The Bees by Laline Paul is like NOTHING I’ve read before. Those in the know liken it to The Hunger Games meets The Handmaid’s Tale, which is only partially true. I will certainly agree that this tale reminds me of The Handmaid’s Tale, a tale of sameness and Hive mentality, and of knowing your place and living with it. But I beg to differ with the comparison to Hunger Games. To be sure, there is fighting, power struggles, and death, but not in the way that Hunger Games operates. The hive is not a game; it is a social structure with order. There is no pretense of entertainment. People (bees) are not sacrificed willy nilly.
Here is a synopsis of the book:
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.
That said, the way I felt reading The Bees was the same way I felt reading The Handmaid’s Tale. Lost, confused, hopeful, and angry. Was life inside a beehive really like this? Was their devotion to the Queen Mother that powerful? Is there a deeper message I am supposed to learn?
Yes. There is.
Accept. Obey. Serve.
Get yourself to the nearest bookstore and get inside The Hive. This is a smart book. Suitable for YA with only a few sexual references, in relation to male drone anatomy, which are mild compared to some other titles that are popular. This book surely will become required reading much like Handmaid’s Tale or The Son. There is lots of room for discussion about society and what, if anything humans can learn from bees.
This book is amazing. How the author came up with this idea escapes me. She must either be brilliant or very strange. Either way, I like her.