‘There I was on my back porch, reading Laline Paull’s intriguing debut novel, The Bees, when I heard, then saw, a bee – the first I’ve spotted this spring.The bee – a forager, I assume, out to gather pollen — showed no interest in me or the book, which is not surprising. But by then, I was deep into the novel, where the characters are bees and the plot is built on their rigid and complex social structure.Paull, a British playwright who was inspired by the death of a friend, a beekeeper, can be playful at times. But this is a serious novel with no Disney or Pixar-like cuteness. She pictures an often violent world with political and religious overtones.Its heroine is a worker bee named Flora 717 whose number is never explicitly explained. She begins life at the lowest rung of the hive, assigned to sanitation work, cleaning the morgue.