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The Bees by Laline Paull
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The Bees (original 2014; edition 2014)

by Laline Paull

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1,38611710,107 (3.75)179
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 assets. She is allowed to feed the newborns in the royal nursery and then to become a forager, flying alone and free to collect nectar and pollen. A feat of bravery grants her access to 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 preeminence'enemies abound, from the fearsome fertility police who enforce the hive's strict social hierarchy to the high priestesses jealously wedded to power. Her deepest instincts to serve and sacrifice are now overshadowed by a greater power: a fierce maternal love that will bring her into conflict with her conscience, her heart, and her society'and lead her to perform unthinkable deeds. Thrilling, suspenseful, and spectacularly imaginative, The Bees and its dazzling young heroine will forever change the way you look at the world outside your window.… (more)
Member:CozyRaptor
Title:The Bees
Authors:Laline Paull
Info:Fourth Estate, Kindle Edition, 353 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
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Work details

The Bees by Laline Paull (2014)

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» See also 179 mentions

English (115)  Italian (1)  All languages (116)
Showing 1-5 of 115 (next | show all)
Bees are pretty awesome, people. This book does a great job at conveying the intricate structure of bee life. While the dangerous scenes were every bit as fearsome as you could hope for (and yes, as always, wasps are assholes), there was still an emotional connection I found difficult to quite make. Also, the whole motherhood thing just didn't do it for me, but overall, this novel gave quite an interesting personification of bees. I'd recommend Clan Apis if you're on a roll. ( )
  LibroLindsay | Jun 18, 2021 |
This book was lent to me by a friend who compared it to Watership Down. Not my kind of thing really, and maybe anyone who likes Watership Down would like this too. It contains a lot of bee lore but doesn't quite follow it through. Because some of the detail is accurate, the bits that are are not accurate stand out and are annoying. ( )
  Ma_Washigeri | Jan 23, 2021 |
From the moment she emerges out of her cell Flora 717 is not like the other bees. She has been born a sanitation bee, meant to clean and to take orders from all other orders of bees. But unlike her sisters she can talk. And soon she learns that she can be more. She can nurse and forage. She can become more than what she was born into.

But the bees of her hive live according to order and caste. The Sage sisters, the priestesses of the hive seem to have plans of their own, and in this time of shortage and uncertainty are they damaging the good of the hive? Or is the actions of Flora 717 that are so terrible?

I’m sure the very premise of this book is off-putting to some. How could someone write an entire book about the fictionalised life of a bee? And een if they did, why would anyone read it?

Well, that second one is an easy one to answer, because it isn’t every day that a novel has a bee as its hero. The unusual often grabs people’s attention. Yes, some may be put off by it, but I’m sure that most of those who read the book will enjoy it. I know I did.

The first thing you learn when reading The Bees is that Flora is a bee. She isn’t a human dressed up as a bee. She behaves according to instinct and chemical prompting. Her reactions and actions are not what a person might or might not do, although of course they are actions created by a human mind. Still, in many ways her world is utterly alien to the human world.

Which makes the book all the more entertaining if you ask me.

There is a rigid caste system1 which means that you can read this book as a commentary on human society and tyrannical power systems. There are hints of racism and prejudice everywhere. Every insect but bees are unclean and looked down on by the bees. And the different castes within the hive look down and compete with one another for power, if high ranking enough.

There is intrigue and action. Some of it very bloody and graphic, but that is nature in operation.

I originally decided to read this book because the author, Paull, is the British daughter of first-generation Indian immigrants and so it fitted into my Diverse Universe reading. Unfortunately I didn’t get it finished in time but I’m still really glad to have read it. It is a book that delights in being different from the usual human-centered stories. And it also highlights some of the plights of the honeybee today; pesticides, single crop farming, lack of native plants etc. ( )
  Fence | Jan 5, 2021 |
Bizarre, but quite good. I disagree with the Goodreads synopsis comparing it to The Hunger Games and The Handmaid's Tale. It's more like a cross between Watership Down and 1984. Since these are two of my favorite books, this was right up my alley. I was a little thrown by how anthropomorphized the bees were and some passages were confusing (were some wearing veils or was that just a scent that worked like a veil?). However, the writing is lush and intimate and sensuous. Flora 717 is a fascinating character, particularly because she is sometimes rebellious and other times linked to the Hive Mind. Overall, this was an odd book but interesting enough I could't put it down. ( )
  JustZelma | Dec 20, 2020 |
What a pretty book.

Its hard to discuss this book without referencing other books. I don't know if that should be a strike for it or against it. The bees were bee-like, yet human-like, yet something else entirely. Watership Down seems an inappropriate comparison to make - the bees in the novel resemble actual bees less than the rabbits in Watership Down. It was closer to the flavor and human-like interactions of Tooth and Claw.There's excessive poetic license here. For every fact of bee life that is accurate (e.g., overheating wasps to death, dancing flower coordinates) there is misinformation (e.g., cell phones kill bees) or outright made up stuff.

Personally, I'm fine with this. The flavor of the story is fantastical and dream-like; I don't expect it to be a documentary.

The prose is very purple in this book, and sometimes bizarre. It reminded me of Swanwick's dragon books, The Iron Dragon's Daughter and Dragons of Babel. It discusses Catholic bee prayer, then bee telepathy, then scent-memories, and then unlocking the wings and starting the wing engines. And yet, it feels coherent. Its evocative. Its fast-paced. Part of the fun was puzzling out what Flora was experiencing.

It is a shade predictable, and I wish the bees were perhaps a bit more concretely constructed - descriptions of their anatomy were sometimes conflicting, making it difficult to imagine them. Sometimes they looked like actual bees, sometimes it felt closer to the design from, say, Antz. ( )
  kaitlynn_g | Dec 13, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 115 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Paull, Lalineprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cassidy, OrlaghNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
The bee's life is like a magic well: the more you draw from it, the more it fills with water. — Karl von Frisch
Dedication
For Adrian
First words
The old orchard stood besieged.
Quotations
Accept. Obey. Serve.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
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Original language
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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 assets. She is allowed to feed the newborns in the royal nursery and then to become a forager, flying alone and free to collect nectar and pollen. A feat of bravery grants her access to 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 preeminence'enemies abound, from the fearsome fertility police who enforce the hive's strict social hierarchy to the high priestesses jealously wedded to power. Her deepest instincts to serve and sacrifice are now overshadowed by a greater power: a fierce maternal love that will bring her into conflict with her conscience, her heart, and her society'and lead her to perform unthinkable deeds. Thrilling, suspenseful, and spectacularly imaginative, The Bees and its dazzling young heroine will forever change the way you look at the world outside your window.

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Book description
Born into the lowest class of her society, Flora 717 is a sanitation bee, only fit to clean her orchard hive. Living to accept, obey, and serve, she is prepared to sacrifice everything for her beloved holy mother, the Queen. But Flora is not like other bees. Despite her ugliness she has talents that are not typical of her kin. While mutant bees are usually instantly destroyed, Flora is removed from sanitation duty and is allowed to feed the newborns, before becoming a forager, collecting pollen on the wing. She also finds her way into the Queen's inner sanctum, where she discovers secrets both sublime and ominous. But enemies are everywhere, from the fearsome fertility police to the high priestesses who jealously guard the Hive Mind. And when Flora breaks the most sacred law of all her instinct to serve is overshadowed by an even deeper desire, a fierce love that will lead to the unthinkable.
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