Published by Ecco on May 6, 2014
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
Bee society is pretty amazing. With their tiny brains, they manage to form a complex society, with a strict hierarchy and rules and functions. Every bee knows its role. In The Bees, we go one giant leap beyond the real life of these insects to one in which bees talk and socialize with an intelligence comparable to humans.
The bee characters in The Bees are highly anthropomorphized, which I expected. Their society looks and sounds like medieval England, which I did not expect. Since bees have such a highly structured and regimented society, and with the presence of a “Queen Bee,” I can believe that this is what a beehive of talking, feeling, thinking bees would look like.
Flora 717 is a sanitation worker, responsible for the daily cleaning of the hive. Sanitation workers are the lowest of the low, barely worthy of being in the presence of the other bees, including foragers, nursery workers, priestesses, and male drones. Yes, I mentioned priestesses. The Bees is an interesting mix of actual hive life and the author’s clever imagination. Flora quickly distinguishes herself by speaking, a skill which no sanitation worker should possess. She should have been killed for her failure to toe the line, but instead, she is allowed to put her talents to use in other areas. Flora’s outlook on life changes when she is allowed to work in the nursery, and she must suppress her craving for motherhood, since only the Queen Bee is allowed to reproduce. Flora also works as a forager, and she relishes the freedom of life outside the hive. As she breaks free of the hive structure, she gains both allies and enemies.
Flora is initially tentative as she tests her boundaries, but as she becomes braver and bolder in her challenges, the danger to her increases. She’s a fascinating character and an admirable heroine. A nice counterpoint to Flora was the Queen Bee. Of course, I knew the book would feature a Queen Bee, but before I met her, I expected her to be an evil, wicked character. But to my pleasant surprise, she turned out to be exceedingly kind. This Queen rules with love, not fear.
The synopsis compares The Bees to The Hunger Games and The Handmaid’s Tale. I didn’t get any sense of The Hunger Games. The Handmaid’s Tale? Perhaps. I also classified this as dystopia, which probably isn’t even correct, but I was at a loss for what else to call it, since I’ve never read anything quite like this. I want someone else to experience this book, so I’m giving away an ARC to a U.S. resident. Enter below!