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Bellwether [Mass Market Paperback]

Connie Willis
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)
List Price: CDN$ 10.99
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Book Description

June 2 1997
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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Product Description

From Amazon

A sociologist who studies fads and a chaos theorist are brought together by a strange misdelivered package. This book has all the wit and clever writing that characterized Willis' earlier Hugo and Nebula Award-winning Doomsday Book. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From 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. -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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The prototype for all merchandising fads and one whose phenomenal success has never been repeated. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Screwball Comedy June 30 2004
By Aimee
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I love this book to death! It's marketed as science fiction -- mainly because Connie Willis is a science-fiction author -- but I don't think it really is. It's a novel about science and scientists. It's also a wacky, screwball romantic comedy. It's a great deal of fun! Lighthearted and funny, but it also deals with some deeper issues -- specifically, the nature of scientific discovery. It was a joy to read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Sharp, Biting Humor June 9 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Willis' apt observations of fads, crowds, and group behavior were spot-on. I laughed so hard I almost wet myself. Then I felt a little guilty because I was being snobby and feeling superior to all those "sheep" who follow fads. Then I laughed at myself because I am guilty of following fads, too (Rachel haircut, anyone?). Hilarious.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fun and interesting March 5 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
After reading the Doomsday book, I was not prepared for such a light-hearted and witty book on fads, chaos theory with just a dollop of romance. After the large scale carnage of the Doomsday book, it was a relief to find everybody surviving at the end of this one ( more or less retaining their sanity)!
I give this book 5 stars because I think it is a lot harder to write a funny book than it is to write an apocalyptic one. I also have a deep respect for authors who explore different writing styles and subjects. Can't wait to get hold of another of her books..I'm sure it will be as refreshingly different.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Bitter fun Nov. 17 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
It's hard to whole-heartedly laugh at the humor in Bellwether, as it's probably too close to a nerve for most of its readers daily lives. The way Willis takes on subjects as disparate as corporate policy, the politics of research, fads and trends, and (of course) sheep should be recognizable for many folks out there.
It's possibly a little bit slight, and I didn't think it was as complete as a book like _To Say Nothing of the Dog_, but it's still well worth the time to read. Particularly recommended for people who have read Willis before or people who have a career interest in research.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Cruelly Accurate Nov. 12 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Somewhat lighter than her usual style and very funny. Her Dilbertian portrayal of the workplace, and in particular the relationship between those obsessed with their jobs and those obsessed with themselves, is instantly recognizable. One wonders where she worked. I particularly liked the concept of people acting as chaos vortices, again an instantly recognizable concept. My only problem with this book was that at times it is so cruelly accurate that I felt guilty at laughing.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Witty and Fun Oct. 10 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Dr. Sandy Foster works for HiTek Corporation, researching the phenomenon of the fad--her current preoccupations revolve around why women bobbed their hair in the 1920s and, more practical to her status as HiTek employee, how to fill out the monstrously huge funding application without flying off the handle at the grossly inept, fad-following clerical assistant, Flip. When she meets Dr. Bennett O'Reilly, a chaos theorist, Sandy thinks she has met the one person immune to the herd instinct who may finally provide the insight needed to crack the fad conundrum. As they embark upon a chance project combining both their strengths observing the habits of a flock of not-so-terribly-bright sheep, Sandy discovers that she is following a fad far older than any of the fads she has previously analysed and hits upon an answer that ties all of the story's strengths and sidebars into a clever satisfying conclusion.

Bellwether is the first Connie Willis novel I have read; I found her style straight humorous and thoroughly engaging. All the characters entertain; even the most stereotypical---Flip, Management, the "time-out" moms and the aghast waiters from Boulder's trendiest coffee shops and restaraunts manage to convey the lemming effect quite realistically and yet imaginatively. Willis' depiction of HiTek's paperwork debacle, use of synergistic phrases as motivation tools and the overkill touchy-feely employee relations meetings typifies real life in big corporation in a way that more frightening than Hallowe'en.

If you are looking for a short novel that satirizes the media effect on modern life, amuses, yet doesn't get too perplexing, "Bellwether" is just such a read. Based on this reading experience and the positive comments provided by the other reviewers, another Connie Willis novel will find its way into my shopping cart again soon. If you are in the mood for fun, do read it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Clever Dilbertian Tale Sept. 17 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Bellwether is a novel about some of the folks who work at HiTek corporation, a humorously portrayed workplace whose bureaucracy and dysfunctional operations seem to be ripped right from the pages of Dilbert. The primary characters are researchers who scramble to keep up with the changes in the paperwork they are required to file to obtain funding for their projects. They are joined by a hilariously written gofer who does just about everything except the tasks she is given.
Connie Willis hits the nail on the head with her portrayal of our society as a herd mentality bent on following the latest trend without thinking about what they are doing or why. At many points in the story her satire would have had me laughing out loud had it not been so soberingly dead-on. In the midst of this insanity, a researcher attempts to discover where fads originate and becomes intrigued by a coworker who seems to be "immune" to them. Their resulting collaboration injects notions from chaos theory into her fad research and, in the end, yields a clever answer.
There is nothing profound about the conclusion that Willis comes to - in fact, it is as much tongue-in-cheek as anything in this story. She makes some minor points regarding chaos theory and the behavior of nonlinear systems, but nothing earth-shattering - this is far from being hard science fiction. Rather, I found it a clever and very enjoyable tale of the chaos that goes on in our everyday lives, both in the workplace and our personal lives, and how some semblance of order emerges from that chaos.
I you're looking for something light and humorous, yet clever and thoughtful, give Bellwether a read. I truly enjoyed it!
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Most recent customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Fair
I read this book for a Book Club and was disappointed because it really is not discussion material. There is one clever idea about society having bellwether individuals which is... Read more
Published on May 25 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars fads and chaos theory.
Meet Sandra Foster. She works at the HiTek corporation, where she studies fads: to discover their roots and what, exactly, they mean. Read more
Published on July 4 2003 by conrad
4.0 out of 5 stars An entertaining little read.
It's amazing that every book Connie Willis writes is completely different from any other. My personal favorites are her time travel books, particularly "To Say Nothing of the... Read more
Published on July 3 2003
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Stuff
This is a great book by a great writer. Connie Willis is great at dropping you into complicated situations with complicated characters, yet by the end of the story everything is... Read more
Published on June 27 2003 by Stephen Iaquaniello
5.0 out of 5 stars Laugh out loud funny
This is a great book, and I highly recommend it. It is laugh out loud funny. It is an easy read, with questionable "science" but tons of character (I mean the book has... Read more
Published on June 27 2003 by L. Peppin
5.0 out of 5 stars Bellwether
I am not a big fan of science fiction in general, but this book I couldn't put down. It is both humorous and fascinating, especially for enthusiasts of chaos theory or fads. Read more
Published on March 20 2003 by Word Ninja
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