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Bellwether by Connie Willis
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Bellwether (1996)

by Connie Willis

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,876None3,655 (4.01)110
1990s (7) audiobook (10) chaos theory (56) comedy (7) Connie Willis (11) fads (73) fantasy (42) favorite (10) fiction (260) humor (95) novel (18) own (11) paperback (12) pop culture (21) read (49) research (17) romance (37) satire (12) science (30) science fiction (369) scientists (21) sf (99) sff (37) sheep (39) signed (11) sociology (17) speculative fiction (19) to-read (24) trends (28) unread (12)
  1. 10
    So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld (mzonderm)
    mzonderm: Both books are interesting commentaries on how fads get started.
  2. 32
    Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (Kichererbse)
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English (66)  German (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (68)
Showing 1-5 of 66 (next | show all)
3.5 stars

Sandra Foster is a scientist working at a company called HiTek. She studies fads, and is currently working on figuring out how/where the hair bob fad started. HiTek has recently hired a new mail clerk who can’t seem to get anything right, nor does she seem to care. There is a grant awarded to scientists, sort of randomly, but HiTek wants to do everything they can to have one of their scientists win the grant.

I liked it. There really isn’t very much of a plot, but I liked the characters and it was humourous. Reading about the various fads throughout history was fun, too. ( )
  LibraryCin | Feb 20, 2014 |
a fun romp through chaos theory and the history of fads, and corporate organizational dysfunction. Not to mention several other things. Vintage Connie Willis humor. ( )
  Kali.Lightfoot | Jan 10, 2014 |
Witty and full of fun facts on fads through the ages. ( )
1 vote bg853 | Jan 7, 2014 |
I really loved this book, and could barely get myself to put it down! It's probably mostly because I find things like the study of trends and fads interesting that I have to believe that Connie Willis might be one of the more creative science fiction writers; even if I still have some questions about some of her other novels.
My only qualm was that something about the culmination of the romance between Sandra and Ben seemed somewhat trite, or something. ( )
  Zabeth | Dec 9, 2013 |
Sandra studies fads; her current project is tracing the origin of the hair bobbing fad of the 1920s, and her office is strewn with news clippings. (For LTers: after discovering that the library purges books that haven’t been checked out in a year, she makes a habit of checking out favorites to keep them in play.) Bennett studies chaos and complex systems; he has proposed a project to observe skill transmission in macaques. They both work for HiTek, in different departments at opposite ends of the building, and meet when the incompetent office gofer Flip misdelivers a package to Sandra, who goes in search of its addressee. HiTek is..., well, that’s not entirely clear, but that’s OK. It is a company that employs scientists, and is exaggeratedly and entertainingly mismanaged with ever-changing acronyms (GRIM and SHAM) and increasingly convoluted forms that keep the scientists tied up in bureaucracy.

Company management is obsessed with the million-dollar Niebnitz Grant, and assigns Alicia (who is always attired in po-mo pink, the color of the season) the task of statistically analyzing past recipients to improve its chances; the grant is awarded on an irregular schedule by an anonymous entity for amorphous reasons that management wants in a checklist. Bennett fills out the new and improved funding procurement form, now with more prize-winning boxes and lines, and obediently hands it to Flip. There go the macaques. Sandra saves the project by borrowing sheep from Billy Ray (who has moved on to ostriches, the next big thing), a rancher she met while researching line dancing, and convinces management to link Bennett to her funding (“cross-discipline” is an approved buzzword du jour), but exasperating efforts leave them doubtful that sheep can learn anything. Flip meanwhile complains that her job is too demanding, so the company hires an assistant, Shirl, who is refreshingly competent but shunned because the company is caught up in an anti-smoking aversion fad (publication date: 1996). (Spoilerish? No more so than the back cover.) A bit of a spoiler re the title: Flip righteously petitions to put Shirl outside in the cold. Sandra and Bennett come to the rescue with a sheltered smoking spot that is technically outside, from which vantage point Shirl, raised on a ranch, sees the sheep and suggests a bellwether. And there you have the title, but you could’ve looked up the definition.

All the necessary ingredients for comedy and romance, a jumble of pieces that fall into place by the end. This story has no time travel element, but anyone who has read the Oxford time travel series will recognize the style. As a bonus, each chapter begins with a paragraph about a (for real) fad. Recommended as light but smart and fun.

(8 Nov 2013)
2 vote qebo | Nov 23, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 66 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Connie Willisprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jensen, BruceCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Reading, KateNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Brothers, sisters, husbands, wives--
Follwed the Piper for their lives.
From street to street he piped advancing,
And step by step they followed dancing.
robert browning
Dedication
To John
From Abigail

"Yours--yours--yours--"
First words
It's almost impossible to pinpoint the beginning of a fad.
Quotations
"Do you like po-mo pink?" I asked her.
She sighed. "It's the boss color for fall."
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0553562967, Mass Market Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:27:02 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

A romantic comedy on two scientists using the chaos theory to predict fads in our society. They are Sandra and Bennet, working on the premise that a tiny action like the flap of a butterfly's wings in Arizona has an impact on the whole world, perhaps resulting in a hurricane in China. The couple's work on fad-diffusion produces comic as well as tragic results.… (more)

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