Bellwether

Connie Willis, Author
Connie Willis, Author Spectra Books $11.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-553-37562-6
Mass Market Paperbound - 256 pages - 978-0-553-56296-5
Ebook - 143 pages - 978-0-307-57194-6
Compact Disc - 978-1-4332-4624-1
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-1-4332-4623-4
MP3 CD - 978-1-4332-4626-5
Pre-Recorded Audio Player - 978-1-4332-6427-6
Book - 1 pages - 978-1-4332-4628-9
Compact Disc - 978-1-4332-4625-8
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-299-00673-7
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In Willis's (Doomsday) fifth solo novel, her practiced screwball style yields a clever story which, while imperfect, is a sheer pleasure to read. In the very near future, sociologist/statistician Sandy Foster is researching the source of fads at a Dilbert-like corporation, Hi-Tek. Plagued by Flip, an airhead mail girl, she joins her research to that of Bennett O'Reilly, a chaos theorist studying information diffusion. As in the past, Willis moves her plot along through mix-ups and near-misses, a device that neatly embodies her theme of chaos. Chaos leads to a higher level of organization-breakthroughs in Sandy and Bennett's research, wealth and requited love. Flip, an echo of Robert Browning's Pippa, is an avatar of chaos whose passing alters lives. She's crucial to the story, so Sandy puts up with her in a way that's wimpy, annoying and unbelievable. Where the story's headed becomes transparent too early: the insight into the role of bellwethers in fomenting breakthroughs is not compelling. But none of that counts much against this bright romantic comedy, where the real pleasure is the thick layers of detail (researched or observed), and the wryly disdainful commentary on human stupidity. Something like a collaboration between Jane Austen and C. M. Kornbluth, it's sprightly, intelligent fun. (Mar.)
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