Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Wayback Wednesday - Bellwether by Connie Willis

Publisher:  Spectra
Publish Date:  1996
ISBN:  978-0553562965
Pages:  247

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 and why fads begin - presumably so that the corporation can start fads and make loads of money.  Fads are a temporary fashion followed enthusiastically by a group.  A great example is that right now (at least in my area) raising chickens is a fad, I'm sure it's a fad because once people realize how much work it is, they will all stop.  We may be overrun by wild chickens this time next year.  Through a wrongly delivered package, by an inept mail clerk named Flip, Sandra meets Bennett O'Reilly who is studying chaos theory.  Add in a new assistant for Flip and you've got a great story.

At the start of each chapter is a short description of a fad, it's hilarious to see the lengths people will go to to fit in and be popular.  Some examples of recent fads would be: reality tv shows, energy drinks, the Macarena and Tamagotchi.  They boomed quickly and then faded quickly.

When funding is cut at the corporation, Sandra and Bennett decide to work together using sheep - which are a lot like people in many ways.  It was suggested by Flip's assistant.

Once you read Bellwether, you'll be watching your friends (and the general public) to see if you can spot the next fad.  You'll still wonder who started them...and be on the lookout for Flip!

By the way, a Bellwether is...well, never mind, you'll see.

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