Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating


3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  5,223 ratings  ·  641 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

Mass Market Paperback, 248 pages
Published June 2nd 1997 by Spectra (first published 1996)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas AdamsThe Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas AdamsLife, the Universe and Everything by Douglas AdamsSo Long, and Thanks for All the Fish by Douglas AdamsDirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams
Best Comedic Sci-Fi Books
24th out of 319 books — 616 voters
The Hunger Games by Suzanne CollinsDivergent by Veronica RothThe Host by Stephenie MeyerThe Handmaid's Tale by Margaret AtwoodUglies by Scott Westerfeld
Best Science Fiction With a Female Protagonist
67th out of 492 books — 1,341 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
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
bell·weth·er - [ bél wèt͟hər ]
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'Reil...more
Megan Baxter
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...more
Carol. [All cynic, all the time]
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.
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
Jun 19, 2013 Andree rated it 5 of 5 stars
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...more
 Danielle The Book Huntress (Angels Weep For Goodreads)
Oct 12, 2013 Danielle The Book Huntress (Angels Weep For Goodreads) rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Humor lovers, bibliphiles, pop culture geeks, readers looking for something different
Recommended to Danielle The Book Huntress (Angels Weep For Goodreads) 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
The Flooze
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...more
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...more
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
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 :)
Althea Ann
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
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...more
Aug 27, 2010 Tony rated it 2 of 5 stars
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
Steve Lindahl
Bellwether by Connie Willis is a book that is hard to categorize. (I'm always looking for something unusual to read, so for me its uniqueness is a great quality.) The plot Willis has given us primarily concerns the efforts of two scientists struggling to fill out funding forms. Of course the subtleties give us more and make for a book that is hysterical at times, but people who are looking for big, adventure stories are not going to like this one. However, fans of "The Office" or "Dilbert" would...more
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
Dawn Vanniman
This slim volume is packed with amazing writing. Some will argue that it is not Science Fiction, but I think that this is the best kind of science sneaks up on you and darn it if you don't learn something and look at the world differently when you're done reading it!

Sandra Foster works for a corporation that employs scientists. Honestly, just reading the description of the staff meetings is enough to recommend the book. They are absurdly ridiculous. Sandra's job is to figure out how...more
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
Olivia Arrow
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
Sep 25, 2009 Valerie rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Valerie by: Bill Ward
I chose this book, because it is the lightest thing on my nightstand, and I can't move my neck, so the new Diana Gabaldon was right out.

The discussion of fads and tipping points, and the Dilbertesque workplace, right down to Flip as Wally, were a lot of fun.
Mar 19, 2013 Jan rated it 4 of 5 stars Recommends it for: People who enjoy sci fi or romance novels
Fun romp through the shallowest possible eddies of chaos theory. Gets extra points for snarkiness combined with poetry and moral lessons without exhortation. Also gets points for having a female protagonist (rare enough in sci fi). Enjoyed it thoroughly.
Interesting read -- light, but full of tidbits about fads and how scientific discoveries were made that would be interesting even without the underlying story.
This book is being given an extra star on account of sheep and sweetness.

Just because it's questionable science doesn't mean it's bad science fiction.
This was such a delightful read; science and chaos and fairy tales and romance and fads and it all comes together so well!
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...more
My score here mostly reflects my grumpiness at the book not being what I expected. Since I found it the sci-fi section of my local library, since the covers, front and back, laud Willis' Hugo and Nebula wins, I was expecting a sci-fi. (In fact, this book was itself nominated for a Nebula, which I can't say I agree with. It's not exactly a bad book, but it's certainly not science-fiction.) Instead, what I got was part satire, part sociology (on human trends), and, for the largest part, a screwbal...more
Jun 19, 2012 Lisa rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2012
(originally reviewed on Starmetal Oak Reviews)

This is a novel about sheep. Well, it has sheep, of the livestock and human variety. A sheep will follow the actions of the bellwether, the member of the flock who is a little more motivated than the rest. What makes them blind followers and what causes humans to follow trends and take up the latest fads?

Sandra Foster is a stats expert and scientist researching the origin and causes of fads in order to be able to predict – or instigate – them. This...more
Jenny Brown
Parts of this were very funny, but like so much of Willis' work the book went on too long and the situations that were funny in the first chapters weren't so funny the third or fourth time they were repeated, almost unchanged, further on in the book.

Willis shows a fine understanding of the workplace ethos of the late 1980s, and skewers it masterfully. Her rundown of various fads of the 60s-90s is mostly spot on. But, as in Passages, the "science" that forms the core of the story is utterly sill...more
After reading Bellwether by Connie Willis I know two things. Number 1: Sheep are stupid. Number 2: People are sheep. At least the people in the novella are. The story reads as a simple love story between Sandra Foster and her Co-worker Bennet O’Reilly. Through a series of apparently random events Dr. Foster and Dr. O’Reily are forced to work together on a project for the company they both work for Hitek. They fall in love and in the meantime create a viable theory as to how and why trends and fa...more
It took about 100 pages into this novel about a young female scientist studying society's fads before I caught on that the characters showcase fads/trends themselves (so if you're a literal reader, like me, who is waiting for traditional plot and characters, this might help you in your approach to this book), and then it was amusing to pick out all the places where the author pokes fun at how ridiculous most trends are and our herd mentality at following them.

While the setting the author invents...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Sky Coyote (The Company, #2)
  • Mission Child
  • Solitaire
  • Ammonite
  • Crescent City Rhapsody (Nanotech, #3)
  • The Exile Waiting
  • Six Moon Dance
  • Ancient Shores
  • Midnight Robber
  • A Civil Campaign (Vorkosigan Saga, #12)
  • Ring of Swords
  • Starplex
  • The Last Hawk (Saga of the Skolian Empire, #3)
  • The Speed of Dark
  • Brain Plague
  • Beggars and Choosers (Sleepless, #2)
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...more
More about Connie Willis...
Doomsday Book (Oxford Time Travel, #1) To Say Nothing of the Dog (Oxford Time Travel, #2) Blackout All Clear Passage

Share This Book

“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?” 139 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.” 13 likes
More quotes…