Review: Bellwether by Connie Willis

bellwetherPublished by: Spectra
ASIN: B0036S4AI6
Published: 1996
Pages: 258
Format reviewed: mobi
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Five out of Five
Lists: Recommended
Related Reviews: Reading Challenge: Women of Speculative Fiction

This is part of my reading challenge for 2017, to expand my woeful knowledge of women in speculative fiction by reading at least 24 books by women that were and are instrumental in our genre.

I demolished this book in a day (despite a rather hefty nap in between reading sessions) and loved every minute of it. Sandra is our main character, who works for a company called HiTek but is hindered every step of the way by her inept co-workers and ‘Management’, who have a new acronym to push or a new 28-page form that’s now required to simply order paperclips. All Sandra wants to do is research fads and pinpoint how consumerism works – such as how a butterfly flapping its wings on one side of a country can cause a hurricane on the other, is much like what possibly caused the fad for women to bob their hair.

As if pesky management aren’t enough, we have Flip who should be the run-about and mail clerk, however can’t get photocopying right and is utterly rude and dismissive in a rolling eyes and hair flip kind of way – and we see this spill out to cafés Sandra visits, where ordering a simple iced-tea quickly becomes a thing of the past.

What works so well about this is how each and every character is so utterly themselves, and people you can easily associate with people you’ve either loved or hated working with in the past. Their nature and way of speaking is captured so instantly in so few words, and the satirical nature of working for a company or any other ridiculous fad we’ve hoped will pass by quickly is easily identifiable. Sandra’s friend who brushes off each and every Management meeting with buzz-words and jargon to pass through the ridiculous ‘write five things that blah blah blah’ that we all know of so well is fantastic.

Then we have a fellow who’s seemingly immune to the trends that swallow up their coworkers in ways from fashion, food and how to raise their children. I loved how intelligent yet harmless he is – needing Sandra’s help on more than one occasion, and seeming utterly human throughout.

The ridiculousness of Management reminds me of the 2001 Josie and the Pussycats film; “Du Jour means seat belts. Du Jour means crash positions!”

All in all, as someone who works in Government, I loved this book to bits. It’s hits damn true to home and I wish I could make our own Management read it.


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