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The Bees
     

The Bees

4.1 44
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

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.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
★ 04/15/2014
"Accept, Obey, and Serve." This is the first commandment within the hive. Flora 717 is a sanitation bee, the lowest of all the castes. Yet from the moment she emerges from her cell into a community where variance is destroyed, Flora shows herself different. As her uniqueness proves useful in a time when the hive is at risk, Flora finds herself feeding newborns in the royal nursery, then foraging alone beyond the hive to bring back pollen, and even meeting the Queen, who shows Flora the beauty and sadness that exists in the bees' past and present. Each new job brings Flora more joy, and more questions, for while she knows that obedience and sacrifice are instinctive within the hive mind, her individual traits bring her under the purview of the high priestesses and fertility police, who are striving to maintain the strict hierarchy of their society. When Flora breaks the ultimate law of the hive, challenging the Queen's role as mother to all, her desire to protect her egg will lead the hive toward a future none expected. VERDICT Paull's debut presents the intricate world of the honeybee hive, where devotion and service are sacred, and caste, politics, and power are as present as in any human royal court. A powerful story reminiscent of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, in which one original and independent thinker can change the course of a whole society. [See Prepub Alert, 11/22/13; an "Editors' Spring Pick," LJ 2/15/14.]—Kristi Chadwick, Massachusetts Lib. Syst., South Deerfield
—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.”
—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.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062331168
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
05/06/2014
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
12,113
File size:
654 KB

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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The Bees 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 44 reviews.
wackymomma More than 1 year ago
THE BEES by Laline Paull is undoubtedly the most unusual book I have read in at least a decade (or more). The story does for bees and religion, “group think” and society roles what Animal Farm did for barnyard animals and government. THE BEES has transformed this reader. I have a deeper curiosity and respect for an animal that I once looked at with nothing more than revulsion and fear. I’m not saying I’ll be going out and making friends with my neighborhood bees anytime soon, but at least now I can understand their position. But I digress… While I disagree with the comparisons to The Handmaid’s Tale and The Hunger Games that THE BEES has been receiving, I can see the reasoning behind these comparisons. Fans of The Hunger Games will recognize the oppression of “the people” and admire Flora 717′s determination. The overall “feel” of the novel (of a young bee’s “coming-of-age” and questioning the structure of her current society) will also be a major draw for YA readers. (With that in mind, this comparison may be a smart marketing decision, overall.) As for The Handmaid’s Tale, I suppose you could find some logic in this when you consider the hierarchical position of the bees in the hive and Flora 717′s struggles in the later half of the book. But when it comes to the overall tone, plus the direction of the story and the manner in which it is told, I cannot help but compare THE BEES to Animal Farm. This book is dark, y’all. This book has a statement to make. As I have already said, THE BEES does for religion what Animal Farm did for government. I see this book as high school or college reading material some day. Or at least, I hope it will be. This is a story whose topics will easily withstand the passage of time and are so important for future generations. For a story that takes place almost entirely within a few square feet of space, there is so much to be said about the inhabitants of that space. Their world is so grand, full of societal rules, an all-encompassing “purpose” and almost (who am I kidding, this is more than “almost”) fanatical religion. The creative lengths the author took in tying the bee’s world into our own are astounding. I wish I could point out every way that she makes her characters sympathetic while making them so very “other” and obviously bees, but that would be a novel unto itself… Flora 717 may be the smallest character I have ever read about, but she is also one of the most fully-realized characters I have ever met, too. From the moment she’s born she’s… different. For her kind, “different” means instant death, but by the grace of a higher level bee, she is saved. Little did she know that her life would play a major part in a ploy for power, that so many difficulties would befall her and that she alone could change the fate her world. She is born as one of the lowest of the low on the hierarchical totem pole, but by both shear luck and her own abilities, Flora 717 moves through various positions in her hive. As a result, the first half of the book is spent associating the reader to the hive and their way of life as Flora 717 is thrust from one role to another. Her position is obviously uncommon for bees, since they are born into and usually die performing the task they were born into. She obtains a wider view of her world and is what we humans would call “enlightened” by what she learns. I enjoyed the tour, and Flora 717 is a most enjoyable guide. The story is rife with matters of chance and fate, faith and predisposed role expectations — I especially appreciate the questions THE BEES asks with regard to morality, religion and leadership. Just because Flora 717 is born “different”, does this automatically make her a sympathetic character? Does the knowledge she gains make her decision “good” or “right” when she tries to override the mindset that has been ingrained in her people since before time itself? Will her every action be met with agreement by the reader? Although Flora 717 is the “hero” of the story, she does make mistakes, she commits crimes against society, she makes highly questionable decisions. Her mistakes, as well as the impact they have on the hive, only adds to the depth of her character, her world and the story. Never does Flora 717 think of herself as “better” than others, never do her intentions become overly-preachy to the reader… I really appreciated this, though, sadly, the fear that this could happen sat in the corner of my mind as I read, and as Flora became more determined in her “purpose”. Ultimately, I loved where both Flora 717 and her hive ended up at the conclusion of THE BEES. It was fitting… and that epilogue was superb! What a touchingly sly little twist! Pros: - Inventive, original, unique… All of these words – and more – will be thrown around when you see or hear people describing THE BEES. The book is 100% deserving of these descriptions. - There is plenty of action and suspense. Correction: There is plenty of terrifying action and suspense. Even with the highly descriptive manner in which the story is told, I doubt that readers will become bored… Cons: - … With that being said. Maybe some readers will grow bored learning more than they ever thought they would ever learn about bees. What do I know, right? - BEES. Come on, guys, we are talking about bees here… Let’s face it. THE BEES will either make you shudder to think of such a small space crawling with thousands of insects – or it will open your eyes to a world you have never known. I will say it again: I have always despised bees. I have always been that girl who will run away screaming if one comes within 20 feet of her person. But my eyes have been opened. Maybe it’s the idea of bees using “brooms and dustpans” to clean up messes (seriously cute visual!), maybe it’s the motherly way they look over their larva in the nursery, maybe it’s the endless thought of dripping honey… but I’m not so afraid anymore, but rather… intrigued. In contrast, I think I now despise and fear wasps 10 million times more than I had previously. Thank you, Laline, for that. THE BEES is destined to become one of my tops reads in 2014. Plot: 10 Characters: 9 Setting: 10 Pacing: 9 Style: 10 Grade: 98
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A different way of life -- but very human in many ways. Always interesting and fast-paced. Who knew that bee society is so complex? Are we humans as regimented but just don't realize it?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This one took me a while to get through. Although it looked promising, at times it just dragged on. I was considering stopping because I couldn't really get into the story, but I finished it for the sake of finishing what I started to see if it would get better. I will give this one credit however, because never before have I seen an author tell a story through the eyes of a bee. So it is unique in that sense. Would I recommend this? Yes and no. Would I read it again? Probably not.
orchidgarden More than 1 year ago
I loved this book & read it twice since it is so thought provoking. I will never look at bees the same way again. It prompted me into finding out more about bees & the health benefits of honey & Royal Jelly.
Anonymous 7 months ago
I was skeptical when I started this book, but I was so quickly enthralled by the story and the writing. Such an original idea and so well written!
EmmabBooks More than 1 year ago
Action packed life of bees A novel about life in a beehive, as seen through the eyes of a bee. This is a great story and a fascinating, and action packed, insight into the world of bees. Though having no more than a passing interest in bees, this novel caught my eye. The main "character" in the book is Flora 717, who is born as a lowly sanitation worker bee. Through Flora 717 the reader is taken into every aspect of bee life, including the hierarchy, the absolute adherence to the rules of the hive and of course the role of the Queen. Threats to the hive and its occupants are graphically drawn, including human threats, as is the joy of finding pollen and nectar full flowers, and what happens when the bees take it back to the hive. It took me ages to finish this book, as I kept stopping to check out the action (of which there is a great deal) on the internet. Everything I checked was based on fact! Obviously the author has used her imagination to depict Flora 717's thoughts and life, but by her clever interweaving of facts about bees and her storytelling this book is both gripping and informative. Wow, I recommend this book to everyone who has ever watched a bee gather pollen, and wants to learn, via a novel rather than a non-fiction source, more about what happens next.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The very unusual setting makes this book very original. Yet not everything is foreign as the author artfully writes about a main character who changes as she learns more about herself and her world . I definitely recommend giving this book a read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well, thank you people for rewriting the entire book! Wow..now I won't buy it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Flora 717, a low-echelon worker bee, rises to serve and then to save her hive from illness, invasion and intrigue. This is a satisfying story about a most unusual heroine who will quickly make herself welcome in the reader's imagination!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderfully unique and inventive. A look into hive society told from the perspective of a bee, this translates across society. So rare to read a completely new novel.
bbb57 More than 1 year ago
To say this book is different from ANYTHING I have ever read would be an understatement. It is original, fresh, fast paced, exciting, and a whole host of other positive adjectives. I loved it. I hope there is another in the series, I would purchase it on the spot!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
By personifying a colony of honeybees and telling the tale from one worker bee's point of view, the author manages to educate us and give us a fascinating glimpse into all things bees. After reading this, I look at our landscape in a completely new light, and it's not necessarily good.
bhoregonbarb More than 1 year ago
I had a good time reading this book. The heroine showed her courage and strength from her'birth' through every page. I could forget whether I was in a hive or a city with ease. The author's use of language eased me through a delightful read. I would love to give you the detailed check list but I don't see it so suffice it to say I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I will never, ever look at a bee the same way again!
AudiobookReviewer More than 1 year ago
The Bees by Laline Paull is a superbly imaginative story of one particular bee, Flora 717, and the world encompassed in and about one particular orchard bee hive. Setting this story in the simple, yet complex world of bees, Ms Paull creates a very understandable, recognizable portrait of life in a hive, of a thousand bees working in harmony for the benefit of the Queen Bee, of an inhospitable outer world casting dangers to the hive, including smoke from fire, threats from wasps, spiders and crows, and the impact of seasons on nectar gathering. Likened to The Hunger Games, The Handmaid’s Tale, Watership Down, Animal Farm, 1984, The Rats of NIMH and more, this book encompasses so many genres! While many reviewers are quick to draw similarities to these books and just as many other reviews are quick to discount the said similarities, I’d suggest you wait to make draw your own conclusions. For myself, there is no need to compare this book to another because without reference to another book, this story stands strong on its own merits. This creative Regency thought- and speech-tinged, sci-fi, fantasy, dystopian novel begins as Flora 717 emerges from her birth chamber. Born of the Flora caste, the sanitation caste, Flora 717 is larger than those typical in her caste and has the capacity for speech, not typical of her caste, her kin. These “deformities” require the police to administer the “kindness” (removal by death) to Flora 717. It is Flora 717’s good fortune that she is save by the curiosity-driven help and encouragement of Sister Sage, of the priestess caste. And, so begins a life in which Flora 717 will demonstrate her courage and resolve to save her hive time and again. It is her determination to do right by the hive, her curiosity and her ability to think that leads Flora 717 into situations requiring “the kindness” to be imposed on her time and again, but good fortune or good luck allows her yet another day, another day to live and another day to reach outside of her caste. The Bees is a fantastic blend of nature and fantasy. I found myself thoroughly enamored with the anthropomorphism coupled with the natural science of a bee’s hive; the intelligence and sophisticated organization that is a true wonder of the natural world. It is this anthropomorphism that will draw fans of Richard Adam’s Watership Down and of Robert O’Brien’s Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. The Hive Mind and the All For One (in this case, the “One” being the Queen Bee) and One For All unity of the hive is what may draw fans of dystopian novels in which the underdog (of a society run entirely by women, no less) rises above the “government” to become more than she should have. The dialogue shouts Regency-era, and yet hive mantra regurgitation shouts Animal Farm. The “Deformity Means Death” mindset touts the idealistic benefits of eugenics; all the while the caste system emphasizes the performance perfections of design for function and function for design. As the characters are bees, not “young adults”, this may not be technically be classified as a YA books, but there is nothing in the plot that should concern parents if their teen children express an interest in reading this novel. There is so much in these 330-plus pages to appeal to many readers, including book clubbers who love to dissect a book, to “take sides” and “argue”. As my review is in response to listening to the audio book version of the story, I cannot comment on the text version and its state of edit. The audio book is a 10 1/4 hour listen, narrated by Orlagh Cassidy with a very clean, clear production quality. This was my first listen by Ms Cassidy, even as she has many narration performances to her credit from many different genres, and including a dozen performances of David Baldacci novels. Ms Cassidy did an outstanding job with this performance — making her voice distinctive with each caste of characters, including the humorously slothful drones, the meek sanitation workers, the proud, arrogant Sage Caste, the dutiful nursery caste and more. Audiobook purchased for review by ABR. Please find this complete review and many others at audiobookreviewer dot com [If this review helped, please press YES. Thanks!]
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I love it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Stardust_Fiddle More than 1 year ago
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.
Twink More than 1 year ago
Well, there's been lots of buzz surrounding Laline Paull's debut novel, The Bees. (sorry, couldn't resist!) And that buzz is well-deserved! Flora 717 is born a sanitation worker in her hive - the lowest of the low. But Flora 717 is an anomaly - she can speak. One of the Sage Priestesses take notice of her and Flora is moved to the nursery to feed the young. Then against all odds, she becomes a forager, flying outside of the hive to find pollen and nectar to feed her hive. She is brave and kind and tries to serve her queen and live by the hive's dictum -'Accept, Obey and Serve'. But Flora 717 has another ability, one that goes against everything she has been taught from the moment she was born. And it is this instinct that now changes not just Flora's life, but that of the Queen and her hive. Now, you might be saying to yourself - really? Bees? Trust me - you'll quickly become immersed in the life of the hive and truly invested in the character of Flora 717. And as you read or listen, you get caught up in her hopes and aspirations, in the struggles of her and her kin and in the day to day life of the community and the hive's struggle to survive. For there are predators. Humans make a brief appearance in the first and last chapters, reminding us of the fragility of nature and the harm our chemicals wreak. The details of the hive and of the lives of bees were both informative and fascinating. Did you know that "It takes twelve bees their entire lives to gather enough nectar to make one teaspoon of honey?" The architectural structure of the hive was quite detailed and vividly drawn. From the author: "I realized that the most astonishing creatures and events are happening everywhere - it’s just a question of scale whether we notice them or not." Paull's novel has definitely made me stop and take notice when I see bees busily buzzing in my flowerbeds, then flying away. Makes you wonder.... I chose to listen to The Bees. Orlagh Cassidy was the reader. She is a favourite narrator of mine, but I am very used to listening to her reading thriller and action books. I wondered how she would handle a distinctly different piece of work. The answer is - excellently. Cassidy's voice is unique, with lots of hidden gravel and nuance. She chose a voice for Flora that I both enjoyed and suited the mental image I had created of Flora. Cassidy interpreted the book very well, using tone, speed and inference to bring Paull's prose to life. There are some books I just know I have enjoyed more by listening, rather than reading them. The Bees is one of those. The Bees has been aptly described as a combination Watership Down meets The Handmaid's Tale.