The Bees: A Novel - Laline Paull

Accept, obey, and serve. This is the mantra of the hive, the law for life within. Following this simple rule, everything is done for the benefit of the hive, its sisters, and most importantly, its Queen. Each echelon of the hive hierarchy strives to do her part to be industrious and to promote harmony. Flora 717 belongs to the lowest and most humble kin of her hive and would normally spend her days as a sanitation worker, cleaning up after the other bees. However, Flora is anything but ordinary. She seems to change the hive motto to Except, obey and serve. Through a series of events she discovers her aptitude for various other hive jobs, from nursery worker to forager, and as she grows in knowledge, she realizes startling truths about her life and about the future of the hive. Her discoveries lead her to break the cardinal rule, and the most pressing question is what she should do and whether her actions are feats of loyalty or of treachery to herself and to the Queen.

Laline Paull creates a fabulously imaginative and provocative debut novel that resonates with both beauty and horror. Readers see the world and experience life within the hive through the eyes of a worker bee who proves to be extraordinary. Her exceptional rendering of what life as a bee entails causes one to view honeybees in a different light. Borrowing some concepts from Catholicism, she likens the hive experience to a honeybee religion that honors the Queen Mother. The Bees is a thrilling journey through the cycles of a beehive, and through Flora 717 readers experience how one bee’s remarkable life influences and affects those around her. Despite the recognition of individual bees only as members of their kin so that each kin member has the same name, Paull manages to develop several memorable leading characters. Also, while sex is a topic that is discussed in the novel, it is done so for the most part in a thoughtful and non-explicit manner. This story captures the imagination and will have readers holding their breath until the final page.