Divided into three sections, this dystopian novel looks at beekeeping from three different vantage points–Victorian England, America circa 2007, and China circa 2098.

While ostensibly focusing on bees, the novel examines the tensions that exist between family members, especially fathers and sons. This is true for the Victorian century beekeeper, William, and his son, Edmund, and in his American descendants, George, and his son, Tom circa 2007.

The sons in each case want nothing to do with father’s dream of harvesting honey and raising bees. William Savage is not only estranged from his son but also becomes more and more alienated from his mentor, Rahm. The only child who understands William’s dream is Charlotte yet he coldly dismisses her achievements. She is the wrong gender.

In the last time period, which takes place in China, bees and other pollinators are extinct. Their absence which leaves a void in the world further alienates family members. Without bees, everyone is undernourished and forced to work long hours hand painting pollen onto flowers.

In this horrific time, parents can only see their children one day a week. Children are forced to leave school and work as pollinators at younger and younger ages. Tao and Kuan can barely speak to each other, especially after their son disappears. Tao leaves her husband and goes off into unsafe areas of Beijing in search of her child, Wei-Wen.

Tied into all three stories is The History of the Bees, a book written by Thomas Savage who is distantly related to the Victorian bee keeper. Tao read the book and insists that the leader of the Committee, Li Xiara, read it as well.

The army and Chinese government finds a new colony of bees near the site where Wei-Wen goes missing. Knowing and acknowledging the past, however, is necessary before they can move forward. Tao’s boy becomes a symbol of hope.

What is fascinating is the way Lunde compares the disappearance of bees, also known as colony collapse disorder, with the disintegration of family and natural bonds. This is a chilling speculative novel about what may happen if red flags about pollinators and the climate are ignored.