The Bees

The Bees

4.1 39
by Laline Paull
     
 

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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

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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.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Emma Straub
Laline Paull's ambitious and bold first novel…is told with…rapturously attentive imagination…the tale zooms along with…propulsive and addictive prose…Forward-thinking teachers of high school environmental science and biology will add The Bees to their syllabuses in a flash. Not only is this novel a gripping story of a single bee's life, it is also an impossibly well-observed guide to the important role bees play in our human lives. When I finished the book, I stepped outside my door and into a spring day, full of buzzing and pollen, and I wanted to thank each and every bee for its service. Few novels create such a singular reading experience. The buzz you will hear surrounding this book and its astonishing author is utterly deserved.
Publishers Weekly
02/24/2014
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)
Margaret Atwood
“[A] gripping Cinderella/Arthurian tale with lush Keatsian adjectives.”
Emma Donoghue
“THE BEES is one wild ride. A sensual, visceral mini-epic about timeless rituals and modern environmental disaster. Paull’s heart pounding novel wrenches us into a new world.”
—Tracy Chevaliera uthor of the New York Times bestselling author of Girl With a Pearl Earring
“This is a rich, strange book...convincing in its portrayal of the mind-set of a bee and a hive. I finished it feeling I knew...how bees think and live. This is what sets us humans apart—our imagination can...create a complete, believable world so different from our own.”
Kirkus Reviews
2014-04-10
An imaginative—though not wholly successful—debut in which a beehive is a dystopian society where obedience is essential.Flora 717 is a sanitation worker, the lowest order of bee, mute and hulking and ugly. When she cracks out of her gestation cell, she's destined to perform only one role in the hive. But high priestess Sister Sage senses something different about Flora: She can speak and reason, and Sister Sage sees a use for her mutation, reminding others that "Variation is not the same as Deformity." Flora is brought to the nursery to tend the larvae; in another variation from the norm, royal jelly pours from her mouth to feed the babies. Soon she's promoted to Category Two, a nursery for the older grubs, where she again displays a facility beyond her lowly rank. Paull uses Flora's unique abilities to give the reader a working knowledge of the life of a beehive, often to the detriment of character development and drama. Because she has access to the Hive Mind, she's granted access to the Queen and then serves her and reads the hive's history in the sacred chamber. Drones pop up now and then, lazy dandies that the hive sisters service. And spiders make an ominous appearance, trading prophesies of the weather for the sacrifice of aging bees. All would be well with Flora's progression through the ranks except that she has a dangerous secret: She has produced a baby. Though against all the rules—only the Queen can reproduce—her offspring has radical implications for the future of the hive. It's clear that Paull is using the hive as an analogy for a class-bound society, where variation is punished, but this kind of dystopian vision can only thrive when the associations to contemporary circumstances are unambiguous. Much is muddled here, primarily the reader's connection to the heroine, who rarely transcends being a bee.Paull deserves kudos for a daring idea, but the resulting work is burdened by a heavy dose of explication.
—Huffington Post
“Fascinating… engrossing… Paull’s clear fascination with her source material brings humanity and warmth to a depiction of the remarkable social world of bees, which is no small achievement.”
—Madeline Miller
“The Bees is an extraordinary feat of imagination, conjuring the life of a beehive in gripping, passionate and brilliant detail. With every page I turned, I found myself drawn deeper into Flora’s plight and her immersive, mesmerizing world.”
—Tracy Chevalier
“This is a rich, strange book...convincing in its portrayal of the mind-set of a bee and a hive. I finished it feeling I knew...how bees think and live. This is what sets us humans apart—our imagination can...create a complete, believable world so different from our own.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“Told with rapturously attentive imagination...Few novels create such a singular reading experience.”
—NPR
“Riveting… evocative and beautiful.”
—Los Angeles Times
“Richly imagined”
—Margaret Atwood
“[A] gripping Cinderella/Arthurian tale with lush Keatsian adjectives.”
—Emma Donoghue
“THE BEES is one wild ride. A sensual, visceral mini-epic about timeless rituals and modern environmental disaster. Paull’s heart pounding novel wrenches us into a new world.”
Washington Post
“It quickly became clear that in its basic facts, the novel sticks closely to real-world apian biology and behavior. That is fascinating enough, but Paull deftly wields this information to create an even more elaborately layered culture of beeness…Beautiful.”
Austin Chronicle
“Brilliantly imagined…Paull’s use of human language to describe this tiny, intricate world is classic storytelling at its finest…The Bees boasts a refreshingly feminist spin on fairy tale-style plots….A wildly creative book that resonates deeply for quite a long time.
Florida Times-Union
“A marvelous work of fiction… The parallels to “1984” and Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” are numerous but this story is also its own.”

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062331151
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
05/06/2014
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
1,149,995
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)

Meet the Author

Laline Paull studied English at Oxford, screenwriting in Los Angeles, and theater in London. She lives in England with her husband, photographer Adrian Peacock, and their three children.

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