The Bees Review

To the casual observer a beehive is the model of order and functionality – a society built to support itself. Each bee with a purpose and a place, each with a contribution and personally responsible for the success, or failure, of their community.

In Laline Paull's The Bees the pulsing activity of the hive conceals a communist dystopia, where obedience and sacrifice are the governing idioms and variation is abhorred. Governed by Devotion and fear of individuality, one bee's search for an identity could spell the demise of the hive. Sanitation worker Flora 717, born too large, too curious, too clever for her station, has a grander purpose, and her journey from mute servitude of the lower caste to revered forager challenges the hierarchy of order, and threatens the Queen herself. The Bees is a cultural immersion and anthropological study disguised as a traditional hero's journey with a healthy dose of dynastic intrigue and cultish fervour.

It's an interesting study in world-building.  Each step of Flora's journey is built as a spectacular set piece. The seduction of pollination, the thrill of flight and the horror of excising 'excessive variation' are highlights, but the attention to world-building at times prove overwhelming to the story and the plot is often lost to the novelty of the concept and weighed down by the natural repetition of bee behaviours.

Overall, the intricacy of detail delivers an enthralling read. The ferocity of the action pieces contrasts the intricate detail of Flora's exploration of the human world, all beautifully articulated through scent, heat and movement.

You'll never look at a beehive the same way again.

This review first appeared in Aurealis #72


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