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3.93  ·  Rating Details ·  8,137 Ratings  ·  1,008 Reviews
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
Paperback, 248 pages
Published June 2nd 1997 by Spectra (first published 1996)
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Jul 03, 2016 Brad rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sci-fi, humor, 2016-shelf

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'
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
Update #2: 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 expected more science 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" ...more
Jul 16, 2012 j rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Nov 02, 2015 Carol. rated it really liked it
A delightful, fast read and a humorous commentary on American society. The main character is a scientist who researches fads, trying to pinpoint where the fad for hair bobbing started. Vivid characters, including Flip, a character so well drawn that I was ready to strangle her within seconds of her introduction. Weaves together factoids on scientific discovery and fads that make it extra special. Underlying romantic twist for those who enjoy it.
Dec 25, 2015 Algernon rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015

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 out more than you bargained for about science, and about what makes us human. It is what The Big Bang Theory should have been
Mar 26, 2014 Melki rated it it was amazing
bell·weth·er - [ bél wèthər ]
1. indicator of future developments or trends
2. leader
3. a sheep that leads the rest of the flock, usually wearing a bell around its neck

"Bennett 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'Reill
Jan 02, 2017 Lyn rated it liked it
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 read more of her work.

Heather K (dentist in my spare time)

*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), and more realistic 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
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 ...more
Althea Ann
Sep 25, 2013 Althea Ann rated it really liked it
A very different take on marketing and trends than the one presented in William Gibson's "Pattern Recognition!" Still, this book has some similarities: they're both non-sci-fi novels by authors known for their science fiction, and they both deal, thematically, with the human tendency toward ‘fads.' However, where Gibson's character Cayce has an almost psychic attunement to these trends, Willis' narrator is a much less glamorous, stressed-out researcher who's trying to understand how and why tren ...more
Megan Baxter
May 19, 2014 Megan Baxter rated it liked it
As you may know, I have an up-and-down relationship with Connie Willis books. I think some of them are astoundingly good. I think some of them are very weak. So I always start a new one wondering which it's going to be. And then there's Bellwether, which is barely even science fiction, and it's fun, but a bit forgettable. This one didn't disappoint me, but it wasn't anything more than fine.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. Yo
Jun 19, 2013 Andree rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2013
So, I actually read this late last night. I picked it up, and did not put it down.

I love everything about this book. I love that it gets science right. I love how it characterizes bureaucracy. I love how it's told. I love the details. I love the relationship and how it develops between Ben and Sandy. I love how Connie Willis does relationships more than most romance novels. it's so delightful. probably because the romance isn't everything, it doesn't feel separate from reality, but rather like i
Aug 27, 2010 Tony rated it it was ok
Shelves: novels
Prior to picking this up, I'd read and greatly enjoyed two of Willis' other books: To Say Nothing of the Dog and The Doomsday Book. However, despite the science fiction packaging, this one is a completely different kettle of fish -- and not in a good way. It's basically a run-of-the-mill romantic comedy blended with an unsuccessful social satire. The heroine is a sociologist working for some kind of research firm (how this firm actually makes money is entirely unclear) who is attempting to isola ...more
Mar 16, 2007 Jill rated it it was ok
This is a formulaic love story set in what is supposed to be a research institution. The author has clearly done a lot of reading and found a lot of trivia about fads, and drops short infobites about fads in history into the text throughout. Unfortunately the plot moves slowly, the writing is competent in a breezey way and the researchers don't appear to do any real research. As a researcher myself I was disappointed in the shallow portrayal of science. Apart from the rather unlikely ways in whi ...more
Stephanie Swint
Sep 24, 2014 Stephanie Swint rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
The book centers on the science of pop culture and chaos theory. Connie Willis develops an intriguing tale set in the 90's of scientists at a large research firm named Hi-Tek. Sabrina Foster studies fad source analysis. Why do we make the decisions we do? What makes us think something is a good idea, that a person is attractive, what we will wear, what we do in our free time, and what we do for a job? Good questions, no? I'd like to know and so would every company in the world. If you know what ...more
 Danielle The Book Huntress (Back to the Books)
Oct 12, 2013 Danielle The Book Huntress (Back to the Books) rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Humor lovers, bibliphiles, pop culture geeks, readers looking for something different
Recommended to Danielle The Book Huntress (Back to the Books) by: Nenia Campbell
A huge thanks to Nenia for recommending this when I asked for a Nerd Romance. This was exactly what I wanted and more. I can't even begin to classify this into a genre. It's so distinctive. First of all, it's hilarious! I felt like Connie Willis nailed what it's like to work in Corporate America. I could have changed the name of HiTek to the places I worked and it would have been exactly the same. The complete waste of time exercises they come up with in the hopes that it will increase productiv ...more
Nov 07, 2016 Kim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 4-star
Re-read in December 2015.

Bellwether isn’t science fiction, though the story is about scientists. At heart it’s an off-beat romance between a couple of researchers, and it follows the often hit-and-miss process of scientific discovery. Sandra Foster studies the origin of fads; Bennett O’Reilly studies animal behavior as an aspect of chaos theory. They work at the same tech company but have never met... that is until fate intervenes in the form of an exasperating administrative assistant named Fli
Julie Davis
Sep 05, 2014 Julie Davis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 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
This is my favorite Connie Willis book, hands down. She blends pop culture, scientific discovery, chao
Apr 05, 2013 Nikki rated it liked it
I'm not sure this really belongs under speculative fiction, but I found it in the SF/F section in Waterstones, so it'll do. Nor is it exactly humour -- it's humorous, but I don't think that's the main feature of the book. It's also not a romance, even though there is romance in it. In fact, I'm not entirely sure what it is, altogether.

I did enjoy it, all the way through, which is a step up for me when it comes to Connie Willis. (I found The Domesday Book painful when it comes to pacing, but good
Sep 28, 2015 ShoSho rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: elib-audio, x-2015, audio
THIS IS NOT SCIENCE FICTION ! This is just horrible fiction! I suffered through 6 hours of gibberish and none-sense ,listened to some ridiculous fads throughout the history ,heard the phrase "hair bobbing" about a million times ,some weird reasoning for scientific breakthroughs and social analysis .
The only good this about this book that helped me to continue was the narrator .
Jul 14, 2016 Lauren rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
The first time I read this, I gave it four stars.

Time, however, has warped my feelings about this book from "minor but fun" to "the best option if you really want to read Connie Willis" to "this represents a vicious libel on bread pudding and I'm not sure if I can forgive it." So let's take a tour of those evolving impressions.

Minor but fun:

Bellwether is something of a romp. It's slight (literally--this is closer to a novella than a true novel), and that slightness works to its advantage, becaus
Jan 03, 2010 Amy rated it really liked it
Well, I debated on what to rate this book--either 3 or 4 stars. Originally I had planned to only give it 3 stars by nature of the fact that for me the enjoyability of reading this book was marginal. However, the last 20 pages changed my opinion and coerced me into giving it 4 stars. The last 20 pages was a microcosm explaining how I felt throughout reading the entire book and therefore, I realized the smarts behind the author's intent! While reading the book, you feel yourself being pulled into ...more
May 25, 2012 Ryandake rated it really liked it
a fun read that is not popcorn.

it's not popcorn because Willis does an interesting thing: she tells you a lot about chaos theory and statistical analyses while keeping you very, very amused about Cerenkov blue, and Barbies, and sheep.

this novel should be a foundation work for writers studying how to incorporate science into their fiction without being boring about it.

so! the plot. our heroine is a researcher named Sandy. she is studying fads--how they begin, bow they spread, in an effort to un
Nicholas Karpuk
Three stars is an odd conclusion to arrive at when I hated virtually everyone except the two main characters. But I really enjoyed their interactions and their growing relationship. Even the science fun facts were enjoyable, since I've read entire books that essentially functioned as such.

But damn Willis seems to have her hackles up about young people. Everyone in this story under the age of 30 is rude, shallow, and a constant slave to trends. I get that it's probably supposed to be comedic, but
The Flooze
Apr 03, 2009 The Flooze rated it really liked it
Willis' Bellwether is a fluid, witty story, filled with wry and insightful commentary on the American Public.

Sandra studies fads. What triggers them? Why do people follow them? What's the new "it" thing? She hopes to find the initiation point of such phenomena, and in examining each "next big trend," she becomes increasingly disheartened with the Public. Independent thinking is something Sandra cherishes, and when she meets a scientist whose dress and behavior mark him as the antithesis of the
Sep 10, 2014 Banner rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
This is delightful story of a scientist and her search for truth, well the truth about where fads start. How did such social phenomena as the hula hoop and crossword puzzles get started? Is there a sets of constants in each case that can explain such things as, virtual pets or the elusive hair bobbing trend? Our protagonist works for a company that wants to know, but there is a funding issue that has to be dealt with.

I was a little slow in getting the style of humor, but once I got into the styl
Jan 28, 2009 Julia rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sf-fantasy
This is one of those "comfort books" that I frequently reread. I was little surprised to realize today that Bellwether is over ten years old. Some of the trends and fads described do date it somewhat, but the big ones mentioned are the historical ones, like hair bobbing and the Hula Hoop. Almost everyone now has cell phones now. They were still enough of a novelty at the time of "Bellwether". Strangely very little else has changed. Corporate America is still changing policies and paperwork every ...more
Nov 26, 2010 Laura rated it liked it
This book has gotten rave reviews. I don’t think I got it. I’ve been really lucky to work in fairly healthy, functional places where you could, usually, just sit down and do your job, which probably reduces my empathy for the poor folks who have to fill out 27 page forms for pencils. (I have noticed whenever HR gets involved, work satisfaction and productivity plummets, but mercifully, we usually keep them out of the Temple of Justice. Or, at least, the top floor where I work.) Anyhoo, this book ...more
The first time I read this, I figured I was either lost or losing my mind, but I was torn between laughter and rueful recognition. Worth reading, re-reading, and re-re-reading.

Note: Gotta love a protagonist who checks classic books out from the library regularly, even when she doesn't have time to read them, so their circulation stats stay high enough to keep them on the shelf. Even more because I like the books she checks out :)
Olivia Arrow
Sep 10, 2011 Olivia Arrow rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This one is definitely a new member of my "top ten books of all time" list. It was so well written on various levels. I loved the historical facts about fads and how it was a true science-fiction. This was one of those books that reinforced a way of thinking about our culture that I could never have articulated with so much humor and accuracy. Plus, the character Flip
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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 Ficti
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“Why do only the awful things become fads? I thought. Eye-rolling and Barbie and bread pudding. Why never chocolate cheesecake or thinking for yourself?” 176 likes
“Management cares about only one thing. Paperwork. They will forgive almost anything else - cost overruns, gross incompetence, criminal indictments - as long as the paperwork's filled out properly. And in on time.” 26 likes
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