The Bees is set in a totalitarian hive, where we follow a sanitation bee, Flora 717, as she rises through the ranks. Flora 717 is the underdog of the novel, who, thanks to her witty speech (not normally found among sanitation workers,) is saved by a priestess and given a new role in the hive.
Although the novel is about a non-human society, there are still many aspects and themes that are commonly featured in dystopian novels; secret police, unbearable oppression and an individual who finally breaks free from the ranks and takes a stand, ignoring the consequences for the greater good of society.
I loved the powerful and detailed description of the hive; Paul’s intricate knowledge of bees really shone through. As well as being fiction, I think that The Bees could also lend itself to those wishing to know more about bees and their society, in the real world, even if not all the content is strictly true. I have a much clearer general view of their society now and that I will never look at the fuzzy bumblebee the same way again! Raw and shocking, we see that an all-female society is not founded on peace and that violence and fear is rife.
I was slightly confused about the bees’ awareness of the outside world. Some things were clear the bees, yet other things were shrouded in myths and were unclear. I thought that the my enjoyment of the book would have been enhanced if this was a little clearer. I thought that the bees’ interaction with ‘The Myraid’ was for me, symbolic of what wasps aim to do in real life. The wasps might not try to lead bees astray in real life, yet they’re not going to be friends.
I read The Bees as part of my reading challenge to read a book with non-human characters and I am glad I did, because I probably wouldn’t have read if not. It an was eye-opening account of the world of bees, and was written in sharp, detailed prose. Definitely worth a read!