Monday, December 27, 2010

Review: Bellwether

Reading All Clear left me booked out. Too much of a good thing all at once meant I could find no motivation to read for days afterwards. Often, the best way to cure that is to pick up another book by the same author, so I ordered Connie Willis's novel Bellwether from the library.

Sandra Foster works at the HiTek corporation, studying fads--hair bobbing in the 1920s, Rubik's cubes, coffee-drinking, smoking, anti-smoking, and so on. She wants to know how they start, but there are so many possibilities it seems an impossible question. Bennett O'Reilly works for the same company studying chaos theory and group behaviour, but the two have never met--until Flip, the incompetent assistant, misdelivers a package. Life at HiTek is certainly chaotic, and fads are everywhere. Bennett, however, seems to be unusually fadless. Fads just slide off him, and this is why when Sandra meets him she is instantly fascinated. She thinks his fadlessness may be a key to the origin of fads, so she does everything possible to keep him at HiTek, including proposing a joint project involving a herd of uncooperative sheep. They face all kinds of hindrances to finding the answers to their questions, but in all the chaos, the answer does seem to be almost within reach.

I have to admit I was a little disappointed. After the completely wonderful experience of Blackout and All Clear, Bellwether was kind of unremarkable. I was probably expecting too much. All of Willis's time travel books have been written in 3rd person, but Bellwether was 1st person, which I've never liked very much. It was also set in Boulder, Colorado in 1995, which automatically makes it less interesting than Oxford in 2060. It was a good story, though. Connie Willis's books always hold together so well. There's always a few themes that the characters seem to be stuck on, and I think these help glue everything together. I liked Bellwether a lot, even if it didn't suck me in the way All Clear did. 

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