The Last Beekeeper: Vespling Book One by Jared Gulian

The Last Beekeeper is set on a small island in Lake Michigan and follows Jim Parker, a beekeeper in a Global Bee Crisis who rents out his bees for pollination to local producers. When someone starts to burn his beehives and the precious creatures and commodity they house, Jim begins a search for their destroyer and this inadvertently takes him into a whole different world of danger and deception.

Horror is a genre into which I sometimes delve though not often as I don’t always find it scary and it can sometimes be laughable. In my view, to be good, it has to tread a line between credibility and monstrosity and Jared Gulian has got it just right.

The setting of the book on an island suggests that it is a haven away from more worldly troubles but it also provides an environment that is insular and therefore, one where it is difficult to escape. The fact that Gulian’s main character, Jim, has relocated to this island to rebuild his life and protect his remaining family creates the urgency and desperation of a man keen to preserve all he cares about.

Add to this the modern fear of genetic modification in a world that is fighting to have fresh vegetables and fruit, some of the things that we take for granted and we are just this side of apocalyptic, with a view to seeing it heading towards us from the horizon.

I loved this book. Gulian’s characters are believable and well-drawn and the small island atmosphere is comfortable and claustrophobic at the same time. The sense of Jim desperately trying to protect what he loves but veering towards the obsessive is also excellent; he is a good guy and his fear threatens to overtake him but is he necessarily wrong to be overprotective?

Also, the creatures that Gulian describes are monstrous but this is not overstated. His narrative style is descriptive but not wordy and so, you are not swamped with unnecessary detail; I feel that the best storytellers give you just enough for you to visualise the scene yourself and then their writing will propel you onwards through the action so that the experience of reading their book is completely immersive, and that is what I got from this. I was absorbed.

An excellent read. I eagerly await the release of the second Vespling book.

This review was first published on Reedsy Discovery where I was privileged to read it as an ARC.

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