Waverly and Oliver are two common house flies in a world ruled by spiders. Orphans after a great feud between the noble bees and the treacherous spiders, Waverly and Oliver do what they can to get by as subjects of the despot arachnid Ramsay.
Ramsay and his spider minions do just about everything they can to keep flies–and all other non-spiders–repressed. From verbal insults to complex and contradictory laws, there is little room for hope under Ramsay’s reign of terror. That is until Ben Beesely makes an appearance.
After a mysterious comet-like disturbance the night before, Waverly and Oliver come across a fellow fly they name Ben. Ben is nearly catatonic on first inspection and does not reveal himself to be a quick-witted, peace loving fly until the next day. From this point it is easy to tell Ben is no ordinary fly. His arrival, in fact, has been predicted by Ramsay’s personal soothsaying cricket Croda. It is revealed that Ben will try to challenge the supremacy of the spiders. It is a challenge that, however impossible sounding, Ramsay will make sure is unsuccessful. Unleashing spiders with a special kind of poison that slowly robs its victims of the ability to move and speak, Ben and his friends are up against a difficulty that is much greater than Ramsay alone. As Waverly and Oliver are infected with the frightful venom, time works against them as they embark on a journey through the insect world around them.
As harmless as the idea of flies fighting against spiders may seem, the story does delve into darker details. After all, the spiders gained control of their small society by tricking the helpless bees into a massacre. Though the massacre does not receive explicit detail, it is notable just how ruthless these spiders can be. Likewise, insects that break the rules are taken to the “Dung Heap” and never heard from again. While no more disturbing than, say, a witch with an edible house who intends on cooking children, these darker images may be too intense for some younger readers.
Nevertheless, the story’s mixture of fantasy and whimsy is imaginative. Though it is disappointing to see creatures so helpful and misunderstood as spiders vilified, their place as a natural enemy to the house fly is understandable. While readers are unlikely to walk away having learned anything factual about insects, a new look at the classic story of a mysterious visitor offering peace and a powerful tyrant hoping to stop him is largely successful.
The trio of young house flies venture through such disparate places and activities as an ant battle and a termite buffet. The personification of house flies may seem a stretch at times but it is a welcome alternative to another garden story flush with butterflies and beautiful fairies. In the end Ben Beesley’s adventure proves to be both very familiar and very strange indeed.
Reviewed by Collin Marchiando for IndieReader