Publisher: Pan Macmillan
A.J. Betts’ post-apocalyptic novel depicts a society that lives – architecturally and socially – like bees in a hive. It is a contained world of three hundred people with fixed roles – like beekeeper, gardener, engineer and seeder. At the top is the god-like judge – a woman – who has a son, Will. At first he appears to be the enemy of the heroine, Hayley, but later transforms into the handsome prince. In spite of the strangeness of the setting, which at times tests the reader’s capacity to conceive of how it works as an entity, the narrative is a more familiar coming-of-age story – where girls are excited by the prospect of marriage and producing a baby, while boys are diffident and awkward about being co-opted into this project. All is well in this controlled socialist society until Hayley begins to ask questions. This is an intriguing, fast-paced novel which raises some big issues; readers will eagerly anticipate the next installment in the series.