Auhor: A.J. Betts
Publication Date: 26th June 2018
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Copy: Courtesy of the Publisher
A.J. Betts is an award-winning Australian author and Hive is my introduction to her work.
Hive is an alternate-world story that was actually not what I expected. This is a young adult title that I think is probably well suited to the mid-range of the demographic. There is quite a lovely naivety and innocence about the characters that would fit well with the younger end of the scale but some of the themes may still be a little too much. Having said that I think older audiences will still enjoy the story, I know I certainly did.
It’s hard to really explain what I have going on in my head because it is told quite simplistically but is a rather complex storyline.
Hayley is living in an enclosed world that is strictly regimented and everyone has their place in the community. Her world is small, her knowledge is passed down through generations and the language is rather simplistic. They are only taught the words for those things within the realm of their experience, and they are a religious community with an all-seeing God.
It was early on in the story that I started questioning the nature of this community and trying to piece together what it all meant, but I don’t think I actually figured it out before it unfolded on the pages.
The community Hayley is a part of is quite small, close knit and well guided, until the people come along that aren’t happy to just accept the status quo; they have questions and they want answers, they want to understand and know how and why it all works…. and that isn’t always a good thing.
Curiosity is a character trait that can land you in tricky situations when the older generations can’t or won’t answer your questions. If you do have an inquiring mind that needs to know how and why things work there is little that is more frustrating than a non-answer. ‘God works in mysterious ways’ isn’t going to satisfy the curiosity.
Early on I’m making mental comparisons to The Truman Show and…. another one that I can’t name right now. Yes, they are both enclosed communities but that is where the similarities end really.
At the conclusion of this book a lot of pieces fell into place and I could feel myself putting the mental pieces together as I was reading and the final chapters were answering the questions I had. I was happy with how it all came together and then it just stopped. Lucky for me, I knew there was a second book to come but I would have been bitterly disappointed thinking that was where it ended.
Hayley and her community are trained from early on how to think and what is acceptable, their class systems are far removed from what we see these days but they are well documented and strictly enforced. Marriage is required but it is done with a lot of ceremony because it has to be followed to make sure it is a suitable match, a small gene pool makes it even trickier to make sure you aren’t mixing genes that are best left separate.
Hive is written in a way that leaves the reader questioning when and where this community is situated because the story is told in a way that leaves you thinking it could be anywhere. It’s a sustainable hive that grows it’s own food, produces it’s own oxygen and has a supply of meat. It is also a community that has no known recollections of life before the hive, they’ve been there for generations and generations and no-one knows what was before. This plotline certainly had me intrigued.
I enjoyed the way the storyline played out and I will be keeping an eye out in 2019 for Rogue to see how the story ends. I think that sometimes it’s difficult to come up with a truly original story but Betts has woven different elements to create something unique.
Hive is book #27 for the Australian Women Writer’s Challenge 2018.