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Bellwether
     

Bellwether

4.1 23
by Connie Willis
 

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Pop culture, chaos theory and matters of the heart collide in this unique novella from the Hugo and Nebula winning author of Doomsday Book.
   Sandra Foster studies fads and their meanings for the HiTek corporation. Bennet O'Reilly works with monkey group behavior and chaos theory for the same
   company.   When the two are

Overview

Pop culture, chaos theory and matters of the heart collide in this unique novella from the Hugo and Nebula winning author of Doomsday Book.
   Sandra Foster studies fads and their meanings for the HiTek corporation. Bennet O'Reilly works with monkey group behavior and chaos theory for the same
   company.   When the two are thrust together due to a misdelivered package and a run of seemingly bad luck, they find a joint project in a flock of sheep. But a                                                                         series of setbacks and disappointments arise before they are able to find answers to their questions.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In Willis's (Doomsday) fifth solo novel, her practiced screwball style yields a clever story which, while imperfect, is a sheer pleasure to read. In the very near future, sociologist/statistician Sandy Foster is researching the source of fads at a Dilbert-like corporation, Hi-Tek. Plagued by Flip, an airhead mail girl, she joins her research to that of Bennett O'Reilly, a chaos theorist studying information diffusion. As in the past, Willis moves her plot along through mix-ups and near-misses, a device that neatly embodies her theme of chaos. Chaos leads to a higher level of organization-breakthroughs in Sandy and Bennett's research, wealth and requited love. Flip, an echo of Robert Browning's Pippa, is an avatar of chaos whose passing alters lives. She's crucial to the story, so Sandy puts up with her in a way that's wimpy, annoying and unbelievable. Where the story's headed becomes transparent too early: the insight into the role of bellwethers in fomenting breakthroughs is not compelling. But none of that counts much against this bright romantic comedy, where the real pleasure is the thick layers of detail (researched or observed), and the wryly disdainful commentary on human stupidity. Something like a collaboration between Jane Austen and C. M. Kornbluth, it's sprightly, intelligent fun. (Mar.)
Kirkus Reviews
Here-and-now speculative yarn involving chaos theory and statistical prediction, from the author of the fine Doomsday Book (1992), etc. Employed by the HiTek company, Sandra Foster is trying to develop a theory that can predict how and why fads and trends begin. But her attempts to computerize her data (mostly in the form of magazine and newspaper clippings) are constantly frustrated by the awful Flip, the erratic, forgetful, careless interdepartmental assistant. Still, Flip does lead Sandra to meet biologist Bennett O'Reilly, who thinks he's discovered a hidden factor within current chaos theories. As Flip blunders about—ghastly black lipstick, weird clothes, faddish accessories, attitude problem and all—Sandra and Bennett decide to set up a joint project to test their ideas on the behavior of a flock of sheep. HiTek's management heartily approves—such a project might well win the coveted Niebnitz Grant. Sandra and Bennett learn that a bellwether sheep unconsciously acts as a catalyst to determine the entire flock's behavior. Bingo! Flip, while seeming totally incompetent, unknowingly acts as a human bellwether, causing fads and trends to crystallize around her as she lurches chaotically through life.

Willis's intriguing notion comes across with the authority of a genuine insight—and probably merits a more dramatic and thoroughgoing workout than the agreeable but bland treatment it receives here.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780553562965
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
06/28/1997
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
232,024
Product dimensions:
4.17(w) x 6.89(h) x 0.74(d)

Meet the Author

Connie Willis is an American science fiction and fantasy writer. She has won eleven Hugo Awards and seven Nebula Awards, including Hugo Best Novel for Blackout/All Clear in 2010. Willis' novels showcase the comedy of manner style of writing and often feature time travel, which are informally referred to as the Time Travel series. In addition to numerous novels and novellas, Willis has written short story and essay collections. Her notable books include Doomsday Book, To Say Nothing of the Dog, the aforementioned Blackout/All Clear, and the short story "The Last of the Winnebagos".

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Bellwether 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Bellwether was not at all what I expected it to be. It is classified as science fiction, but what that implies to me is a futuristic setting and/or cutting edge technology and/or robots and/or space travel, yadda yadda. There was science in Bellwether, but the science was explained so that a liberal arts major, such as myself, could easily understand it. The story sucked me in and I loved reading it. The parts about chaos theory as related to fads were fascinating. The characters were interesting and the book was very funny in parts. I recommend Bellwether highly.
zbth More than 1 year ago
I love Connie Willis's stories and her voice, Bellwether is no exception. But I was completely irritated with the number of typos in the nook version. It was distracting, irritating and made me wish I'd just bought the paperback instead. Kudoes to Ms Willis on another great book, -5 pts to whoever created the ebook for poor proofing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Some of Willis's shorter novels are not her best efforts, but this is really a gem. It's aromp through why people do what they do, fads and views and it's really a hoot. It's fun and engaging especially if you have no idea what a bellwether is!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book three years ago and loved it! Now I am in a psych class at high school and I have found ways to relate the book to many sociocultural influences of behavior. Its great.
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pave3e More than 1 year ago
I love this book, my wife loves this book, her best friend loves this book. Everybody that we've recommended this book to has enjoyed it.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This was an easy and fun book to read. There was a great deal missing. I'm not sure just what. Something about it seemed strained, unnatural, not genuine. Lots of potential here but no real satisfying whole. I am left wanting to know what will happen. I honestly wanted this book to last a great deal longer so I would gladly have read 800 pages. It ended much too abruptly. I did not want to put it down. Why such a moderate rating? Itch?
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an attempt at a Katherine Hepburn/Spencer Tracey romantic farce. The Hepburn character is a sociologist researching fads. This circumstance affords Ms. Willis the opportunity to skewer various fads circulating in the mid nineties. One problem is that Ms. Willis and her heroine define 'fad' very loosely and arbitrarily: for example, a running theme is that legislation which prohibits smoking in public places is a pernicious and monumentally unjust fad--smokers with persecution complexes will be sympathetic, the rest of us simply annoyed. Another problem is that, unlike her Tracey character, whom she exalts for his imperviousness, Ms. Willis is herself very susceptible to insidious fads of language: I found one 'hopefully' pretending to mean 'I hope', two 'oxymoron's used incorrectly (an oxymoron is by definition not just any contradiction in terms, but a deliberate literary device), and one 'just that' (a perfectly correct but obnoxious rhetorical mannerism prevalent in the mid eighties). Overall, the prose is glib and perfunctory. The climax and denouenent of 'The Bellwether' are predictable, unconvincing, unsatisfying, and forced.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Let's be clear: There is no reason to fault a science-fiction writer for not writing science fiction, but there is every reason to fault a novel that purports to be about science and isn't. If you want an exciting, light, very readable book that makes you feel you are taking part in an important scientific discovery and teaches you something about science without taxing your powers of concentration, read Watson's 'Double Helix'. (It may comfort you to know that some consider 'Double Helix' as much fiction as 'Bellwether'. I can't say, but if 'Double Helix' is fiction, it is certainly better fiction.) The anti-anti-smoking tract obtrusively interlaced into the plot (such as it is) of 'Bellwether' is not funny or witty or even believable. The author's protagonists, the one a sociologist, the other a scientist (though the author seems insensible of the distinction) are portrayed as non-smokers who are not the least bit discomfited by close-range cigarette smoke. Here's the straight dope, smokers: If any such persons exist in real life, they are strange physiological freaks. Want to be honest? Next time don't ask, 'Do you mind if I smoke?' Ask either, 'Are you a smoker too?' or, 'Will you suffer my smoking mutely?'