“It’s a book set in a hive, where all the characters are bees, except maybe the odd wasp or spider, but all the main ones are bees. And the book is about them doing bee stuff”… and it’s actually quite brilliant.
Flora 717 is born a sanitation worker, the lowest level worker bee in a hive. Her job is to clean up after the other bees, and her life, like all other sanitation bees, is very expendable.
Like all other bees, she loves and is devoted to the Queen; “Accept, Obey, Serve” being somewhat of a mantra to all bees.
But Flora 717 is different, being able to fill more roles than a simple sanitation worker. Despite the resistance of the bees higher up in society, Flora tries to work her way into society, and earn respect for her kin.
The book in many senses is about totalitarian societies: at the top you have the singular leader, whose power is enforced by politicians and police, all working under the guise as ‘the benefit of the whole’, but never having to actually sacrifice their luxuries themselves.
As the sanitation workers gain a voice, it echoes of a not so distant past with the rise of labour unions and socialism, giving a voice to the lower echelons of society, and allowing them to raise their displeasure regarding their anonymity and condescension. Questioning those who assume power, and recognising their is no basis for why they should be obeyed other than they have simply assumed the role and told others so.
The book is brilliantly written, with me genuinely caring about the fate of a lone worker bee and the hive. I was reading it one night and couldn’t put it down, but once I finally did, I reflected that I had just stayed up late to read about a bee being in some dispute with another insect… seemingly insignificant.
It sounds strange but it’s worth a shot. One of the better books I have read so far this year!