, who becomes her friend. Flora discovers the secrets of the priestesses that they find information from the spiders by providing the spiders with worker bees to kill and eat. And one spider tells Flora the final secret: Flora herself will bring death to the hive. And finally, Flora has her third child, a female.
“As she struggles to hide her crime, yet also serve her hive, both external pressures and internal social disorder fatally destabilize the hive. Flora’s decisions could save or doom the only world she has ever known.”
A brilliant tale of transcendence and rebirth, chaos and order, The Bees swallows us up in a complex and fascinating story and characters. Each time Flora reaches out and changes with courage and curiosity, her actions change the future of the hive. The ending is magnificent and heartwarming as well as existentially pleasing. Paull has written a thrilling novel filled with fact and fiction, and a novel that will certainly compel us to read it and love it.
Ratings are based on a 5-star scale
Review by Broad “A” – Ava
We received a copy of this title for our book review. All opinions are our own
The Bees: A Novel is available on Amazon.com and booksellers nationwide