This novel is dripping with sumptuous description, buzzing with believable characters, tense, thoughtful, wonderful, and all set inside a beehive. The protagonist is a bee, which may make you raise a quizzical eyebrow, but trust me. It works.
Flora 717, born a sanitation worker, is the lowest member of a strict totalitarian hierarchy that doesn’t allow for social mobility and uses the ever-present, haunting mantra, “Accept, Obey and Serve”. These bees are governed by the Sage Priestesses – essentially the “government” – but they all worship their Queen, who has become a kind of mystical deity. The society is so exquisitely formed that somehow you forget that all the characters are “just” bees, and instead become sucked into an almost dystopian civilisation.
Flora shouldn’t be noticed, yet somehow she proves herself to be an excellent Forager (a bee who goes out of the hive to search for nectar), and manages to rise up the ranks of society. She questions the authority of the formidable Sage Priestesses and the brutality of the law-enforcing bees, therefore making the novel not one just about bees, but one that can be compared to the likes of The Handmaid’s Tale or Watership Down.
This is Laline Paull’s debut novel, and it has shot up to seize the top spot in my list of favourite dystopian narratives. I can’t wait to see what she does next, and I implore you to read it!