Saturday, 18 February 2012

Dragon's Teeth - A Surreal New World

Dragon's Teeth by Suzanne Van Rooyen, is a futuristic scifi that the author describes as a "cyberpunk/dystopian noir".  I have to say that it is not my usual read, but I really enjoyed this and would recommend it without hesitation to scifi fans and anyone else for that matter.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Fake book reviews ... what do you think?

I've been doing a little bit of reviewing this week, and I've been checking out other reviews.  There are a lot of quality reviews out there, but I have to say, there are thousands of dubious ones too.  I've been looking mostly on Amazon, but they are on other sites too, iTunes and smashwords are not immune.

Image care of How to spot a fake review on Amazon

So, what do I mean by fake reviews?  They are the reviews posted by people to boost the popularity, or sadly, to try to disparage a book.  I think there are more fake positive reviews than fake negative ones (I'm glad to say) but regardless they're all bad.  Amazon is aware of the issue, obviously, and a number of these fake reviews are removed on a daily basis.  According to this report Amazon is using technology to try to 'catch' fake reviews and remove them.  Hopefully they can improve the process to eliminate the majority of them.  But, given that some reviewers are making a tidy little profit from providing such reviews, it may well be impossible to eliminate all together.

I think it is pretty easy to detect a fake review though.  Here's how I do it:

  • Fake reviews have extremely general information about the book.  They might mention that it was "a great read", that the "characters were like old friends". that they "can't wait for more", lots of them say that they "laughed out loud". They are often full of superlatives, "best book ever", and they might mention something very general about the genre, usually with the word "genre" in it. The reason why they are so general of course is because they haven't read the book and know very little about it!
Here's some real examples -
"Excellent writer, not a wasted word and not a word out of place. Story grabs you from the first and never lets go. I can't wait for the next one....there IS a next one right???"
"I have been reading a bunch of books in this genre, and often the story is good, but the writing is pretty average. This is a really well-written book with great characterizations and ambiance. The characters are real, rather than idealized personas; the story is brisk but imparts a fully-realized sense of place. Can't wait for the next book!"
"This book is the best book I have read in a L-O-N-G time, possibly ever. Most books I read I usually find good and finish them with a nice feeling of satisfaction. But this one I never wanted to end!! I was dreading the end because I knew it was the end to one of the greatest books I have ever come across!!! STUNNING! AMAZING!! EXTRAORDINARY!!! PERFECT!!!!!! I cannot wait for the second installment!!!" 
  •  The above goes for negative reviews too.  General statements, nothing specific, stating why it was a bad book.  They often state something like "I can't believe this got published".  Most of these negative reviews are targeted at established authors who are with the 'big' publishers, which is intriguing.  There is an interesting article about it here.
  • When you think you have found a fake reviewer, click on their 'see all my reviews' link.  Most often you will find that they have only ever done that one review.  Or all of their reviews will seem 'fake'.
  • Most fake reviewers have not actually bought the book.
What can we do about it?  Well, there is that handy little button on Amazon where you get to vote if the review was helpful or not, I recommend clicking 'no'.  There is the option to 'report abuse' but I'm not sure that a fake review is necessarily abusive.  If you feel quite passionate about it, you could always post a thread on the Amazon review discussion forum - this has been successful in drawing attention to fake reviews before.

If you've seen them or have any ideas about what to do with them please share, I'm interested!

Saturday, 4 February 2012

'Twilight' ... why is it so damn popular?

Everyone has heard of it, many have read it and many more have seen the films.  Everyone seems to have a view on it, whether they have read it or not.  Almost all forums on the Internet have a thread that argues its merits or denounces it.  But, one thing that cannot be denied is that Twilight has been hugely popular and has made Stephanie Meyer very wealthy indeed - according to Forbes richest celebrity list Meyer comes in at number 26, in between Simon Cowell and Roger Federer.