This isn’t a new book. Heck, Bellwether was published in or around 1996, while I was busy balancing children, soccer games, and a beginning career at a major downtown law firm. So I missed it until its 2009 audio version surfaced and gained traction with the delightful narration of Kate Reading. Chaos theory, fad behavior, a Dilbert-style research corporation, rave reviews—it definitely made it to my list, and when I finally listened… let’s just say I haven’t stopped recommending it since.
The entire story is cleverly constructed. The aggravatingly incompetent mail clerk, Flip, is terrific. The love story ties deeply into the research problem. And although I’ve used the word more or less correctly for a long time, I didn’t fully realize the depth and context of the meaning of the word Bellwether until it was finally explained in this book to the protagonist by a rancher that herds sheep. Of course! I thought. And I was hooked even deeper.
Connie Willis is a multiple Hugo and Nebula Award winning author and is known for, among other things, some very intelligent and entertaining time travel books involving near-future historians and incongruities. I’m diving into one of those now (To Say Nothing of the Dog). But this tale, Bellwether, isn’t that. It’s light, insightful, and a quick, breezy read with common sense characters suffering (hopefully) uncommon frustrations that smack a bright coda on the pulse of the day.
I recommend the audio version with Kate Reading if you are inclined to enjoy audio books. But by all means, regardless of the format, read the reviews, try a few excerpts, and decide for yourself whether Bellwether is the story for you.