Humans and ​Nature in The History of Bees: 250 years of Destruct and Construct

© ALE+ALE, acrylic, 2010

Norwegian author Maja Lunde introduces us to an emerging genre – Climatic Fiction. It is a form of science fiction that offers eco-criticism. Her recent work, The History of Bees (2015), combines history, contemporary and a dystopian future to remind us of our relationship with nature. It is no news that bees are vital to our ecosystem. They help plants reproduce through spreading pollens elsewhere. Without bees, many plants would go extinct, humans would thus face extinction as well. Humans have also harvested honey from beehives for thousands of years. In a way, humans are similar to bees. We are social animals and live in clusters, we work together and for each other, maintaining the livelihood of our species.


The novel consists of 3 plots that spread across 250 years, all surrounding the existence of bees and human survival. The three narratives occur in interchanging chapters, creating a parallel universe of human lives when bees started to be domesticated, disappearing and gone.


© Atria Books

The first narrative sets in 1851 United Kingdom, where convention domestic beekeeping was invented. This timestamp falls quite close to the industrial revolution where scientific methods that manipulate our environment are on the rise, hence the destruction of our nature. The next narrative sets in 2008 United States, shortly after the first catastrophic event in apicultureColony Collapse Disorder (OCC); In the 21st century, human lives almost completely rely on technology, and the USA was in the lead. Scientists began to discuss global warming, humans started to realize the damage they have and were causing to the environment.


The final narrative sets in 2098 China, a dystopian world where all bees have disappeared and humans need to perform hand pollination. The reconstruction of a functional ecosystem is forced by humans. This part directly confronts the importance of environmental protection, and humans ability to cope with the world without technology. It also signifies the rising power of China as foreseen by many.


Climate change and environmental issues are often seen as scientists’ job to fix. However, it is us the general consumers who contributed to the destruction the most, hence should be the most aware. Lunde’s novel delivers us a more approachable way to understand such problems, and gave us a more relatable perspective.


The History of Bees is only the first volume of Lunde’s Climatic Quartet. The second volume Blue was published in October 2017, the remaining two are still in the making.

By Sin Wai Ying Rachel

Categories: Books, Fantasy and Sci-fi

Tags: , , , ,

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