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The Bees
by Laline Paull


Overview -

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.  Read more...


 
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More About The Bees by Laline Paull
 
 
 
Overview

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.


 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780062331151
  • ISBN-10: 0062331159
  • Publisher: Ecco Pr
  • Publish Date: May 2014
  • Page Count: 338
  • Dimensions: 1 x 6.25 x 8.75 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Fiction > Literary

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2014-02-24
  • Reviewer: Staff

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. (May)

 
BookPage Reviews

Opening all five eyes to the truth

A beehive is a place of order, control, maybe even oppression. In Laline Paull’s debut novel, The Bees, Flora 717 is a sterile worker bee from the lowest caste of an orchard hive. Like her sisters, she is bound by the motto to accept, obey and serve. But during a period of famine and environmental crisis, Flora is asked to take on new tasks: first, feeding the newborns in the hive’s nursery and then becoming a forager, flying freely in search of pollen and nectar. Her size and strength make her a formidable worker, and she proves to be a quick learner. But each change in role brings Flora access to new wisdom about the hive—and eventually puts her in conflict with the Queen, as well as the fertility police and the priestesses, an elite group of bees closest to the queen who keep the hive in order. Soon, Flora must decide where her loyalties lie and whether blind obedience to the rules is really in the best interest of her community.

Dystopian fiction only works when there is a character who is able to see the cracks in the system, and Flora is the perfect heroine: resourceful, brave and able to take the kinds of chances that her sisters cannot, a reminder that even nature is ever-changing. Paull has created a credible version of the complex world of the bee: the stunningly complicated hive—part palace, part convent—the countryside, filled with flowers aching to be pollinated, and the Myriad, or foes of the bee, including crows, spiders, wasps and, of course, people. Most impressive of all, even the most extreme actions and concepts in the novel—the expulsion of the drones, the fertility police, the hive mind—are true to known bee behavior, with some poetic license, of course. 

Readers may recognize elements drawn from the work of Atwood, Orwell and even The Hunger Games, but The Bees is very much its own creation: a dystopian thriller, a love story and a plea for the plight of the honeybees. The Bees is a tremendous work of literature, told with suspense and passion. You will never look at the activity in your flower garden the same way again.

 

This article was originally published in the May 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read a Q&A with Laline Paull about The Bees.

 
BAM Customer Reviews