ARC Review: The Bees by Laline Paull

The BeesGenres: Animals, Dystopia, Adult/YA
Release Date: May 6th, 2014
Publisher: Ecco
Source:  ARC from Publisher
Check out on GOODREADS

Born into the lowest class of her society, Flora 717 is a sanitation bee, only fit to clean her orchard hive. Living to accept, obey and serve, she is prepared to sacrifice everything for her beloved holy mother, the Queen. Yet Flora has talents that are not typical of her kin. And while mutant bees are usually instantly destroyed, Flora is reassigned to feed the newborns, before becoming a forager, collecting pollen on the wing. Then she finds her way into the Queen’s inner sanctum, where she discovers secrets both sublime and ominous. Enemies roam everywhere, from the fearsome fertility police to the high priestesses who jealously guard the Hive Mind. But Flora cannot help but break the most sacred law of all, and her instinct to serve is overshadowed by a desire, as overwhelming as it is forbidden…

REVIEW

The biggest downfall of this book for me was what made it unique: the bees (pun kind of intended.. but is it a pun or is it not, that is the question).This book has a lot of things going for it, but the characterization of the bees made it almost impossible for me to enjoy it. It really sucks because the plot is interesting, the world building is marvelous, but the characterization of the bees really grated on me.

My favorite bit in the whole book was actually the prologue and the epilogue. That’s it.

I don’t know where to begin because it’s so hard to untangle my thoughts. I find myself confused because while I did NOT like the book, I can see that there are many aspects that are interesting

Flora 717 is a special snowflake bee. Flora bees are of the lowest order and tend to be sanitation workers, but somehow Flora 717 is different. For starters, she can talk which is most unusual for Flora bees. Morever, Flora 717 can produce royal jelly which is basically what they feed the new born baby bees. Basically, she can do everything and seems to be really smart (for a bee, that is).The problem is, I never could get behind her. She felt “too human” for a bee. All of the bees for that matter seemed human and this humanization of bees really got to me, seeing that BEES ARE NOT HUMANS.

Flora 717 feels love. She feels her heart swell with love, she has howled out her heartbreak and all of these words used to describe her actions and feelings make her seem too human for my comfort. That is the downfall of this book for me. Having bees as characters is great, but when they seem to read like humans instead of bees, there is a problem.

The bees actually say “amen”. This is such an obvious humanization of the bees that it bothered the living daylights out of me. Why are the bees saying “amen”? WHY? Why do these bees have a religion that seems to be based on Christianity or Judaism (this is an assumption based on the fact that these bees say amen)?

What’s even weirder is that Flora 717 seems to have a love interest. It isn’t a romance but there does seem to be feelings involved in the way she acts around a certain Sir Linden and THAT is creepy. The first thing I did when I got a sense of this was laugh… really hard because in all honesty it is ridiculous in my opinion.

Characterization aside, I do think that the dynamics within the hive are interesting. Seeing all the roles the different breeds of bees play to keep the hive functioning is very interesting. I especially like that this book isn’t so much of a dystopia as it is about just being part of something bigger. At the same time though, I found myself wondering if it was fair that Flora 717 got more freedom than anyone else in the hive without ever having to deal with serious consequences. Although I have to say, it is appreciated that this book wasn’t about overthrowing the ‘queen’ and setting everyone free because you cannot do that. Bees need hives to survive and everyone will need to play a role to make the hive function.  I also really liked the queen. I think she was a very interesting character and I really liked seeing the role she played.

There were so many elements to the world building worth mentioning, but I don’t even know how to begin to do so. There is devotion, the mother’s love and all these little tid bits about the inner workings of the hive which were so incredibly fascinating, but at the same time, there were TOO MUCH INFORMATION. I found my mind wandering and sometimes it was just so hard to focus because I was so tired of all the information being thrown at me.

The plot was just decent as well but the problem was the bees made it impossible for me to enjoy it. I wonder: if the same story had human characters, would it have been more enjoyable? The plot is incredibly slow paced and it picks up at times, but will will slow down again as Flora 717 returns to her routine. The weird pacing actually works in this case, but I didn’t really care.

This book does have a lot going for it but sadly it didn’t work out for me. I’d recommend it to anyone looking for something different, but if you, like me, will be bothered by the humanization of the bees, I’d say skip it.

(Note that the rating report does not reflect my final rating for the book but a breakdown of the various elements. My final rating for this book is 1 star)

Rating Report
Plot
Characters
Writing
Pacing
World-building
Overall: 2.3

 

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Rashika

Rashika is a mysterious creature who likes to hide in the shadows. It's impossible to get to know her but if you must know, she is a huge bookworm. She also happens to have a huge sweet tooth so you can always lure her over the dark side by offering her something sweet (or bribing her with books).

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    • Rashika says

      I know right? With children’s books it’s all right but when it comes to YA or Adult… not so much. I guess because we are meant to take this a lot more seriously? Yeah

      LOLLLLL I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE :P

  1. says

    This is definitely a weird book. I think the author just took a leap with the whole bees idea. If I were to read it, I think I would just imagine everyone in bee costumes. AND HAHA BUGS LIFE! That was a good movie though. Wait, there was another movie, The Bee Movie? Maybe she got inspired by that as well?
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    • Rashika says

      I cannot remember if I have seen Bugs Life or not but I definitely thought a lot of The Bee Movie while reading this :P

      I am totally laughing at that though. I kind of tried to imagine them as humans but it was way too weird. I was too weirded out by the whole thing..

  2. says

    I would like to be more verbiose but these are bees. BEES. ME NO TALk. (Though seriously, you mean to say there is no bee porn? That would be so violent. Rough and tumble in the bed, you know.) You human hater, you, it seems like your biggest problem is the humanization. I thought Martians were supposed to be friendly.
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    • Rashika says

      (Well it depends on your definition of bee porn but I do think there is a scene that would fall under that category :P) We martians aren’t friendly. We are here to take over the world you silly child! :P

  3. says

    Discussion: I am not a huge fan of reading books from an animal’s point of view. I have tried picking up around 4 books like that and I put them down after a few chapters.

    It is not very often where I am not a fan of the premise of a book. I am a huge fan of the cover but I am so put off by the synopsis. Maybe it would have been better with human characters. I don’t think I will be checking this one out. The slowness and too much info thing is not my jam!

    Thanks for the honest review my dear! Here is to a better read! :)

    Alex @ The Shelf Diaries
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    • Rashika says

      Really? I didn’t even know there were that many out there :P

      I’ve actually thought about it and if the book were from a human pov, I would have definitely rated it higher but would have disliked the main character even more O_O

      Thanks Alex!! :) And hopefully something better will come my way!

  4. says

    I remember talking to you about this book the other day and I did find the bees saying Amen a bit strange too. I do admit that this book does sound really unique to a lot of the books that I’ve seen around there, but I understand that it would take a lot to get into this book in the first place. But thanks for taking one for the team, I don’t think that this book will be for me either
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    • Rashika says

      I was just rambling about bees saying Amen while watching Siiri freak out a little :P It is pretty unique and I know quite a few people have enjoyed it so I think it all depends on what you’re in the mood for. If you want something unique and don’t mind a little slowness, then perhaps you should give it a shot but then again, if you’re put off by the idea of bees having weird quirks.. probably not :P

      Happy to take one for the team! :)

    • Rashika says

      Me too! :) I try to be as objective as possible but at the same time it’s not possible to be completely objective

  5. says

    Personally, I knew this was just not the book for me when I found out it was about bees. *shudders* I just can’t get behind the idea even though it’s a really cool and unique one. I’m sorry to hear this was a disappointment though, Rashika. It seems like if you get rid of the bee elements, it’s a really typical dystopian novel.
    Great review!
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    • Rashika says

      I already feel the love. YOU FACED YOUR FEAR TO COMMENT ON THIS. SO MUCH LOVE. I actually think that without the bee bits, it would make for a unique dystopia since it isn’t all ‘lets bring down the hive’… which really.. seems to be hard to come by in dystopia’s these days. It’s kind of one of the reasons I couldn’t take them any more :/ Things are never as black and white as they seem and just yeah..

      Thanks Nick! :)

    • Rashika says

      I hate bugs too… totally absolutely will run screaming out of the room hate them which is why it’s a surprise I actually got through this :P

      Me too :( I wish I had liked it more.

  6. Larissa says

    I actually love Bees okay?? I find them so cute and they’re actually so important to the environment. They definitely don’t deserve their nasty reputation, lol bees aren’t wasps people!

    It’s because of my love for Bees that I have this book now, though I’m only around the second chapter. Though I’m already beginning to notice some of the issues you had with this one popping up for me, specifically the portrayal of bees. I definitely do find them being humanized, which doesn’t work for me. I would actually be much more interested in seeing them dehumanized, along with the inner workings of the hive. Combined with a introspective narration I feel like that would have been the way to go with The Bees. Instead The Bees gives you a much more personal (and therefore humanized) outlook on the hive and it comes off feeling inorganic.

    Overall I think I’ll continue to read this one due to my fascination with bees and the good world building (even if it can sometimes be too much), however will most likely be annoyed by the portrayal of the bees and odd pacing. Lovely review Rashika! (:

    • Rashika says

      HEY :P They have a nasty reputation because they sting. I hate bees because they stung me and I cried like a baby. It was awful.

      I definitely agree. Had they been dehumanized I would have enjoyed this book infinitely more and it would have made the originality of the book come to life for me in a way the humanization of the bees killed it in my opinion. It does come off as inorganic! I definitely agree!

      Hahaha I do hope it worked out in the end for you, Larissa since you like bees :)

      Thanks you!! :)

    • Rashika says

      I definitely felt like I was reading some dark cartoon movie novelization :P It was just too… human you know?

      Thanks Pili!!! :)

  7. says

    I do like the premise, it is definitely interesting. I’m not sure if this is something that I would actually read because I’m not really a big BEE fan plus this is a bit out of my reading comfort zone. I can’t even decide if I do want these bees humanized or not. I’m just in a jumble with this book right now.

    But I do understand where you’re coming from and why the characteristics of the bees ended up frustrating because if one ends up reading a book about bees, chances are they don’t really want these bees humanized because what is the point of reading about bees when they are just like a human? Might just as well pick up a dystopian with the same storyline. Awesome review, Rashika :)
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    • Rashika says

      It’s a bit out of my comfort zone too but I was curious to see how it would work out especially since it sounded so unique. :/

      Exactly. I don’t want to read about humans.. if I did, I’d read the other books out there, I wanted something different and this book failed to deliver on that account in terms of characters which is why I was so disappointed :/

      Thanks Amir!! :)

  8. laila bc says

    I have to say I don’t remember ever reading a book from an animal’s pov except from children’s books hehehe. This was certainly interesting. Maybe I will try it out in the near future.

  9. says

    I don’t think I HAVE read a book from the POV of an animal…since, well, Narnia and stuff. Oh, maybe when I was little? I read books about Spot the dog for my nephew. >-< *whispers* I hate Spot the dog. ANYWAY. I just think this is funny because you're like "the bees were too human" and out of context that's just the funniest sentence ever. *snickers uproariously* Oh yes, I'm insane. BUT WE KNOW THAT. Anyway. I don't think this is the book for me, but your review was gold.
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    • Rashika says

      Well Narnia wasn’t totally from the POV of an animal so it doesn’t count :P YOU DON’T LIKE SPOT THE DOG *gasp*… well actually I haven’t heard of him :P I’ve heard of Clifford the big red dog and Frog and Toad. DO YOU KNOW FROG AND TOAD?

      IT’S WHY WE LOVE YOU, CAIT! If you weren’t insane, we wouldn’t know what to do :P

      Thanks :DD

  10. says

    Huh. I’m not sure what to think about this book to be honest. Seems like you had the same issue even after reading ;-) I like that the author took such a unique approach by making the bees actual characters, but I think their humanization would likely be a problem for me as well. I can believe in shifters and various other paranormal things, but I have trouble thinking of bees as completely sentient beings with religion and love interests and what not. Not sure why that is. Thanks for your thoughts Rashika, if nothing else, this is a book that leads to some interesting conversations and discussion!
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    • Rashika says

      I think with shifters and other paranormal things, it’s easier to believe in them because… they’re … in my mind at least, human except with a handful of differences. Bees are a completely different species so it’s so much harder to wrap your mind around that. With children’s books, it’s a lot easier because the characters .. are kind of meant to be human while being animals but with this book, they aren’t. They shouldn’t be :/

      It definitely will :P and perhaps some random rants on my behalf when I rant about how weird it is that bees have romantic interests or say amen :P (I whined about this already :P)

    • Rashika says

      There is :P

      I definitely agree.. and FUN. You remember all those kiddy books.. I read so many as a kid :’)

  11. says

    Dollface, this book just sounds WEIRD. But not the good kind of weird. And I don’t know how I would feel about reading from the perspective of an animal . . . if I was LITERALLY reading from the writer’s perception of an animal POV in small doses I think it could be interesting. Too much though . . . animals aren’t complex creatures. Humanized animal perspectives . . . I love those. CLAY. Beast from Jane Yellowrock. Jack from Ilona’s On the Edge series. This . . . probably not as much. Sorry you were disappointed, darling. Also sorry for the delayed response. I’ve been hella busy getting ready to go to the BEACH :)
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    • Rashika says

      YESSS. That was basically what pissed me off so much. Bees don’t have the sort of complexity this book give them. I mean, I don’t mean to offend any bees, but they aren’t all that smart :P

      That reminds me.. I need to start their On the Edge series as well :P :D

      BEACCHH?? You went to the beach beach? (now the nicki minaj song is stuck in my head… eeek)

    • Rashika says

      They also have this weird religion in place and it’s all just very bizarre considering they are bees and… not humans. It was almost like reading about a cult..but with bees. WEIRD :P

      Thanks Jeann! :)

  12. says

    This reminds me of The Bee Movie, mostly because, well, bees. Hahaha. Well, they talk too and have feelings and whatnot. This actually caught my attention because of the cover. I didn’t know it would actually be humanized bees. That threw off. All of the animals books I’ve read were children’s books. I haven’t seen any for the more older generations. I’m not sure what I would feel about it, but maybe I would like it if I were a child?
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    • Rashika says

      It reminded me of The Bee Movie too :P The cover is gorgeous in spite of the big fat bee right there :P

      I have seen one other book that was about animals (also bees) but I wonder if perhaps the whole animal POV thing is better suited for kiddie books?

  13. says

    Aw. Amazing review sweetie. <3 I'm so sorry you had such issues with this book :( I will not read it, lol. I do love the cover. And it sounds interesting. But. They seem too human? No thank you. Why write about bees if they aren't like bees? Confused. lol :D Thank you for sharing. <3
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    • Rashika says

      Thanks Carina!! :)

      The cover is even better in person! The cover on GR is so dull compared to the one on the ARC.

      Right? Especially since this isn’t a children’s book.. it’s YA/Adult. :/

  14. says

    “I find myself confused because while I did NOT like the book, I can see that there are many aspects that are interesting”

    I know how you feel. It’s harder to sort my feelings out when I read a book that leaves me feeling that way.

    This book actually sounds really interesting. It makes me think of Animal Farm by George Orwell.
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    • Rashika says

      It really is. It also makes me question my rating. I mean I rated this book 1 but at the same time, my rating report makes it a 2.5. I cannot give it that though because… I didn’t love the book in spite of all the good things so it just leaves me confused :P

      ooo I haven’t read Animal Farm but I’ve heard good things… 1984 has scarred me though :P Too scared to try Animal Farm :P