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3.92  ·  Rating details ·  10,422 ratings  ·  1,278 reviews
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.
Kindle Edition, 258 pages
Published February 10th 2010 by Spectra (first published March 1st 1996)
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Average rating 3.92  · 
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 ·  10,422 ratings  ·  1,278 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 taking the package down to the Biology
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
Nov 05, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-shelf, sci-fi, 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
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Apr 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 13, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
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
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
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. ...more
Althea Ann
Jun 09, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Jun 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 27, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Apr 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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?
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.
Mar 16, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
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.)
Aug 26, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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,
 Danielle The Book Huntress (Back to the Books)
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 (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 ...more
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
Stephanie Swint
Sep 22, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 21, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, elib-audio, x-2015
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 .
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
May 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Julie Davis
Aug 22, 2014 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,
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
May 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read Bellwether shortly after it was published some years ago, and enjoyed revisiting the audio version thanks to my local public library quite recently. It's a madcap romantic comedy on the surface, one of those stories where you want the guy and the girl to get together because they'd be great for each other and a really swell couple. They have a zany and crazed series of encounters at the scientific research facility where they both work. On another level, it's a pure science fiction book ...more
Aug 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: funny
This book was so fun! It's about SCIENCE! It's set in BOULDER! The author lives nearby! But even without those similarities to my life, it's just an excellent read.
Dec 30, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Beth by: Diane
I listened to this as an audiobook from OverDrive. It was very funny. Sandra Foster, who works for a company called HiTek, researches fads throughout history and their origins. Most of the book is a comedy about bureaucracy - about paperwork, grant applications, and corporate management. But there’s also a romance between Sandra & her colleague Bennett O’Reilly, who works on chaos theory. They eventually end up on a joint project involving sheep. (It’s one of those things that makes sense in ...more
Nov 16, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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
“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?” 183 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.” 33 likes
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