Hair-bobbing. Fads. Sheep. Bellwethers. Chaotic Systems. Scientific Discoveries. Paperwork. Aversion Trends. Personal Ads.
Bellwether is the type of Connie Willis novel I have come to love. This short novel is funny and made me think. It is well-written and has enjoyable characters. Bellwether was nominated for the 1997 Nebula Award. While the novel is about science, it is not what I think of as “science fiction.” It is primarily about fads and about scientific discoveries.
Very briefly, Sandra Foster and Bennett O’Reilly work for the research company HiTek, which is out of touch with its employees and manages by paperwork. Sandra is a sociologist who is researching what triggers fads. More specifically, she is trying to find the person or event that started the fad of women cutting their hair in the bob style. Not only has she hit an intellectual wall in her project, but she is also being thwarted by her assistant Flip, an incorrigible young woman. Through a series of mishaps, Sandra befriends Bennett, a man who is immune to trends. They collaborate on a learning experiment that uses sheep as subjects. Chaos ensues.
I liked this story a lot. I was laughing aloud for much of it. The subject of trends is one that is near and dear to my heart. As Sandra deals with the ever-changing trends of restaurants, my taste buds and tummy are often frustrated by the ever-changing trends at the grocery store. I also like the discussion of the role of chaos in scientific discovery. (I am going to include some of my favorite quotes in my next post.)
Bellwether is the third novel is the omnibus Future Imperfect.