This is an incredible novel, with an environmental and emotional consciousness that is reminiscent of Watership Down. Paull uses what is known about bee behavior and physical characteristics to take readers deep inside a bee hive where a whole society, replete with religion, a caste system, and pollen-based economy buzzes with energy.
Flora 717 is a sanitation worker living with her sister bees and serving their Holy Mother. Flora’s unusual size and other physical attributes allow her to break free from the ranks of sanitation workers and leads her deep into the secrets of her hive. The world Paull creates is both strange and familiar: part environmental manifesto/ nature documentary and part remarkably suspenseful fiction, this is an illuminating and consuming read.
Flora’s journey is long, her struggles and obstacles seemingly insurmountable. She will stop at nothing, will fight against self-aggrandizing males; supercilious priestesses, duplicitous spiders and Mother Nature herself to save her hive and her Queen.
This novel is set apart from others in the dystopian genre by an unusual protagonist and setting; the writing is solid, but unremarkable. The plot however, is mesmerizing: what readers take away says more about them than the writing. Paull simultaneously makes readers feel giant and miniscule, reminding us that our actions have repercussions in worlds we can’t see; just as there may be another world larger than our own—a world of hypothetical bee-keepers—acting in ways we cannot fathom.