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BOOK REVIEW: Hive by A.J. Betts

| 8 August 2018 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: Hive by A.J. Betts

Pan Macmillan
June 2018
Paperback, $16.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell

Young Adult / Science Fiction / Dystopia

6/10

All I can tell you is what I remember, in the words that I have.

Hayley tends to her bees and follows the rules in the only world she has ever known.
Until she witnesses the impossible: a drip from the ceiling.

A drip? It doesn’t make sense.

Yet she hears it, catches it. Tastes it.
Curiosity is a hook.

What starts as a drip leads to a lie, a death, a boy, a beast, and too many awful questions.

At fifteen, beekeeper Hayley worries that her frequent headpains signal oncoming madness.

But I’d also come to learn that, occasionally, headpains weren’t usual at all. Sometimes an unfortunate person would suffer headpains that were too frequent, too fierce, too disorienting to be treated by leaves alone. These weren’t just headpains but the start of something worse: a maddening illness of strange behaviours, the likes of which we’d observed, as children, through the gaps in the sickroom walls. How we’d mocked the mad ones who saw and heard things the rest of us couldn’t. How we’d imitated their strange cries and moans as they imagined things that weren’t there.
Madness, I’d believed as a child, was a shameful sickness that happened to other people.

She lives in a closed environment, with domes making up each section of the world – the gardeners, netters (who have a hatch through which they haul in fish), enginers (who keep the electricity and air flowing), and so on.

Twelve stairs led up to the platform of the nursery and sickroom. From there, ten more stairs led to the upper house. It was the house where the source began. The house where the judge and son lived; where the council assembled to make decisions for the world. The place where sins were discussed and their consequences decided upon.

This is a world where sayings exist that make no sense to any of them, using words they don’t understand.

Lullabies puzzled me. They were the songs that mothers would sing to babies as they rocked them in their cribs or nursed them to sleep in their arms. The melodies were soothing but the words could be strange and terrifying. Why would a baby be in a treetop when the rules were so clearly against it? Why should a baby want to hear about another baby falling, breaking? And what was ‘wind’ supposed to be anyway? A monster? A beast? Or a giant?

And when Hayley finds a drip that shouldn’t exist, she starts looking for answers that few are privvy to, and those few do not want her to know.

 

From our privileged position as readers who do not live in a closed environment, who understand these phrases and words, and who know that a world consists of more than three-hundred people, we go into this story with some level of understanding of what’s going on here. We don’t know how it came to be, or why, or what it all means, or where it’s located, so we must read on to discover, but we know that there are secrets, and these people are probably hidden away in some kind of underground bunker, right?

The fact that we enter this story with more information about the world than Hayley seems to have amassed in her entire life means that, at times she (and those around her) can seem rather naive, and it can feel like the reader is miles ahead of where the character is, but there are still plenty of questions to make it worth the read.

This was a well-built world with lots of thought evidently put into it, though some things might seem a little illogical at first.

For this reader, the main issue was with Hayley herself.

She’s overly naive, which is to be expected from someone raised in the environment she lives in… but beyond that she seems to make many overly stupid and selfish decisions, reacts to a whole lot of events that happen to her, and is generally very self-pitying. I’ve seen this handled in a way that allows readers to still connect to the character, but this didn’t seem to be the case here.

This is the first of a duology, and unfortunately it ends on quite the cliffhanger, so I will definitely be reading book two, Rogue, when it comes out in 2019.

‘They’re called tentacles. And octopuses always have eight.’
‘But why?’
‘All the better to play marbles with.’
It sounded like a riddle, though his voice was plain. I wondered if he was always this irritating.
The beast jerked savagely, flinging water over the laps of shrieking children.
‘But why do they have eight arms . . . tentacles?’ I pressed.
‘For the same reason bees have six legs.’
‘To collect pollen?’
‘Because they do.’
‘You’re not making any sense.’
He shrugged again, uncaring.

 

 

Stephanie O’Connell

Category: Book Reviews, Other Reviews

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