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3.92  ·  Rating details ·  11,214 ratings  ·  1,428 reviews
Connie Willis has won more Hugo and Nebula awards than any other science fiction author. Now, with her trademark wit and inventiveness, she explores the intimate relationship between science, pop culture, and the arcane secrets of the heart.

Sandra Foster studies fads - from Barbie dolls to the grunge look - how they start and what they mean. Bennett O'Reilly is a chaos the
Mass Market Paperback, 248 pages
Published June 2nd 1997 by Spectra (first published March 1st 1996)
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Average rating 3.92  · 
Rating details
 ·  11,214 ratings  ·  1,428 reviews

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I 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
Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽
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 flock

Bellwether 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
Nov 05, 2011 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.

Jun 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sci-fi, 2016-shelf, humor

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'
Jul 13, 2012 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
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Apr 10, 2015 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
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
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
Oleksandr Zholud
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
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
Aug 27, 2010 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
Althea Ann
Jun 09, 2010 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
Jun 19, 2013 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
Connie Willis has long been one of my favorite authors; her masterpiece Doomsday Book remains one of the most powerful reading experiences of my life. With Bellwether, she’s in her screwball comedy mode, and the result is totally delightful, filled with her impeccably-conceived plotting, truly funny dialogue, and no small amount of heart. As always, she’s fascinated by the manner in which random acts and chaos conspire to coalesce into life-changing moments, and even when she’s approaching these ...more
Apr 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: humour

Turn to the left
Turn to the right
Oooh, fashion!"

lyrics by David Bowie

Dr. Sandra Foster is studying trends, where did they start, who started them and can she create the next big trend. Unfortunately she has a unhelpful assistant...

Teenage mind-set
What’s this?”

“A birthday present for Dr. Damati’s little girl.”

She had already pulled it out and was examining it curiously.

“It’s a book,” I said.

“Didn’t they have the video?”

Management - We are here to help you
“What’s Management up to?
Apr 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Smart, funny, serendipitous.

Frustratingly amusing and eye-rolling in its terrifyingly accurate depictions of the intersection of research, grants, and corporate buzzword bingo.

"Are you sure? She doesn't look too bright."
"If she was, the others wouldn't follow her," I said.

I loved the chapter introductions of past fads which is what our intrepid heroine Sandra is researching.
hair wreaths (1870-90)---
Ghoulish Victorian handicraft fad in which the hair of a deceased loved one (or assortment of l
Jun 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
I'm not sure why it is supposed to be SF, but I liked the interconnection of trend followers, sheep flocks and 'overworked' mail manager in such a weird, chaotic and in the end totally logic way.

Like with all her books I was fascinated by Willis' fascination of a topic I would have never thought of (in this case trend analysis) and learned a lot. She is so intelligent and well versed - and she takes the piss in such a polite and friendly way that I'm still convinced deep down that she must be Br
Mar 16, 2007 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
Megan Baxter
Dec 19, 2013 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
Kaethe Douglas
25 May 2021

I chose wisely. Willis is a kind writer, and she has a firm grasp of what chaos feels like in the day to day. She doesn't say that everything will be better, only that some things will be.

Well, okay, this is a screwball comedy, so everything is better for everyone. But Doomsday Book manages to retain optimism even in the face of terrible loss. Comfort and joy are marvelous gifts to share.


24 May 2021

I just wanted something wholesome and pleasant. It was suggested that I read somethi
honestly mem
Can we all agree to stop comparing banning smoking in public lounges to a) racial segregation and b) the Holocaust? Thx.

A tedious, unamusing, and flat rom-com populated with tedious, unamusing, and flat characters. So, this was a good book to pick up to get back into reading Connie Willis. (A lie.)
This was fun!

“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.”
Aug 26, 2012 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
Jul 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars

This is a little bit of everything, and I enjoyed the history-of-science-and-discovery tangents more than the story itself. But still, not a bad read.
Melissa McShane
Like a lot of people, I've needed lighter reading these past few months, and when I discovered the audiobook I was listening to was (though brilliant) too heavy-going, I switched to an old favorite. This is not technically science fiction or fantasy, but it's a book about science, and research, and trends, and I've always enjoyed the way Willis manages to tell a complex story in a way that hides its complexity.

I'm dropping my rating a star this time, though, because despite still enjoying it tho
 Danielle The Book Huntress (Wants to Read More)
Aug 30, 2013 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 (Wants to Read More) 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
Julie Davis
Aug 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Scott prepares to give an uplifting speech from Management about CREEB*. Julie makes everyone duct tape tattoos for their foreheads. Good Story 229 of A Good Story is Hard to Find.

*Catholic Readers Explaining Excellent Books

Original review below.

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,
Jul 19, 2015 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
Stephanie Swint
Sep 22, 2014 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
Nov 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I am riding a high from the absolute cleverness of this book. Thank you, GR friend Carol, for rating and praising this so highly, because that’s what got me to try Connie Willis again. I wasn’t thrilled with Doomsday Book, but Bellwether has won me over to Willis and her marvelous brain.
I laughed so much while listening to this book. Kate Reading was wonderful as Sandy, the narrator, but her depiction of Flip got old after a few discs. As so often happens, I got to a point in the audiobook wher
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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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