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

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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.        

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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.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780553562965
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
06/28/1997
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
580,649
Product dimensions:
4.17(w) x 6.89(h) x 0.74(d)

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