A review of Hive by A J Betts

Reviewed by Emily McDonnell

by A J Betts
Pan Macmillan Australia
ISBN: 9781760556433, Paperback, 26 June 2018, 272 pages, $16.99aud

Upon reading the first few pages of this book what struck me the most was the unique style of writing and imaginative ideas that the novel grew from. Hive is a dystopian book were everything is controlled and the world as they know it is unknown until Hayley, the main character, discovers a drip. A drip which doesn’t belong and shouldn’t be there. Curiosity is sin…

Unlike other dystopia’s or fantasy’s, the world-building in this book was almost left to the reader to imagine. This isn’t to say I have disliked this book. I enjoyed the mysterious vibe of this novel and whilst reading I felt as though a great secret could be unveiled suddenly.

Hayley is written with beautiful use of first person and is different from most others in her world. Headpains, as they are described in the book are something which Hayley has to deal with discreetly. It is while she seeks refuge in a secluded location that she discovers the drip. Madness is immediately a fear of Hayley’s and something which is dreaded in their world.

The futuristic world which A.J. Betts has created is, like any captivating dystopian, oddly not too far off what could become our future. Especially as Hive is set only a mere five generations from where our current world stands. The novel focuses on and describes what the environment is like at the time in which it is set. To me, the discussion of bees was interesting in this book as the endangerment of bees is an issue which requires great attention. The ideas Hayley describes in Hive regarding communication between bees worked as a metaphor of sorts to convey a greater message perhaps about the world she is living in. Later in the book we discover the real reason for the creation of this new world is for a much greater reason, which again is oddly unsettling to think about.

The world created in Hive is one run by, like any dystopian – an undesirable or corrupt government, the judge and her son who know the many secrets and mysteries of the real world which is hidden from the rest of the population. Everyone has a role, ranging from gardeners (which Hayley is a part of), engineers, doctors, kitchners, netters and many more. Another interesting aspect of the novel is how marriage is explained as being a few nights, nothing more, to produce a child. As well as this, certain roles can only marry certain roles, as Hayley describes in the novel.

Hive features an array of interesting characters including Celia – Hayley’s best friend whom she confides her secrets in, the son – a mysterious and unique character who is fighting a battle within himself and Luka – a boy Hayley meets and forms a friendship with, who appreciates the strange elements of their world like herself.

Hive is a stunning book, with a cliff-hanger ending and anticipated sequel Rogue due to be released in July 2019.

About the reviewer: Emily McDonell was first prize winner in the Hunter Writers’ Centre/Compulsive Reader book review competition.  She is a high school student, an avid reader and has a passion for books. It was clear from a very early age that books would play a large part in her life. Emily has participated in the Premier’s Reading Challenge since starting her schooling and her favourite subject is English. Emily has also been a Girl Guide for the past nine years and is currently working to complete her Queen’s Guide Award. Emily also loves animals especially her dog Jersey.