Paperback ð Bellwether MOBI â


  • Paperback
  • 248 pages
  • Bellwether
  • Connie Willis
  • English
  • 15 December 2019
  • 0553562967

10 thoughts on “Bellwether

  1. carol. carol. says:

    owe bellwether a review Bellwether is a book that I inevitably turn to when I want something that is light, clever, literate and sweet Sandra Foster has been studying fads, specifically trying to identify what started the bobbed hair craze at some time in the 1920s The company administrative assistant, Flip, is pretty much the worst ever, and one day when she mis delivers a perishable not fragile, as Pip says to Sandra, Sandra finds herself t owe bellwether a review Bellwether is a book that I inevitably turn to when I want something that is light, clever, literate and sweet Sandra Foster has been studying fads, specifically trying to identify what started the bobbed hair craze at some time in the 1920s The company administrative assistant, Flip, is pretty much the worst ever, and one day when she mis delivers a perishable not fragile, as Pip says to Sandra, Sandra finds herself taking the package down to the Biology Department, where she meets Bennett O Rielly, a chaos researcher who seems to be entirely immune to fashion fads What happens is athan a bit of gradually escalating chaos as they each try to work on their respective projects, turn in the annual funding request to the Hi Tek Corporation, dodge team building meetings, and avoid Flip s oblivious tendencies towards destruction.Each chapter begins with a description of a fad, much like certain books begin chapters with aphorisms I actually learned a little bit about a number of fun things, including hula hoops 1958 59 , hair dioramas 1750 60 mah jongg 1922 24 There are numerous references to scientific discoveries, fascinating if you know your scientific history There s a mention of Fleming leaving a Petri dish cracked as he headed out to golf, and a researcher hiring a Polish woman named Marie Curie to help him with radiation research It s one of the things that elevates this beyond your average rom com I ll also note there s a definite feel of verisimilitude about this on this reading I noted Sandra referencing SPSS software, classic software that I ve used myself in statistics class As in To Say Nothing of the Dog, there are a number of running gags, including corporate insensibility Tell them any number of scientific breakthroughs have been made by scientists working together Crick and Watson, Penzias and Wilson, Gilbert and Sullivan , bigotry against smokers, personal ads, where rivers begin, and the unrelenting cheer of Browning s Pippa In a nod to having a life outside of work, she weaves in her adventures at the local trendy cafe and her regular visits to the library.While I understand this isn t highbrow literature, it is one of those reads that make one feel delightfully entertained, resulting in a lingering feeling of happy once it s over It s my go to read when I need something light and clever to cleanse my palate in between those nail biters How much do I love it I own a hardcover and a paperback for lending In view of my recent review of The Trespasser, I absolutely give this five stars


  2. Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽ says:

    Bellwether is one of Connie Willis non SF satirical even farcical at times comedies It took me a couple of reads, about 10 years apart, to really appreciate it Here s my evolving take on this unique novel The bellwether sheep, who leads the flockBellwether Read 1, sometime around 2005 3 stars I m a big Connie Willis, but she can be a little uneven She seems to have two primary modes farce comedy of errors usually with a little romance mixed in , and incredibly detailed and well rese Bellwether is one of Connie Willis non SF satirical even farcical at times comedies It took me a couple of reads, about 10 years apart, to really appreciate it Here s my evolving take on this unique novel The bellwether sheep, who leads the flockBellwether Read 1, sometime around 2005 3 stars I m a big Connie Willis, but she can be a little uneven She seems to have two primary modes farce comedy of errors usually with a little romance mixed in , and incredibly detailed and well researched SF Sometimes the two mix together, to delightful results my favorite is To Say Nothing of the Dog Bellwether is in the farcical vein It s not really science fiction since there s not much really speculative about it Sandra Foster is a scientist who is researching the phenomenon of fads, in particular, how they start and spread The plot felt like kind of a mad scramble, mixing the stress of research with the competition for a grant, the complications of Sandra s attraction for another researcher, and her frustrating daily run ins with Flip, the Administrative Assistant from Hell.It was an interesting read with some fun moments, but ultimately this one didn t really stick with me But some of my GR friends love this book, so YMMV.Interim thoughts in between Read 1 and Read 2 Even though Bellwether didn t wow me the first time I read it, I ve downloaded it and am going to give it a reread The Wikipedia article on this novel makes a fascinating but pretty spoilerish comment about a particular name that opened my eyes to some interesting symbolism, and makes me want to revisit this book view spoiler Flip s name is short for Phillipa, which is also the full name of Pippa in Robert Browning s poem Pippa Passes, about a girl who influences everyone around her just by cheerfully passing by Flip is a trendsetter, like Pippa s evil twin flipped, if you will, lol But is her influence for evil, or is it just mundane hide spoiler Bellwether Read 2, October 2015 4 stars I m finished with my totally unplanned reread, and this one definitely deserves another star I think the first time I read it I just expectedscience fictiony stuff because, well, Connie Willis, and this short novel isn t that But it is very funny Willis send up of the worst parts of corporate culture is to die for, and her exploration of the way people unthinkingly jump on the bandwagon and adopt often really idiotic fads is worth reading Interestingly, the Pippa Passes theme is much stronger andexplicit than I remembered from my first read I kept an eye out for it this time, and it pops up repeatedly, as does a fascinating minor theme related to the Toads and Diamonds fairy tale that I had totally forgotten.This book also makes a point about how society also cycles through phases of being anti various things drinking Prohibition , certain religions that are persecuted, obesity, smoking and how those attitudes are also fads, in a very real sense.Minus a star for being a bit slow in places and because the big reveal at the end didn t seem to me to be as earth shattering as the book and the main characters were making it out to be But still, this was very funny but thought provoking reading, and I recommend it


  3. Lyn Lyn says:

    Not science fiction but rather fiction about science, akin to the distinction between a girlfriend and a friend that s a girl And like the difference between a platonic and an amorous relationship, this book is fun without too many complications It s about trend analysis, meaning a sociological study of fads, and chaos theory and how they interrelate It s also well written, chatty and a light, enjoyable read I ll readof her work Not science fiction but rather fiction about science, akin to the distinction between a girlfriend and a friend that s a girl And like the difference between a platonic and an amorous relationship, this book is fun without too many complications It s about trend analysis, meaning a sociological study of fads, and chaos theory and how they interrelate It s also well written, chatty and a light, enjoyable read I ll readof her work


  4. Bradley Bradley says:

    Baaaaaaaa I m caught in a horrible quandary On the one hand, this is a purely wonderful and madcap whirlwind of farcical trendsetting, and I mean that most literally, in that it s ABOUT the madcap whirlwind of farcical trendsetting, and yet for all its humor, its chaos, its insight into human and animal behavior, and even how fads rule the sciences, I have to admit that this isn t actually science fiction.It is a fantastic novella, though It s funny on so many different levels, and there Baaaaaaaa I m caught in a horrible quandary On the one hand, this is a purely wonderful and madcap whirlwind of farcical trendsetting, and I mean that most literally, in that it s ABOUT the madcap whirlwind of farcical trendsetting, and yet for all its humor, its chaos, its insight into human and animal behavior, and even how fads rule the sciences, I have to admit that this isn t actually science fiction.It is a fantastic novella, though It s funny on so many different levels, and there s even a romance that hits us like a fad from out of nowhere and changes everything, just like the never ending quest to discover the source of the Bob hairstyle or the source of the Nile when people don t understand that gravity goes down.Baaaaaaaa.I m still chuckling after reading this There s something truly awesome about reading really great writing, no matter what the subject matter I ve always thought that Connie Willis is a brilliant writer, and I ve come to trust that it doesn t matter in the slightest what the topic is Her craft is amazing and she can turn anything at all into something that feels wild and chaotic while always holding us firmly in a narrator s hands I love how I can feel both overwhelmed and zinged and yet always feel like the narrator is always in control of her own destiny, even so.But is it SF In the sense that SF is the fiction of idea exploration, absolutely, and what she does with it is clever, creative, and so, so fun Baaaaaaaa Who cares I can t pigeonhole her Shouldn t ever try She s just too good and is too competent in her voice, knowledge, humor, and talent


  5. unknown unknown says:

    My main problem with Connie Willis books is that they usually have great characters and an interesting plot, but are thick with too much narrative padding, typically in the form of funny bits about bureaucratic incompetence and miscommunication due to mishaps with modern technology, and exhaustively researched recitation of facts tangentially related to the story famous last words and the Titanic disaster in Passage facts of life during the Blitz in Blackout All Clear etc I go back and f My main problem with Connie Willis books is that they usually have great characters and an interesting plot, but are thick with too much narrative padding, typically in the form of funny bits about bureaucratic incompetence and miscommunication due to mishaps with modern technology, and exhaustively researched recitation of facts tangentially related to the story famous last words and the Titanic disaster in Passage facts of life during the Blitz in Blackout All Clear etc I go back and forth on whether these quirks ruin her novels or just make themfrustrating than they should be.Bellwether is, on the other hand, a thin novel, but bizarrely, instead of a plot it includes only the narrative padding that makes up the worst third of any of her other books.And some how, it is kind of great I mean, no, there isn t a plot And the characters are her typical bumbling, absent minded professors, researching something while making wry observations about how annoying everyone around them is It s right in the author s wheelhouse, and she does it well here The topic of the day this time is fads the origin of groupthink, essentially as well as chaos theory, which was kind of a big deal at the time thanks to the release of Jurassic Park a few years earlier come on, admit it you only know what chaos theory is because Jeff Goldblum explained it to you Connie Willis Protagonist Sandra Foster think Kate Hepburn is working for HiTek Corporation, a ludicrous parody of the worst in 90s corporate trends, trying to figure out what caused the hair bobbing craze of the 20s for some reason She falls in with another scientist, an affable Spencer Tracy type, who is studying chaotic systems Toss in some colorful supporting characters Sarcastic slacker office assistant Management type only referred to as Management, like that is his name , a malfunctioning cell phone, a few comic set pieces, and a whole herd of sheep, and you ve got athan passable attempt at a literary version of a classic screwball comedy It s not quite as zany as, say, Bringing Up Baby, but it reminded me a lot of Desk Set, a semi obscure Tracy Hepburn movie that is also about a romance blossoming amid a workplace in upheaval thanks to the follies of corporate innovation It s not the world s most memorable flick, but it s a lot of fun, and that sums up this book nicely


  6. Algernon (Darth Anyan) Algernon (Darth Anyan) says:

    Insecure, ill dressed chaos theorist desires intelligent, insightful, incandescent trends researcher Must be SC Yes, this is a romance novel, of sorts With socially awkward scientists and stuff But it has something that most romance novels only aspire to it s laugh out loud funny And smart And sneaky under the disguise of the boy meets girl plot, you might find outthan you bargained for about science, and about what makes us human It is what The Big Bang Theory should have been Insecure, ill dressed chaos theorist desires intelligent, insightful, incandescent trends researcher Must be SC Yes, this is a romance novel, of sorts With socially awkward scientists and stuff But it has something that most romance novels only aspire to it s laugh out loud funny And smart And sneaky under the disguise of the boy meets girl plot, you might find outthan you bargained for about science, and about what makes us human It is what The Big Bang Theory should have been and has no need of a laughter track.You need to read the book to find out what SC stands in for And why acronyms are an annoying fad that refuses to go gently into the oblivion of past similar fads Management is probably responsible for its longevityWhat s the meeting about Manager went to another seminar Which means a sensitivity exercise, a new acronym, andpaperwork for us Having worked in Quality Management Systems for a few years, I can atest to the accuracy of this observation about pointless meetings and improvement ideas that mean nothingthan another batch of paper forms to fill But that s only one of the fads discussed in the book Sandra Foster is a researcher in a big institute called HiTek and her project is the study of all fads, fashions, trends how are they started, why are people following them blindly, how can they be controlled, predicted, used presumably by the big corporations that are sponsoring her studies Hula hoops, hair bobbing, Rubik cubes, miniskirts, crocs, pointy shoes, Kewpie Dolls, chain letters, tattoos and crinolines what do they have in common and why is there a nexus of fad initiation in Marydale, Ohio Science has its fads and crazes, like anything else string theory, eugenics, mesmerism The answer might have something to do with the research of another scientist in the same HiTek building, Doctor Bennet O Reilly, whose interests lean towards chaos theory He is trying to isolate the rogue element in a system of known variables or, to put itsimply, he would like to study the group behaviour of monkeys and extrapolate the findings to humans He is only missing the monkeys, as the bureaucratic wheels in the institute move at a snail pace, with endless meetings and paperwork and little actual research done The situation is hardly improved by Flip, the office assistant from Hell, who is allergic to work and misdelivers messages, mails and instructions from management But at least Flip is incidental in the novel s plot, as one one of her accidental deliveries brings Bennet and Sandra together With both of them being single, smart and workaholics, you don t need a master s degree in science to figure out they will fall for each otherI had been following the oldest trend of all Right over the cliff They take their time though in getting together, preferring instead to concentrate on work and on the multiple obstacles put in the way of their success by Flip An antiangel, wandering through the world spreading gloom and destruction , Managment and a reluctant flock of sheep You might wonder what trending and chaos theory have in common, and how sheep get included in the equation And what exactly is a bellwether I won t tell you here, better pick up the book and find out for yourselves I wouldn t want to spoil all the jokes and the screwball connections view spoiler A bellwether s a sheep A special breed Nope Same breed Same sheep, only it s got something that makes the rest of the flock follow it Usually it s an old ewe, and some people think it s something to do with hormones other people think it s something in their looks A teacher of mine said they re born with some kind of leadership ability hide spoiler Can we discuss instead in general terms about the science part of the novel How do you feel about research The serious school of thought would have us believe that The process of scientific discovery is the logical extension of observation by experimentation Sandra Foster is living proof thatNothing could be further from the truth The process is exactly like any other human endeavor messy, haphazard, misdirected, and heavily influenced by chanceAnd yet, it works Pasteur discovers peniciline by accident, X rays are the by product of a failed photograhy test, and fads are important not because corporations can use them to sell ususeless products, but because they tell us something important about ourselvesAnd therein lay the secret to all fads the herd instinct People wanted to look like everybody else That was why they bought white bucks and pedal pushers and bikinis But someone had to be the first one to wear platform shoes, to bob their hair, and that took the opposite of herd instinct When you ve spent as much time studying fads as I have, you develop a hearty dislike for them Especially aversion fads They seem to bring out the worst in people And it s the principle of the thing Next it might be chocolate cheesecake Or reading Come on You shouldn t be looking for the secret to making people follow fads, you should be looking for the secret to making them think for themselves Because that s what science is all about And because the next fad may be the dangerous one, and you ll find it out with the rest of the flock on your way over the cliff In conclusion, for the improvement of your mind and a chance to find your SC other, here are a few simple steps that Dr Sandra recommends Find the bellwether Think Pink Eliminate acronyms Eliminate meetings Study effect of antismoking fad on ability to think clearly Read Browning And Dickens And all the other classics.I would add readConnie Willis, don t forget to laugh it s good for your health, check out The Far Side albums by Gary Larson don t be a sheep.movie version dreamcast Katherine Hepburn and Cary Crant.images included in review copyright Gary Larson


  7. Melki Melki says:

    bell weth er b l w t h r 1 indicator of future developments or trends2 leader3 a sheep that leads the rest of the flock, usually wearing a bell around its neckBennett told me you re working on fads analysis Why did you decide to work with fads Everybody else was doing it Sandra Foster works for the HiTek corporation studying fads How do fads start Why do some things catch fire while others fizzle And how can HiTek get in on the action Purely by accident, she meets Bennett O Reil bell weth er b l w t h r 1 indicator of future developments or trends2 leader3 a sheep that leads the rest of the flock, usually wearing a bell around its neckBennett told me you re working on fads analysis Why did you decide to work with fads Everybody else was doing it Sandra Foster works for the HiTek corporation studying fads How do fads start Why do some things catch fire while others fizzle And how can HiTek get in on the action Purely by accident, she meets Bennett O Reilly, a clumsily dressed, completely unfashionable biologist He s a fascinating specimen to Sandra, as he seems completely immune to the influence of trends Or, is there another reason she finds him so interesting The two of them end up working on a project together a project involving theorneriest, stubbornest, dumbest creatures on the planetsheep After learning that herding sheep is harder than herding cats, the scientists realize they need a leader, a bellwether that will show them the way.This was a surprisingly fun read that I enjoyed W A Ythan I expected Willis offers the funniest send up of the corporate work environment since InitechYeah It s just we re putting new coversheets on all the TPS reports before they go out nowWorking for HiTek means filling out 68 page funding request forms and attending frequent, time wasting meetings where employees learn about Efficiency Enhancers and perform sensitivity exercises that involve giving your partner a hug that saysI appreciate your personness Willis s characters never really come to life, but the story was such a swell ride, I didn t really mind that fact This was an entertaining look at human nature and the mystery of why we humans tend to follow the flock


  8. Heather K (dentist in my spare time) Heather K (dentist in my spare time) says:

    2.5 stars Underwhelming from Connie Willis, one of my long time favorite authors This book is less sci fi in fact, I didn t even shelve it as such , andrealistic fiction or speculative fiction, or even romantic comedy It s really hard to describe this book It is sort of a rambling narrative about trends actually pretty interesting , interpersonal relationships, and office environments with some chick lit thrown in It is a weird mix, and though I had no problem listening to it due t 2.5 stars Underwhelming from Connie Willis, one of my long time favorite authors This book is less sci fi in fact, I didn t even shelve it as such , andrealistic fiction or speculative fiction, or even romantic comedy It s really hard to describe this book It is sort of a rambling narrative about trends actually pretty interesting , interpersonal relationships, and office environments with some chick lit thrown in It is a weird mix, and though I had no problem listening to it due to an always great narration by Kate Reading , it was oddly dissatisfying I like other Connie Willis books much


  9. Oleksandr Zholud Oleksandr Zholud says:

    This is a romantic comedy with a big idea, which makes it still a SF work in my view, even without overtly SF elements It was published in 1996 and was Nebula and Locus award nominee I read is as a part of monthly reading for June 2020 at Hugo Nebula Awards Best Novels group The title, Bellwether, means a sheep that got something that makes the rest of the flock follow it.The protagonist, Sandra Foster is a sociologist majored in sociology and statistics working in R D at HiTek, an allus This is a romantic comedy with a big idea, which makes it still a SF work in my view, even without overtly SF elements It was published in 1996 and was Nebula and Locus award nominee I read is as a part of monthly reading for June 2020 at Hugo Nebula Awards Best Novels group The title, Bellwether, means a sheep that got something that makes the rest of the flock follow it.The protagonist, Sandra Foster is a sociologist majored in sociology and statistics working in RD at HiTek, an allusion to academia Her professional interests are fads and what causes them and how discoveries are made Her current project is to find out, why hair bobbing suddenly become popular when it did The novel is full of good natured grumblings about fads, youngsters, who care about outward signs of uniqueness but equally vacuous inside, bureaucracy in academia with tens of pages of simplified forms , which are impossible to fill and attempts of the management to instill the group spirit by some new coaching technique without understanding how scientists actually work.Each chapter starts with an encyclopedia like article on a fad, from hula hoops to Dr Spock to kewpies.This was a pleasure to read Some quotesAll right, fellow workers, Management said Do you have your five objectives Flip, would you collect them Elaine looked stricken Gina snatched the list from her and wrote rapidly Optimize potential Facilitate empowerment Implement visioning Strategize priorities Augment core structures How did you do that I said admiringly Those are the five things I always write down, she said and handed the list to Flip as she slouched past There was a cut out circle in the middle with what looked like a lowercase i tattooed right between her eyes What s your tattoo It s not a tattoo, she said, brushing her hair back so I could see it better It was a lowercase i Nobody wears tattoos any I started to draw her attention to her snowy owl and noticed that she was wearing duct tape there, too, a small circular patch right where the snowy owl had been Tattoos are artificial Sticking all those chemicals and cancerinogens under your skin, she said It s a brand A brand, I said, wishing, as usual, that I hadn t started this Brands are organic You re not injecting something into your body You re bringing out something that s already there in your natural body Fire s one of the four elements, you know Sarah, over in Chem, would love to hear that I ve never seen one before, I said What does the i stand for She looked confused Stand for It doesn t stand for anything It s I You know, me Who I am It s a personal statement I decided not to ask her why her brand was lowercase, or if it had occurred to her that anyone seeing her with it would immediately assume it stood for incompetent How much does a crown cost she said.It seemed to be my day for questions out of left field A crown I said, bewildered You mean, like a tiara No o o, she said A crown I tried to picture a crown on top of Flip s hank of hair, with her hair wrap hanging down one side, and failed But whatever she was talking about, I d better pay attention because it was likely to be the next big fad Flip might be incompetent, insubordinate, and generally insufferable, but she was right there on the cutting edge of fashion A crown, I said Made out of gold I pantomimed placing one on my head With points Points she said, outraged It better not have points A crown I m sorry, Flip, I said I don t know You re a scinentist, she said You re supposed to know scientific terms, she said.I wondered if crown had become a scientific term the way duct tape had become a personal errand A crown she said, sighed enormously, and clopped out of the lab and down the hall.


  10. Hallie Hallie says:

    I really have almost nothing to say about Bellwether itself, though the all time favourites shelf probably says enough, but this reread was an unusual one and I don t have any other social media site on which to share it Quite a few people here will already know that Dorian, a Dublin friend, was in a serious accident back in February, and is still in hospital, technically in a coma, although she has woken up The prognosis is not great, but of course brain injuries are always a big unknown B I really have almost nothing to say about Bellwether itself, though the all time favourites shelf probably says enough, but this reread was an unusual one and I don t have any other social media site on which to share it Quite a few people here will already know that Dorian, a Dublin friend, was in a serious accident back in February, and is still in hospital, technically in a coma, although she has woken up The prognosis is not great, but of course brain injuries are always a big unknown Back in April Dorian s husband said that it would be good if some friends could go visit her on a regular basis, to read or talk to her, along with the daily visits he and her family were doing The first Friday I went, I brought To Say Nothing of the Dog, because it was a book I d loaned Dorian shortly after we met up for the first time I didn t know her reading tastes very well at that point, and didn t understand the slightly dazed look when I d mentioned Wodehouse and Dorothy L Sayers, but I want made it clear Of course she loved it, and borrowed it again, eventually tracking down her own copy It didn t seem the right read in the hospital for some reason although that might just have been me, as the first time seeing her was really tough so I switched out for Bellwether.As I said, I don t have much to say about the book itself, except that it seems unlikely there are manychallenging tests of a book than to read it to someone who s smart as hell, a voracious reader, and completely unresponsive It was hard not to expect her to share a grin at Why did you decide to work with fads Everybody else was doing it or roll her eyes at all the eye rolling done by Flip Perhaps that s attributing a bit too much power to the reading of a wonderful book, but if I ve learned anything from Connie Willis, it s that there s always hope A few weeks ago her husband was there when I went in and we took her outside in the sun The headrest on the wheelchair had slipped which it always seems to do and she was pushing at it Patrick asked her if it was bothering her, and I said that I really hoped the first What the fuck do you think was addressed to him, and not to some hapless nurse And yes, that would the exact wording Sandra predicts great things at the end of Bellwether, and I very much hope someday to get a cranky commentary from Dorian on my reading whether choices or performance doesn t matter at all


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BellwetherPop culture, chaos theory and matters of the heart collide in this unique novella from the Hugo and Nebula winning author of Doomsday BookSandra 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 series of setbacks and disappointments arise before they are able to find answers to their questions


About the Author: Connie Willis

Constance Elaine Trimmer Willis is an American science fiction writer She is one of the most honored science fiction writers of the 1980s and 1990s.She has won, among other awards, ten Hugo Awards and six Nebula Awards Willis most recently won a Hugo Award for All Seated on the Ground August 2008 She was the 2011 recipient of the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award from the Science Fiction Writers of America SFWA.She lives in Greeley, Colorado with her husband Courtney Willis, a professor of physics at the University of Northern Colorado She also has one daughter, Cordelia.Willis is known for her accessible prose and likable characters She has written several pieces involving time travel by history students and faculty of the future University of Oxford These pieces include her Hugo Award winning novels Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog and the short story Fire Watch, found in the short story collection of the same name.Willis tends to the comedy of manners style of writing Her protagonists are typically beset by single minded people pursuing illogical agendas, such as attempting to organize a bell ringing session in the middle of a deadly epidemic Doomsday Book , or frustrating efforts to analyze near death experiences by putting words in the mouths of interviewees Passage.