Review–The Bees by Laline Paull

The Bees
by Laline Paull
Summary: 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.

Source: I purchased a Kindle copy on release day!

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The Bees was really good. Essentially, I figured it would be like Animal Farm or Watership Down: a lesson learned and story told using animals. Instead of pigs and bunnies, these characters are bees. And from the little I know about bees, I figured they would make a wonderful animal in a dystopian society since their societal structure is so rigid and harsh to humans.

The Bees worked for me. I liked exploring the various themes that can be taken from the story, but I also enjoyed Flora’s adventure. She rose from a custodian type of bee to some of the higher ranks among the hive and she was brave. I was utterly captivated by her story. The societal structure of the hive was incredibly intriguing. I loved how the author created such a believable story inside of a beehive.

The novel told a story about bees from a bee’s perspective, without turning the bees too much into people. Most of their actions were bee actions, though some scenes were personified to some degree. I liked getting a little bit of information about bees in general without being bogged down by facts. While I think Watership Down did a better job at keeping the animals completely how they’d be in the wild, The Bees did a very good job at staying true to beelike tendencies.

The Bees is definitely a great book club book because it demands discussion.

However, while I think bees make great symbols to compare to dystopian societies because of their societal structure, I think it hurt the overall theme to have a novel about bees. In the end, bees are the way they are and it works and keeps their structure intact. I’m conflicted because I wanted to root for Flora and scoff at the way of life, but I saw no reason why it wasn’t a utopia other than the lack of free will, which was only applied to Flora, the only bee who had the capacity to even BE different in the first place. In some ways, I feel like The Bees failed at really making a good point and won’t stand up next to Animal Farm or Watership Down with close inspection. Why is the society wrong? Shouldn’t there be more examples of unfairness to other bees besides Flora? I can’t tell if I’m just too picky and expect too much because dystopian novels are my favorites. It does make me wonder about the quality of modern dystopian novels and the lack of true effort and plausibility they have. I’m supposed to accept that society is this way and I am rarely given enough reason to believe it would be like that. The Bees, in some ways, ends up being another dystopian novel that doesn’t really make any sense in the end.

Overall, I enjoyed The Bees. It made me think, was enjoyable to read, and I felt eager to discuss and reflect.

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