oyceter: teruterubouzu default icon (Default)
[personal profile] oyceter

Flora 717 is a lowly sanitation bee, but instead of being mute like the other members of her caste, she can talk and apparently make Flow to feed the larvae in the nursery. The sisters of the Sage clan (the priestess caste) take note and let her work in the nursery for a bit, since the hive is going through rough times and there aren't enough workers. Soon, Flora is experiencing things far outside the lives of the other sanitation bees, and she eventually realizes she is even more different than she realized, for she can lay eggs when it is a crime to challenge the Queen's fertility.

I keep seeing this described as "Watership Down with bees," which mostly seems accurate? Although I find it curious that Watership Down tends to be classified as fantasy while this is slotted under "science fiction" in Amazon, possibly due to the rural setting of the former and the more urban-esque landscape of the hive for this book. I'm also not sure I find it as political as the reviews comparing it to The Handmaid's Tale, possibly because the point of view is so alien in some ways. It's something I'd rather tease apart at a Wiscon panel or in discussion, because while some reviews have been classifying it as dystopic, I don't quite agree. There is too much actual bee biology for it to feel completely dystopic to me, particularly since the book is framed by a prologue and epilogue from the point of view of the humans who own the orchard the beehive is in; it didn't feel so much like it was comparing the human condition to the bee world and more as though Paull were focused primarily on fleshing out the bee world properly. I have to noodle a bit more on this, because I haven't thought it out enough.

She does a great job detailing her particular bee society and making it feel like a complete world, from the way the bees communicate via scent and chemicals to their worship of the queen to the foppishness of the drones. From the bit of browsing I did, it seems like most of the information is fairly accurate, except a spoilery bit in the end and the fact that bee roles are not nearly so harshly delineated irl. (Also, one beekeeper wrote a review in which they felt very put out about the negative depiction of beekeepers as the theives of the bees' carefully made honey. I have to say, I laughed.) I particularly loved the way religion and government are mixed up in the hive, and the look at the various castes and clans.

I did have some nitpicks, because it wasn't always as alien as I wanted it to be; Paull refers to things like bees bleeding or having their intestines torn out, which made me wonder if it were just a figure of speech or...?? Ditto mentions of things like goblets of nectar or plates of pollen. I also thought the prologue and epilogue should have been cut, because I am not here for human context and thoughts! I want weird alien life forms that are actually from this planet!

Anyway, this was a really fast, immersive read, and I still feel like there might be creepy-crawlies on me randomly throughout the day. (For insect-phobic people: I am pretty grossed out by bugs in real life and in pictures, but I'm mostly fine reading about them in books, from fictionalized bees to real-life parasites, so YMMV? I wasn't creeped out while reading, but my skin does start to itch when thinking about it afterward.)

(no subject)

Thu, Jul. 3rd, 2014 10:31 am (UTC)
jesse_the_k: harbor seal's head with caption "seal of approval" (Approval)
Posted by [personal profile] jesse_the_k
This sounds fascinating! Also I got creepy crawling neck shivers from reading your review (and MyGuy is allergic) so sounds like a good book to snuggle up with a Benzo.

Bee dancing was a Science Thing when I was in 4th -- 5th grade, so I've always seen passing bees as packets of danger, magic pollinators, and flying Martha Grahams.

(no subject)

Thu, Jul. 3rd, 2014 11:47 am (UTC)
colorblue: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] colorblue
The last few days I've gotten really into bees, watching bee documentaries and reading up on them and etc. Will definitely give this a try.

(no subject)

Thu, Jul. 3rd, 2014 02:20 pm (UTC)
rachelmanija: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] rachelmanija
I don't know if it's literally intestines, but I always heard that the reason bees die when they sting you is that it rips their innards out.

This sounds good!

(no subject)

Tue, Jul. 8th, 2014 06:23 am (UTC)
rachelmanija: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] rachelmanija
I have a tag for that! (Body parts: eviscerated intestines).

(no subject)

Thu, Jul. 3rd, 2014 03:06 pm (UTC)
troisroyaumes: Painting of a duck, with the hanzi for "summer" in the top left (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] troisroyaumes
Ooh, this sounds interesting! I'll have to look it up.

Bees do have a sort of blood (hemolymph) which circulates inside their body cavity and intestines, so those parts are not necessarily inaccurate?

(no subject)

Thu, Jul. 3rd, 2014 05:23 pm (UTC)
jinian: (snape)
Posted by [personal profile] jinian
The entire social structure is so inaccurate that I can't bear to consider reading it, so I'll look for your biologically-minded review with interest.

(no subject)

Fri, Jul. 4th, 2014 02:45 am (UTC)
chomiji: A cartoon image of chomiji, who is holding a coffee mug and a book and wearing kitty-cat ears (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] chomiji

Yes ... do I recall correctly that newly adult workers do the nursery work, then shift to wax structure building and hive sanitation, and lastly graduate to outdoor work like nectar and pollen collection?

(no subject)

Fri, Jul. 4th, 2014 02:43 am (UTC)
chomiji: Saiyuki's Hakkai with a pile of clean laundry and sparkles (Hakkai - fresh & clean)
Posted by [personal profile] chomiji

Worker bees have barbed stingers, which get stuck in you when they sting you, so yes, if they pull away, they will tear themselves open and die.

Queen bees, like wasps, have smooth stingers, so they can deliver multiple stings.

(The How and Why Book of Ants and Bees was, for some reason, a favorite read of mine as a child. I remain fond of the honey bee and bumble bee to this day.)

(no subject)

Fri, Jul. 4th, 2014 05:02 am (UTC)
metaphortunate: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] metaphortunate
Oh man this sounds so great and I had not heard of it! Thanks for the link/review!

(no subject)

Sun, Aug. 17th, 2014 03:37 am (UTC)
metaphortunate: (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] metaphortunate
I did, thank you! I did not see it as dystopian at all: I mean, it's harsh, but that's life in a thousands of eggs species, y'know?

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