The bees

When I finished the book, I stepped outside my door and into a spring day, full of buzzing and pollen, and I wanted to thank each and every bee for its service.

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We are in a beehive, after all, that beautiful feat of engineering, and it is great fun to see the antechambers and halls from the inside. Share via Email 'The crisis The Bees invokes is genuine, frightening and getting worse. Inevitably, since this is a well-researched fantasy about animals, starring a feisty heroine instead of a band of furry brothers, The Bees is hailed as "Watership Down for The Hunger Games generation".

The bees

But there is more to this worker bee's fairytale biography than at first appears. Share via Email 'The crisis The Bees invokes is genuine, frightening and getting worse. When she finally makes it to the nursery, the fertility police have killed her child — a beautiful boy, a drone. Like her thousands of sisters, Flora understands what her fellow bees are thinking through scent and vibration and touch. Another important piece of my forthcoming apiology dissertation: A bloody massacre is always great fun! Perpetually bathed in the chemicals that reward and control — blissed-out or reduced to numb slavery — she doesn't really have any choice in the matter. They exchange bees for information, and one whispers to Flora that she will have one more egg. Winter arrives, and the hive suffers. They need her there — we know that supplies have been low because of cold and rain and lack of food — and so she remains. At first, the reader questions everything.

And Flora, though she doesn't know it, embodies both the greatest threat to her hive, and perhaps their only way out. When a story is told with such rapturously attentive imagination, it feels very small indeed to quibble.

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Despite the honor of being asked to make Flow, Flora is restless, and she quickly moves up the ranks, reinventing herself yet again as a skilled forager. Would you bind them in chastity a single moment longer?

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But she's strong, a quick learner and she can speak, while others of her caste are mute.

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The Bees by Laline Paull