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Title & Author: hive | Propolis: Volume 1, Daniel DW

Genre & Publication Date: Science-Fiction, May 1, 2015

Book Description: “In 2023, millions connect to a new social technology that projects an augmented device directly from their minds. The new virtual social connection tool, H.I.V.E. (Human Interface for Virtual Evolution) organizes a new collective consciousness with its users, while others adapt to a primitive lifestyle on the barren outskirts of civilized Hive cities. Conflict is inevitable between Hive and The Disconnected, but the reality behind Hive may be even stranger than anyone realized.

Propolis is the first volume of the Hive series and follows its main protagonist, Samantha Plessis from age nine to fifty, who witnesses the extreme changes in her family, friends and the entire world. Story subplots include the HiveTech Corporation’s owners, and Hivers developing new and sometimes illegal ways to manipulate their devices to benefit their lives. Samantha is eventually forced to live in the outskirts of the Hive city of Philadelphia in an abandoned areas in New Jersey that become a destination for other Disconnected.
These books have multiple decipher-able encoding through various methods. (Paperback Only)
Perhaps the first book of its kind, “hive | Propolis,” includes a new and unique twist with dynamic scannable QR codes embedded within the book itself. This provides story-enhancing soundtrack, video and animation, and interactive story clues that invite a reader to take part in a real-world transmedia rabbit hole.
This transmedia twist creates an ever-changing and evolving medium, sending you clues to real-world places and events announced through social media accounts that the reader must discover from the story itself.”

First Line: In 2015 a prototype for an augmented social reality tool was invented by Dr. Lewis Dean Parker.

My Take: This book was provided to me by the author for review.

Alas that I do not have an Android phone to enjoy the embedded links throughout the book but with such an intriguing premise and an ambitious, interactive format, I was still eager to explore this book. While it has great potential I’m afraid I didn’t find the writing to be up to par. Riddled with craft issues, the read was a struggle for two main issues:

Point of View Confusion

The head hopping. Oh Lord, the head hopping. The point of view switched every paragraph, sometimes even within the same paragraph. Dizzying and disorienting, this continued throughout the entire story. In the book description it states this is about Samantha, but leaping into everyone’s head made me wonder whose story it really was. Every character interrupted things, even side characters. Get off the stage already!

One shining exception: Towards the very end of the book there were two journal entries from Samantha and the narrative switched into first person perspective. These two chapters were beautiful. Great voice. Great pacing. The best part? No one else got in the way. Finally I could hear Samantha clearly. I got to know her more here than I did in the rest of the book. Sadness, desperation, fiery determination, and a quiet strength, I gleaned all of this about her from two little chapters. How I wish the entire book had been told from her perspective alone!

“Show” vs. “Tell”

Yes, that tired ole axiom. Every author has heard writing coaches bleat on about this but it remains a solid measure of quality writing. Why? Because subtlety is the backbone of good storytelling, i.e. letting the reader get to the intended point on their own, rather than shoving them that direction.

In this case the story tried to force an opinion on the reader. It lacked only an announcer saying, “Hey! This Hive thing is super bad for people and here are loads scenes to make that painfully obvious.”  The message that technology, especially social media, can be a thing that isolates rather than connects, enslaves rather than liberates, is compelling and certainly relevant to today but it needed a softer approach. The current version waves this in my face so blatantly you’d have to be blind to miss it. The effect? It comes off as preachy, especially in the current third person perspective. Where’s the discourse of the benefits versus drawbacks?

Additionally, the characters that enjoy it are small minded, selfish, and narcissistic. They easily shed the emotional and familial ties of the real world for the virtual one. In contrast, those not linked in to Hive are kindhearted, curious, and wise. Come on, don’t give me tunnel vision! Make things complex. Give me a tapestry to observe and consider. In other words, don’t just paint me a bowl of fruit. Show me the bowl of fruit on a table crowded with other dishes, surrounded by strange and interesting characters. If you want to throw a window onto the far wall with a gallows visible in the distance, so much the better! The trick with integrating the philosophical into writing is this: Ponder. Don’t pontificate.

The Magical: Absolutely, those two journal entries from Samantha. I wonder why the entire book isn’t told in the format of journal entries from her. Through her the writing can rail against Hive without seeming preachy because it comes across as the character’s opinion, not the author’s. Plus then the reader is waiting for the other shoe to drop since they’ll know she’s writing these journal entries because something bad happened.

I also enjoyed the irony of a story about the dangers of technology in a format that engages the technological.

The Mundane: The constant head hopping. *shiver*

Summary of Thoughts: Writing is hard. Emotionally, intellectually, it’s a struggle. I know this on a personal level as well and thus hate giving low star reviews, but dishonesty never did anyone any good, particularly writers. Currently this book is $9.99 for paperback. While I admire the enthusiasm of this project and sincerely believe it could be something spectacular, I feel the book itself is not ready. I’d recommend craft research to dodge these pitfalls and then a strong developmental editor to help untangle any knots that remain.


Many thanks to author Daniel DW for providing a copy of the book to review.

Curious what others thought? Check out Amazon’s reviews here

Want to know about Hive and its interactive format? Check out its website here