Reviewed by Oona Juutinen
Most dystopian novels nowadays seem to be variations of the same few plots and patterns, all with similar protagonists and generally not much to get excited about. Amongst this bunch of The Hunger Games copies, Laline Paull‘s book The Bees is like a breath of fresh air. Original to boot, I can honestly say I have never before read something like it: a novel from the point of view of a honey bee.
Flora 717 is born a sanitation worker, the lowest of the low in her hive. The hive is highly organized and the mantra of the bees is to accept, obey, and serve. But there is something different about Flora 717. Unlike her kind usually, she is able to speak, and she appears to have been born with a rebellious streak. Flora ends up challenging the established order of the hive, where each bee has her own place, where anything and everything is supposed to be sacrificed for the wellbeing of the hive – and where only the queen is allowed to breed. Before long Flora 717, like all other dystopian heroines, will find out that in a society that relies on sameness and order, being different can be extremely dangerous.
While The Bees is probably not a book that will stay with me for years (unlike The Handmaid’s Tale, for example, to which the back cover text somewhat ambitiously compares the book), it was definitely a fun and refreshing read. Having read the book, you will never again look at bees the same way you did before.
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