The oft used concept of a post-apocalyptic world takes a unique social turn in the novel After Bees by B. C. Nyren as the slow crumble of humanity followeds the gradual decline of the world’s natural resources, the cultural practices that arise with the surviving people should be a warning to all readers about the fragility of our precious environment.
It took over a century for the world to deteriorate, and it seems the diminishing art of apiculture was the beginning of the end. As the pollination process waned, so did a major portion of the world’s food supply. Once the crops began disappearing, the livestock soon died off as well. Through vigilant determination, a few small pockets of survivors learned new ways to grow their own supplies, creating safe hive like communities for humanity to flourish once more. But this time around, woman would rule. It was decreed that the poor choices of our past were tied primarily to the male gender, and the safest way to control every man was to bind him as property under the strict supervision of women. Slavery.
Willow Pelletier is the Captain of the Guard for one of the prevailing settlements. As the story’s protagonist, it quickly becomes evident that she is not as domineering over male “slaves” as other women; for her, ownership is more of an opportunity for freedom than one of enslavement. This compassion becomes most prevalent when Willow takes in two slaves, a young boy and his uncle, who are linked to a recent murder investigation and part of a rebel community outside of the settlement.
At well under 200 pages, After Bees is an easy read that goes by quick. The post-apocalyptic backdrop is reasonable with just enough authenticity to give credence to the plot without becoming a distraction. Yes, this is a dystopian environment, but the crux of the story revolves around the relationship Willow has with the characters around her. It is through her casual demeanor and often used whimsical banter that readers will feel most at ease, allowing us to forgive the fact that she is still in command of the security of a settlement that enslaves fellow humans.
A well-balanced mixture of science fiction, romance, and mystery, After Bees by B. C. Nyren is less about the fall of nature and more about the fall of humanity.