Tuesday, May 17, 2011

An amazing talent… for annoyance

by Connie Willis

Connie Willis’s novels have been recommended to me many times over the years by a variety of sources—though never this particular novel. As an introduction, it was a limited success. I only found Bellwether to be so-so, but it certainly wouldn’t discourage me from reading more of her work in the future.

Bellwether is a short satirical novel, set in the world of science for profit. It’s the story of how a social scientist researching fads and trends meets a colleague studying chaos theory and information diffusion, and how they team up to survive their corporate management and the “help” of a surly office assistant. Along the way, Willis takes pot shots at parenting, cuisine, fashion, lifestyle, and other trends, and those who adhere to them.

Honestly, on paper, this looks it should be a home run for me. I’m a big fan of satirical novels, but I’ve seen similar takes on office culture done better. (Max Barry’s Company is highly recommended!) Another issue is the fact that I listened to Bellwether as an unabridged audiobook. Reader Kate Reading (yeah, that’s her name) did a fine job with most of the narration, but for the annoying office assistant, Flip, she did a really annoying Valley Girlish voice. It got old fast. Not only that, she used the same voice for all of the many other annoying characters the protagonist encounters. It was a legitimate choice, implying a sameness to the hostile, ignorant, lazy characters in the book, but again, it was tedious. I find stories about really annoying people tend to get on my nerves. Maybe it’s me?

I did think the information on the science and history of fads was quite interesting, but there was simply too much of it. And there were some laughs along the way to the novel’s clever ending, but they didn’t fully compensate for the negative aspects of the book—for me. I will read Willis again, because she is clearly a talented writer. But next time I’ll stick to a recommended title. I think I could become a fan; this just wasn’t the right starting place.

No comments:

Post a Comment