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Bellwether Mass Market Paperback – June 2, 1997

210 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 247 pages
  • Publisher: Spectra (June 2, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553562967
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553562965
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.7 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (210 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #160,972 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Connie Willis is an established author of many science fiction books, including THE DOOMSDAY BOOK, and winner of both the Nebula Award and the Hugo Award for best sf novel.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

109 of 111 people found the following review helpful By Terry L. Shoptaugh on May 22, 1998
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Probably the most enjoyable book I've read that asks the question: why do people jump on the latest bandwagon only to discover that it doesn't make them any happier than they were before? The protagonist-narrator of the story is a social scientist, working for a research corporation and trying to find how fads begin. The corporation wants to figure out how to use her research to make new fads, and of course gobs of money in the process. The weekly meetings presided over by "management" are hilarious.
This book reads so easily that you might be deceived into thinking that it's simply written. Hardly. Willis has worked very hard to tie together a number of disparate elements. Some of the most enjoyable parts of the book are the short descriptions of dozens of past fads -- everything from coonskin caps to bobbed hair to mah jong. In the process, Willis tells us a lot about what we're willing to do to "belong."
I noticed from previous reviews that some people were disappointed with this book because it really isn't science fiction. It's true, this is not traditional science fiction, with a futuristic setting, new technology, etc. But Willis's remarks that relate fads to chaos theory are very well thought-out. In giving the reader something new to think about, she meets the basic test of science fiction. And in creating an enjoyable, perceptive story, she meets the challenge of being an exceptionally good writer.
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81 of 86 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 28, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
You know, it really irks me when a wonderful book like Bellwether comes out and all these "well-read" types come out of the woodwork to tell you how awful it was because it wasn't like her other work, didn't turn out how they wanted, maybe wasn't as deep as something else she'd written....Please read it anyway! I loved this book! I have read it many times, loaned it to many friends, bought it for name it! I love the fact that it's not like her other books. I love that Connie Willis can allow herself to branch out. She is a fine author in any incarnation, and just because it doesn't focus on spaceships or aliens or time-travel, doesn't mean it can't be science fiction. You got your science. You got your fiction. Voila! And if nothing else, the ending will make reading the book all worthwhile.
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60 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Amanda Richards HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on September 23, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Don't be fooled by the collage cover of Mandelbrot patterns, moth and human hair - this book is all about the sheep. A semi-scientific, extremely funny, geeky love story emerges from chaos, which is embodied by a fad-obsessed, incompetent mail clerk named Flip.

If you've ever entered an IKEA through the front entrance (instead of sneaking through the marketplace), you'll understand the "sheep" reference. People walking along assigned pathways, eyes glancing downward nervously, following large black arrows on the floor, not daring to stray from the path, much less walk in the opposite direction.

Sandra Foster works in a "Dilbert" type corporation, trying to work out what causes fads, from hairstyles to crossword puzzles. Bennett O'Reilly works for the same corporation, studying chaos theories. When these two get together thanks to a misdelivered package, things really start to get chaotic, compounded by the hiring of an assistant for Flip, who is (gasp) a SMOKER, and Management's efficiency meetings.

Studying the behavioral patterns of a flock of sheep proves to be a lot harder than it looks (almost as hard as filling up a Corporation request for a paper clip) but through some coincidental occurrences they learn the secret of the wooly herd-followers the hard way.

An enjoyably easy read, I especially liked the information on various fads at the beginning of each chapter. Like most of the other people who've read this book, you'll probably like it.

Amanda Richards, September 24, 2005
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41 of 45 people found the following review helpful By on September 25, 1998
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book will Flip you out. And you'll have to read it to truly appreciate this comment. :) If this book is indicative of Connie's writing I can see why she has won six Nebulas and five Hugos (including short stories, novellas etc).
The story revolves around Sandy, a research scientist working at HiTek. She is searching for the cause of fads. There would be a lot of money for the people who could predict the next fad. She is focusing on the fad of 'hair bobbing' that afflicted women in the 1920s. If she can find what caused it she can apply the model to fads in general.
When the story starts things aren't going to well for Sandy. She's found lots of leads, but nothing conclusive. Her investigations are hampered and conversely helped by the conditions and environment she is forced to work in.
'Bellwether' is written with a wickedly cynical sense of humour. I had to stop reading in a couple of places as I was laughing so hard. The characters have to be read to be believed. Even the incidental people in the book are beautifully described. They are the sort of people you never want to meet, but that you know are out there.
Some of the characters don't have names, but this is because they don't need them. The most notable example is Sandy's boss, he (the gender is specified) is simply the Management. He is the epitome of everything that you think off when you think about corporate management. I won't go into detail as it would take some of the fun out of the book, but Connie has captured the concept with breathtaking accuracy.
Connie manages to include huge amounts of information about both fads and chaos theory without being boring or impenetrable.
Each chapter has a paragraph at the start about one fad.
Read more ›
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