The Bees, by Laline PaullRead about the other entries on the list.
Laline Paull’s debut novel casts the lives of bees as a theocratic dystopia. Flora 717 is a worker born to the sanitation caste, an “unclean” who will remain furthest from the queen. But Flora isn’t a normal worker—she is able to adapt to tasks and exercises free will, something abhorrent to the bees around her, who know their assigned roles and stay in them. Adding dialogue and intent to the movements of bees makes them even more alien and terrifying than they already are, as they ritually slaughter each other for imperfections and hum with devotion for their Queen, the Holy Mother. Paull also creates a vast and unsettling world inside the confined space of the hive, including nurseries, prisons, and other structures analogous to humans. With Flora 717’s changing stature and ability to act independently, the novel also uses the collectivist hivemind for great effect as it explores ideas of free will and the individual in society.