Here’s an interesting dystopian tale from 2014. Laline Paull’s take is to set her world in a beehive, where Flora 717 is a working class sanitation bumble bee.
Paull is an English writer and this was her debut novel. It’s essentially a fantasy work, with a few polemical bits thrown in—is it the bee’s knees?
Flora 717 isn’t the prettiest bee in town, but she’s got a lot of pluck and hidden talents.
But as a cleaner in the lowest class of her bee colony, times are hard. She simply has to accept, obey, and serve the Queen.
Those hidden talents don’t stay behind the scenes for long, though. Flora 717 is unique—and although any mutant bees are typically destroyed by the state, she’s able to enjoy social mobility.
This time around, as a special case, she’s provided with a new job. Feeding larvae. But she’s then promoted to foraging status. A mighty fine job for any bumble bee!
Eventually, she works her way up to her beloved Queen’s inner court. And that’s where the main crux of the novel is.
As Flora 717 is disturbed and surprised to find the buzzing world she buzzes across.
Okay? So that’s your plot. The Bees takes a familiar tale and dumps it into an innovative and alien location. Which is where the main draw for reading this comes in.
Dystopian tales remain extremely popular, whether it’s Orwell’s Nineteen-Eighty Four or Huxley’s Brave New World—public appetite for them is pretty insatiable.
And The Bees is an interesting read, with a lively sense of imagination and impending dread. It’s written in third person:
"They continued deeper into the hive, Flora entranced by its carved and frescoed walls of ancient scent and the beautiful blend of her living sisters. She did not feel how the golden tiles changed underfoot and the bare, pale wax began, or how the priestess spread her cloak of scent over them both as they entered a small empty corridor that held no vibration at all. Only when they stopped before a plain doorway did she feel how far they had traveled, and that she was still very hungry 'Soon.' Sister Sage answered as if Flora had spoken. She touched a panel in the wall, and the door opened."
We’re not going to discuss the plot further as that’ll ruin things, but as a story it’s fairly generic—its saving grace is that beehive setting.
A wonderful idea. And one the author plays out with charm and, oftentimes, chilling asides.
Also, yes, as you read Paull’s work you can’t help but think of buzzing noises. Indeed, why not play them as you go from chapter to chapter?
Good, then! We don’t think it’s quite as stunning as some of the glowing reviews make out, but as an interesting take on a tried and tested genre it’s thoroughly… beelievable.
On a final note, if you want to get stuck in and live out The Bees you should give Hive Time a go.
It doesn’t have the dystopian elements, sure, but all the same you look after the hive. And take care of each bee on an individual basis.
It’s accessible, compelling, and features all the sort of buzzing noises you’d expect.
It’s a great fun little strategy game. It’s available on PC, Mac, and Linux. For free! Or should that be… for bee?