Connie Willis is one of my most favorite authors, but reading her books is like taking a roller coaster ride. There are books like “Doomsday Book” and “Passage”, which simply knock you out by their depth of insight and emotion and then there are silly and funny ones like “To Say Nothing of the Dog”, which are simply good entertainment. Bellwether falls into the second category.
Obviously Connie Willis must have had some insight into the work environment in big corporations, especially their research and development departments. Since I spent some years of my life in the same, I appreciate the biting wit she uses, when describing the dysfunctional structure, ridiculous and meaningless acronyms and widespread incompetence of senior management.
In the story, the protagonist Sandra Foster is working for the HiTek company and researches, where and how fads originate and how they spread. Unfortunately her work is constantly hampered by the incompetent and erratic mail clerk Flip. Unintentionally, but nonetheless very effectively, Flip causes an endless stream of disasters, some of them quite funny. Nobody but senior management seems to like Flip. Regardless of that, Flip is somehow instrumental in bringing Sandra and the young biologist Benett together and she is also a catalyst for their common project, the study of the learning behavior of sheep.
The story is quite harmless in itself and the romance between Sandra and Benett gets close to become a little bit corny, but overall it is good entertainment. Connie Willis floods you with a ton of trivia, historical fads, how they started and died, but also some very interesting details, how some of the great discovery in science came to be.