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Publisher's Summary

Flora 717 is a sanitation worker, a member of the lowest caste in her orchard hive, where work and sacrifice are the highest virtues and worship of the beloved Queen the only religion. But Flora is not like other bees. With circumstances threatening the hive's survival, her curiosity is regarded as a dangerous flaw, but her courage and strength are assets. She is allowed to feed the newborns in the royal nursery and then to become a forager, flying alone and free to collect nectar and pollen. A feat of bravery grants her access to the Queen's inner sanctum, where she discovers mysteries about the hive that are both profound and ominous.

But when Flora breaks the most sacred law of all - daring to challenge the Queen's preeminence - enemies abound, from the fearsome fertility police who enforce the hive's strict social hierarchy to the high priestesses jealously wedded to power. Her deepest instincts to serve and sacrifice are now overshadowed by a greater power: A fierce maternal love that will bring her into conflict with her conscience, her heart, and her society - and lead her to perform unthinkable deeds.

Thrilling, suspenseful, and spectacularly imaginative, The Bees and its dazzling young heroine will forever change the way you look at the world outside your window.

©2014 Laline Paull (P)2014 HarperCollins Publishers

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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My Favorite Book of 2014

It’s difficult to articulate just how brilliant and utterly original this book is. You really have to experience it to understand what the author is up to here. By pulling the listener inside a bee hive and tracing the seasonal lifecycle of one remarkable worker bee, Laline Paull has created a breathtaking novel with shades of dystopia and the pacing of a political thriller, demonstrating Orwellian intelligence but somehow – refreshingly - lacking the satire.

Stepping inside the microcosmic world of The Bees threw my own world into relief and made me feel –surprisingly – rather small. That this full experience of life - dramatic, messy, complicated, harrowing - is happening all around us but on a tiny scale is incredibly humbling. Despite taking place almost entirely inside a hive, the story is begins and ends with actual human characters. The beekeeper and his family seem to stand in as symbolic representatives of the human race, which has the ugly habit of finding self-referential meaning in the natural world, always assuming itself to be the center of all drama. But Paull shunts these people into the position of mere bookends to the story, and they are completely ignorant of the richness and mystery that lies in between.

Orlagh Cassidy’s performance was almost erotic, a perfect production choice. The world of the hive is totally sensual, heady with scents and flavors. Communication between the bees happens through smell, dancing, and vibrations. It’s an ornate, lush, complex, and sweet world – filled with randy – and misogynistic – male bees.

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about The Bees for the last six months, and it has not yet gotten the public recognition I believe it deserves. I’m doing my best to change that every time I recommend it to a friend or colleague!

66 of 71 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Broiled ion fact

As a bee keeper myself I am impressed with the knowledge and fantasy of this book. What a great story and storytelling!

19 of 20 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Imaginative and exquisitely executed

What did you love best about The Bees?

The heroin of the story, a bright, loving, brave and loyal bee born into the wrong class (kin), is the best part of this book. Despite facing overwhelming prejudice, and thanks either to her own wit or extraordinary luck, she becomes integral to her hive's survival as the environment around them inexplicably changes.

What does Orlagh Cassidy bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

This was the best narration I've heard so far, she so perfectly captured the tone and personalities of the various bee kin and non-bee characters. It helps that most of the voices in this book are female, but she does the male voices well, too, and really brings this little-understood world of the bees to life.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes--this was very suspenseful, it's hard to stop listening once you grow attached a protagonist as charming as Flora 717.

Any additional comments?

Even just at face value, the story of The Bees is a great listen, full of drama and suspense and colorful imaginative characters. Beyond that, this is a story of class struggle and individuality, of what it means to follow ones nature and to go against it. It's also a story of the incredible ways in which our decisions can impact he environment around us. And it isn't cheesy at all. Overall a wonderful book and performance.

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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What's the Buzz?

This is a book that I will listen to many times and have recommended repeatedly and I wouldn't have known about it but for the wonderful chance to follow some of my fellow reviewers. When I had more time in my life, I would read lots of book reviews, but those days are long gone. Now I follow audible reviewers and they have done a great job guiding me to treasure. So, thanks to Jim The Impatient who not only listens to a lot of books, but also writes reviews for the rest of us. I have followed in Jim's footsteps to find some hidden treasures more than once and The Bees is probably the best of the finds so far.

The story follows one bee through her whole life in the hive and Paull gets the listener invested in little Flora 717 from the beginning. The Bees stays surprisingly true to actual hive operation; Paull breathes life and personality into her characters without ever truly anthropomorphizing. These characters are never human, but they are easy to relate to and care about. When you listen, you can easily see where Paull could have called these creatures "triffles" or "Caldanians" and made this a great sci-fi or fantasy (and maybe found a more defined genre), but leaving them bees does make for a wonderful story and I will never look at a bee the same way again.

To top off some beautiful writing, you also get a fabulous narrator in Orlagh Cassidy. Her voice work with this book is almost beyond description it is so good. I loved all of her voices and the straight narrative, but the best was her voicing of the Priestesses - so dripping with oil it made me shudder.

If you like speculative fiction of any type or just great writing, you will love this. My hat is off to Paull, Cassidy, and Jim The Impatient!

13 of 15 people found this review helpful

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  • MB
  • 01-07-15

Flying watership downs

I really loved this audible performance and the story was captivating...took me back to why I lived Watership Down.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

ACCEPT, OBEY AND SERVE

ONLY THE QUEEN MAY BREED
This is a very good book. It only has a 4.0 rating, because it is in the wrong category. It should be in the Fantasy Epic section. It has all the trappings of a Fantasy Epic. Queens, Princesses, Dark Princes, Drones (males, who are high royalty) Sages, Priestess, Guards, Fertility Police, Nurses, Forgers (sort of scouts), Kin (same as clans or Family blood lines), battles to the death for power, and a lower class.

AND ALL MAY COMMAND HER LABOR
FLORA SEVEN SEVENTEEN, is born a worker. Workers are mute, are told what to do by everybody, consider so low, you don't want to touch them, etc. Flora Seven Seventeen, is born able to speak and having a brain superior to her kin. She must handle having a superior brain and being in the lowest class, with her life at stake, at all times. You will love and admire her and struggle with her in her quests. There was not a dull moment in this intelligent, entertaining book.

TORE OUT HIS PENIS AND ATE IT
This is not Charlottes Web or any other kiddy book. This is not a book about animals or insects, but a book about death and struggle. These bees fight each other, super strong wasps and make sacrifices to spiders. The book has a 1984 type theme with a sword and sorcery element. The dark princess are bad asses. There is a religious element that is often abused and might remind you of Stalin. Some high royalty bees have telepathy and you can't hide anything from them. They are like the thought police and you can be convicted of treason for what you might think. The only penalty is death.

HALLOWED BE THY WOMB
The narrator is excellent and puts you in the hive.
If your a fantasy fan, you have got to get this.

MOTHER BE WITH YOU

87 of 107 people found this review helpful

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Talking animal/insect book for adults! I loved it.

Laline Paull does an amazing job getting into the mind and life cycle of bees. It really humbled me. Great creativity and story line.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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The Bees Knees of an Audio Book!

I saw Laline Paull's book and contemplated buying it for one of my credits for quite some time, and finally took the plunge when I saw it recommended as an editor's favourite. My hesitation came from wondering how in the world the author could pull off an interesting story about bees. Well, she does. The mysterious life of bees and a beehive come to life in Paull's book. Flora, the slightly deformed, too large bee who could lose her life at any moment because she just doesn't quite fit in, turns out to be a compelling character. This story is undoubtedly made even better by the dreamy voice of the narrator who tells the story like a fable creating fine nuances of expression that always remains fresh and new. Some audio books get old because the narrator's voice has a predictable rhythm. This doesn't happen in this book. I found this book to be a pleasant surprise and one of my favourite audio books of the year.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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The Bees is a fantastic blend of nature and fantas

The Bees by Laline Paull is a superbly imaginative story of one particular bee, Flora 717, and the world encompassed in and about one particular orchard bee hive. Setting this story in the simple, yet complex world of bees, Ms Paull creates a very understandable, recognizable portrait of life in a hive, of a thousand bees working in harmony for the benefit of the Queen Bee, of an inhospitable outer world casting dangers to the hive, including smoke from fire, threats from wasps, spiders and crows, and the impact of seasons on nectar gathering. Likened to The Hunger Games, The Handmaid’s Tale, Watership Down, Animal Farm, 1984, The Rats of NIMH and more, this book encompasses so many genres! While many reviewers are quick to draw similarities to these books and just as many other reviews are quick to discount the said similarities, I’d suggest you wait to make draw your own conclusions. For myself, there is no need to compare this book to another because without reference to another book, this story stands strong on its own merits.

This creative Regency thought- and speech-tinged, sci-fi, fantasy, dystopian novel begins as Flora 717 emerges from her birth chamber. Born of the Flora caste, the sanitation caste, Flora 717 is larger than those typical in her caste and has the capacity for speech, not typical of her caste, her kin. These “deformities” require the police to administer the “kindness” (removal by death) to Flora 717. It is Flora 717’s good fortune that she is save by the curiosity-driven help and encouragement of Sister Sage, of the priestess caste. And, so begins a life in which Flora 717 will demonstrate her courage and resolve to save her hive time and again. It is her determination to do right by the hive, her curiosity and her ability to think that leads Flora 717 into situations requiring “the kindness” to be imposed on her time and again, but good fortune or good luck allows her yet another day, another day to live and another day to reach outside of her caste.

The Bees is a fantastic blend of nature and fantasy. I found myself thoroughly enamored with the anthropomorphism coupled with the natural science of a bee’s hive; the intelligence and sophisticated organization that is a true wonder of the natural world. It is this anthropomorphism that will draw fans of Richard Adam’s Watership Down and of Robert O’Brien’s Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. The Hive Mind and the All For One (in this case, the “One” being the Queen Bee) and One For All unity of the hive is what may draw fans of dystopian novels in which the underdog (of a society run entirely by women, no less) rises above the “government” to become more than she should have. The dialogue shouts Regency-era, and yet hive mantra regurgitation shouts Animal Farm. The “Deformity Means Death” mindset touts the idealistic benefits of eugenics; all the while the caste system emphasizes the performance perfections of design for function and function for design. As the characters are bees, not “young adults”, this may not be technically be classified as a YA books, but there is nothing in the plot that should concern parents if their teen children express an interest in reading this novel. There is so much in these 330-plus pages to appeal to many readers, including book clubbers who love to dissect a book, to “take sides” and “argue”.

As my review is in response to listening to the audio book version of the story, I cannot comment on the text version and its state of edit. The audio book is a 10 1/4 hour listen, narrated by Orlagh Cassidy with a very clean, clear production quality. This was my first listen by Ms Cassidy, even as she has many narration performances to her credit from many different genres, and including a dozen performances of David Baldacci novels. Ms Cassidy did an outstanding job with this performance — making her voice distinctive with each caste of characters, including the humorously slothful drones, the meek sanitation workers, the proud, arrogant Sage Caste, the dutiful nursery caste and more.

Audiobook purchased for review by ABR.

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28 of 35 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

Tedious, repetitive and boring

What would have made The Bees better?

Cut the repetitiveness and make it a short story. It is an interesting concept, just poorly executed.

Would you ever listen to anything by Laline Paull again?

Nope

Did the narration match the pace of the story?

I started listening at 3x speed, because I was hoping to get past some boring parts. So that pace did match the story.

What character would you cut from The Bees?

The main character, but of course then there wouldn't be a story, but it was so tedious listening to this character have the similar things happen over and over and over and by some twist of fate, she gets out of whatever tight spot she's fallen into. And I wanted to vomit every time she told of the wonderful taste of sugar or smell of wax. Do we really need to hear this ad nauseam.

Any additional comments?

This book really isn't my cup of tea. It would probably be enjoyed most by English literature professors who I can imagine just gushing over the story. But this type of literature has never appealed to me,

2 of 2 people found this review helpful