Review of Bellwether by Connie Willis

September 11, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

BellwetherBellwether
By Connie Willis; Narrated by Kate Reading
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Publication Date: February 2009
[UNABRIDGED] – 6 hours, 30 minutes

Themes: / pop culture / scientific discovery / chaos theory / Robert Browning / office assistants / fads /

Publisher summary:

Sandra Foster studies fads and their meanings for the HiTek corporation. Bennett O’Reilly works with monkey group behavior and chaos theory for the same company. When the two are thrust together due to a misdelivered package and a run of seemingly bad luck, they find a joint project in a flock of sheep. But a series of setbacks and disappointments arise before they are able to find answers to their questions – with the unintended help of the errant, forgetful, and careless office assistant Flip.

This is my favorite Connie Willis book, hands down. She blends pop culture, scientific discovery, chaos theory, Robert Browning, fads and an infuriating office assistant to produce a book where thinking for oneself gets you blank looks of incomprehension. Willis’s books come in two flavors, either funny or grim (as she herself describes her serious works). This is definitely one of the funny ones.

This was written in 1996 so it is interesting to see that certain fads have evolved and that some have floated away. (It’s been a long time since I thought about Pet Rocks or mood rings, for example.) Listening to the audiobook, I realized that it gave me a real sense of perspective on a lot of things that drive me crazy by reminding me that these are simply the most current fads (Paleo / gluten-free diets, smart phones, SnapChat, etc.).  These too shall pass although the chaos will probably remain. And I’m actually okay with that.

Kate Reading’s narration really brought the book alive. I especially enjoyed her characterizations of Flip, Management, and Shirl, all of which added extra fillips of humor to the story. Having read the book several times before listening, I was impressed how well she captured the main character that I “heard” mentally. I will definitely be listening to this the next time I need a dose of anti-fad sensibility.

This is a light, fun book which nonetheless has a core of common sense and deeper meaning.

Why do only the awful things become fads? I thought. Eye-rolling and Barbie and bread pudding. Why never chocolate cheesecake or thinking for yourself?

Posted by Julie D.

Resonance FM’s: A Bite of Stars, a Slug of Time, and Thou

July 24, 2008 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Podcasts 

SFFaudio Online Audio

A Bite of Stars, a Slug of Time, and Thou - a Resonance FM podcastA Bite of Stars, a Slug of Time, and Thou is a podcast radio show (on Resonance FM 104.4 FM in London, U.K.) that you are absolutely going to love. The hosts, Elisha Sessions and Mark Sinker, along with various guests, talk about Science Fiction short stories from “SF’s Golden and Silver Ages.” Covering stories from 1927 to 1965, these are deep, articulate, and knowledgeable discussions, along with, in at least a couple of cases, complete, unabridged readings! Planet shaking stories, with intelligent commentary – I absolutely love it!

Episode 1 – Who Goes There?
By John W. Campbell; Read by Elisha Sessions
1 |MP3| – 1 Hour [READINGS OF CHAPTERS 2 & 4]
Sarah Clarke joins Mark Sinker and Elisha Sessions to discuss John W. Campbell’s “Who Goes There”, a 1938 science fiction novella about ice-bound scientists confronted with an alien who can become them. Elisha reads from the book in case you haven’t. As originally broadcast on Resonance FM 104.4 FM in London on April 1, 2008.

Episode 2 – A Pail Of Air
By Fritz Leiber; Read by Elisha Sessions
1 |MP3| – 1 Hour [ABRIDGED]
Tom Ewing joins Mark Sinker and Elisha Sessions to discuss Fritz Leiber’s “A Pail of Air”, written in 1951. It’s a short story about a kid, some rugs, and an Earth so cold that helium crawls. Will it crawl onto YOU? Elisha reads from the story in case you haven’t.

Episode 3 – The Segregationist
By Isaac Asimov; Read by Elisha Sessions
1 |MP3| – 1 Hour [???]
Alan Trewartha joins Mark Sinker and Elisha Sessions to discuss “Segregationist”, one of Isaac Asimov’s famous robot stories from 1967. Elisha reads from the story in case you haven’t.

Episode 4 – Beyond the Reach of Storms
By Donald Malcolm; Read by Elisha Sessions
1 |MP3| – 1 Hour [???]
Martin Skidmore joins Mark Sinker and Elisha Sessions to discuss the first space-travel story of the series, and the first truly obscure find, “Beyond the Reach of Storms” by Donald Malcolm.

Episode 5 – The Red Brain
By Donald Wandrei; Read by Elisha Sessions
1 |MP3| – 1 Hour [UNABRIDGED?]
Dave Queen joins Mark Sinker and Elisha Sessions to talk about the outrageous 1927 short story “The Red Brain”, written by Donald Wandrei when he was supposedly 16 years old.

Episode 6 – A Sound of Thunder
By Ray Bradbury; Read by Elisha Sessions
1 |MP3| – 1 Hour [UNABRIDGED]
Al Ewing joins Mark Sinker and Elisha Sessions to talk about “A Sound of Thunder” by Ray Bradbury, the famed 1952 story about a dinosaur safari gone wrong. Lots of other Bradbury and time travel tales get a look in.

Episode 7 – The Tactful Saboteur
By Frank Herbert; Read by Elisha Sessions
1 |MP3| – 1 Hour [UNABRIDGED?]
Ken Hollings joins Mark Sinker and Elisha Sessions to talk about “The Tactful Saboteur” by Frank Herbert, a tale of civil servants and their multi-phase sexual life cycles from 1964.

Episode 8 – Build Up Logically
By Howard Schoenfeld; Read by Elisha Sessions
1 |MP3| – 1 Hour [UNABRIDGED?]
Kat Stevens joins Mark Sinker and Elisha Sessions to talk about Choose Your Own Adventure books, speaking with animals, and “Build Up Logically”, an unclassifiable short story written in 1950 by Howard Schoenfeld. It’s about two men who can summon the entire universe from thin air but spend most of their time at parties.

Posted by Jesse Willis