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Literature / The Bees

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Accept, Obey, and Serve.

The Bees is a 2014 novel by Laline Paull.

It follows the story of Flora 717, a disposable sanitary worker, as she works in devoted service to the beloved Queen. However Flora 717 is an unusual adaptation from the rest of her kin - larger, more hardy. In previous years she would have been given The Kindness, but times are hard, and all must do their part to ensure the survival of the hive.

As Flora experiences life in the Hive from different perspectives - Sanitation worker, Nursery worker, forager - she begins to realise that all is not right with the Hive, and that the wasps, spiders and other vermin of the Myriad may not be the only enemy.


Tropes found in The Bees include:

  • All Men Are Perverts: Drones are universally lecherous and hedonistic, with the exception of Sir Linden. Justified, as their sole purpose is to breed.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Though we only really meet a couple of representatives of the species, wasps definitely seem to be this.
  • Animal Naming Conventions: A worker bee's name is the plant-themed name of her caste followed by a number. Drones are instead named after trees and addressed as "sir."
  • Animal Talk: The bees all understand each other in a common tongue, although Sanitation workers cannot talk. They also use dancing as a method of communication. Wasps and bees can talk to each other without much difficulty, but communication to other insects, like ants, requires the use of the ancient tongue Hymenopteraese, which very few creatures know fluently leading to very simple communication. Strangely, they can also talk very easily to flies and spiders, even though they are of completely different biological orders, Diptera and Aranaea as opposed to Hymenoptera.
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  • Bee Afraid: After a wasp enters the hive it's faced by a horde of angry bees, that don't use their stingers, but instead encase it and vibrate to raise it's temperature to cause heat death.
  • Bee People: Well they're literally bees but with lots of human characteristics.
  • Brainwashed: Part and parcel of living in a Hive Mind, but specifically true of the Queen's Love, a scent which overrides all other thought and emotion and replaces it with love for the Queen and the need to serve the Hive.
  • Civilized Animal: Bees are depicted as having accoutrements such as tea sets, chandeliers, and stairways in their hive, and are described as being capable of facial expression, but they think and act very much like bees.
  • Dark-Skinned Redhead: Flora has a dark exoskeleton and russet fur.
  • Deadly Euphemism: The Kindness.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Descriptions of gathering pollen and nectar are rather sexual in tone.
  • Eats Babies: Flora is ordered to consume a larva that doesn't meet the level of purity required. When she freezes up, the guards do it for her.
  • Fantastic Racism: Sanitary workers are looked down on in society as being unclean and dumb.
  • Final Solution: All bees that deviate too much from their kin's size and shape, or who have some kind of deformity are given The Kindness. Flora 717 was close to this herself but thankfully Sister Sage saw use in her "adaptation" and gave her a new job.
  • Floral Theme Naming: Bees of a certain kin, or type, all share the same name. The priestesses are all Sage, the landing board guards are all Thistle, etc. The sanitation workers, being the lowest type of kin, don't get a specific flower name, but are all called the generic Flora. Drones are named after trees.
  • Genetic Memory: After a moment of uncertainty all bees know their place in society and the roles they must preform.
  • The Hero Dies: Flora dies shortly after her daughter wins the battle for the queendom.
  • Hive Mind: Not all bees can hear it but when the hive is in danger it gives orders on how to deal with the threat. Sanitary workers don't hear the call, but Flora 717 does. During the winter, when the bees cluster together for warmth and semi-hibernate, there is a more consistent hive mind that even the sanitation workers feel.
  • Hive Caste System: We have Sanitary workers, nurse-maids, fanners (those that look after the honey), foragers, guards, police, the Queen's hand-maidens, Priestesses and, of course, the Queen.
  • Hive Queen: Again, they're literally bees!
  • Humans Are Cthulhu: The dreaded Visitation, a disaster bees can scarcely comprehend, is the gathering of honey from the hive.
  • Insect Gender-Bender: Averted. Aside from the level of sentience displayed by the bees, the novel is an accurate portrayal of roles within a hive, including the vast majority being female and the few males treated well but born only to breed.
  • It's All About Me: Their glorious Malenesses, the drones.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Flora's mind is wiped after she fails her second test, reducing her to the level of her kin on the surface. But something of herself lingers under the surface and her mind is restored after hearing the hive mind.
  • Living Aphrodisiac: The Queen gives off an addictive scent that gives off feelings of love and caring.
  • Never Say "Die": Bees that are unfit for service to the hive are given The Kindness.
  • The Needs of the Many: The basis of every decision made by the Sage priestesses.
  • Pretty Boy: Sir Linden, by drone standards.
  • Rule of Three: Flora lays three eggs. Only the third reaches metamorphosis.
  • Totalitarian Utilitarian: The whole Hive is portrayed this way, though specifically the Sage priestesses. Everything is done for the good of the Hive. Not even the Queen is safe when her sickness starts to threathen the Hive's survival.
  • Undying Loyalty: All bees in the hive have this, because if they don't they won't be around for much longer.
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: The Sages are willing to trade old and weak bees to the Spiders in exchange for information, and to send Sanitation workers especially to their death to ensure certain secrets are kept. There are several thousand Floras, so the Sages don't care, but Flora 717 feels their sacrifice keenly.
  • Xenofiction

It's a book about bees. Has to have one of these.


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