The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney
A sanitation worker, a member of the lowest and most disregarded caste, it's obvious from the moment she emerges from her cell that Flora 717 is different to her kin. She's bigger, more alert, more articulate and more able to question her environment. She's going to be trouble, both to herself and to the community of bees into which she has been born
Needless to say, Flora 717's unique qualities are not looked upon favourably by the hive's ruling caste and it's only a matter of time before she finds herself alienated from the Hive Mind as she struggles to hide her rebellious thoughts and treacherous behaviour.
The Bees has been described as Watership down for the Hunger Games generation. It has also been compared to The Handmaid's Tale and there is definitely an interesting commentary on gender roles and society being sketched out here.
What is most interesting about this novel for me, however, is the alien nature of the environment and of the characters who populate it. This is a world in which the most important sense is smell. It's a world in which individual thought is over-ruled by the imperatives of the Hive Mind and the good of the community is far more important than the survival of the individual. Laline Paull succeeds remarkably well in bringing that world to life and making it convincing. The result is an unusual and very enjoyable read.