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Library Journal Review
"Accept, Obey, and Serve." This is the first commandment within the hive. Flora 717 is a sanitation bee, the lowest of all the castes. Yet from the moment she emerges from her cell into a community where variance is destroyed, Flora shows herself different. As her uniqueness proves useful in a time when the hive is at risk, Flora finds herself feeding newborns in the royal nursery, then foraging alone beyond the hive to bring back pollen, and even meeting the Queen, who shows Flora the beauty and sadness that exists in the bees' past and present. Each new job brings Flora more joy, and more questions, for while she knows that obedience and sacrifice are instinctive within the hive mind, her individual traits bring her under the purview of the high priestesses and fertility police, who are striving to maintain the strict hierarchy of their society. When Flora breaks the ultimate law of the hive, challenging the Queen's role as mother to all, her desire to protect her egg will lead the hive toward a future none expected. VERDICT Paull's debut presents the intricate world of the honeybee hive, where devotion and service are sacred, and caste, politics, and power are as present as in any human royal court. A powerful story reminiscent of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, in which one original and independent thinker can change the course of a whole society. [See Prepub Alert, 11/22/13; an "Editors' Spring Pick," LJ 2/15/14.]-Kristi Chadwick, Massachusetts Lib. Syst., -South Deerfield (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Dystopia meets the Discovery Channel in this audacious debut novel. Flora 717, a bee born to the lowest social strata at the orchard hive, is different than her kin. Her uncommon earnestness and skill lead her to various jobs-from child rearing to food gathering-and earn her the respect and admiration of her peers. But Flora's advances also expose her to the hive's questionable social order and attract negative attention from the elite group of bees closest to the queen. Like Animal Farm for the Hunger Games generation, Paull's book features characters who are both anthropomorphized and not-insects scientifically programmed to "Accept, Obey and Serve," but who also find themselves capable of questioning that programming. The result is at times comic-picture bees having an argument-but made less so by the all-too-real violent stakes involved in maintaining beehive status quo (sacrifices, massacres, the tearing of bee heads from bee bodies). Dystopian fiction so often highlights the human capacity for authoritarianism, but Paull investigates bees' reliance on it: what is a hivemind, after all, if not evolutionarily beneficial thought control? And while Flora 717 may not be the next Katniss Everdeen, she symbolizes the power that knowledge has to engender change, even in nature. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Imagine a story similar to Margaret Atwood's A Handmaid's Tale but told from the perspective of an insect. That's exactly the premise of Paull's debut novel. Flora 717, a lowly sanitation bee, is born with unusual features and abilities that allow her to move fluidly between the strict hierarchies of her hive. Through this ability, she witnesses the brutality and beauty that the various castes of bees exhibit to keep the hive productive, all in service and loyalty to the queen. But when Flora discovers she is fertile and can produce an offspring, she must betray her instincts to worship the queen bee and follow an untrodden path that leads her away from her kin. Paull's plot brings to mind films like the 1998 hit Antz, but her deft storytelling and her nod to scientific literature allow the story to avoid the cutesy trappings that sometimes characterize novels featuring nonhuman characters. A surprisingly compelling tale.--Paulson, Heather Copyright 2014 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
An imaginativethough not wholly successfuldebut in which a beehive is a dystopian society where obedience is essential.Flora 717 is a sanitation worker, the lowest order of bee, mute and hulking and ugly. When she cracks out of her gestation cell, she's destined to perform only one role in the hive. But high priestess Sister Sage senses something different about Flora: She can speak and reason, and Sister Sage sees a use for her mutation, reminding others that "Variation is not the same as Deformity." Flora is brought to the nursery to tend the larvae; in another variation from the norm, royal jelly pours from her mouth to feed the babies. Soon she's promoted to Category Two, a nursery for the older grubs, where she again displays a facility beyond her lowly rank. Paull uses Flora's unique abilities to give the reader a working knowledge of the life of a beehive, often to the detriment of character development and drama. Because she has access to the Hive Mind, she's granted access to the Queen and then serves her and reads the hive's history in the sacred chamber. Drones pop up now and then, lazy dandies that the hive sisters service. And spiders make an ominous appearance, trading prophesies of the weather for the sacrifice of aging bees. All would be well with Flora's progression through the ranks except that she has a dangerous secret: She has produced a baby. Though against all the rulesonly the Queen can reproduceher offspring has radical implications for the future of the hive. It's clear that Paull is using the hive as an analogy for a class-bound society, where variation is punished, but this kind of dystopian vision can only thrive when the associations to contemporary circumstances are unambiguous. Much is muddled here, primarily the reader's connection to the heroine, who rarely transcends being a bee.Paull deserves kudos for a daring idea, but the resulting work is burdened by a heavy dose of explication. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.