Boffins cook up a fake-review hunter bot

Software boffins at the University of Illinois at Chicago are working on ways to detect fake Amazon reviews. And they’re developing an algorithm for a software bot, sponsored by a Google Faculty Research Award. They try to detect groups of people working in cahoots, by looking for obvious things such as:

* a sudden rash of glowing five-star reviews for a brand new ebook, suggesting the author has rounded up his family and friends to boost the book;

* a sudden clustering of good reviews (all reviews appearing in a four-day window, although I guess this could legitimately be a ‘cascade’ effect arising from a genuine good review);

* and they’re using stylometrics to detect similarities in language across different reviews, which might suggest they were all written by the same person under different names.


eBooks are changing the rights landscape for authors and publishers

An intellectual property lawyer suggests

“Under older, more traditional contracts, the rights would revert when [a book] went out-of-print, meaning it was no longer being distributed in print form. Now, with print-on-demand and ebooks, it’s becoming irrelevant. I think what we need to do is create a new structure for those rights to revert back to the author — that could be based on some sort of minimum sales threshold and that the book is no longer available through the major online retail channels.”

Nekhet – second in the Dreamline series

Available now is a welcome new sequel to Reswyt, a lengthy novel that I reviewed here at the start of March 2012. Nekhet is the title of the second new volume in David Mayer‘s epic Dreamline series. Like the first book, it’s a work intended for intelligent and well-read teenagers who have developed a taste for high-quality fantasy. Despite the presence of talking animals the series departs from the wizards/dwarves/elves cliché, into much fresher and more fascinating areas — such as the conflicts and complexities inherent in the meeting of technology and magic. From the opening chapter Nekhet clearly announces that it is far superior to the current publisher-driven “young adult” pap. I’ll spare you a plot recitation (it’s available on the Amazon page, though be warned that spoilers abound in it), since I don’t want to spoil the journey for readers who enjoyed Reswyt or who might be coming fresh to the Dreamline series. Suffice it to say that you really do need to read the first book, before you read this one. You’ll find here more finely crafted writing, more baroquely rich world-building, all woven around ideas about dreams and Ancient Egyptology. The fantastical is again deftly contrasted with an American High School setting, and an emotionally-faithful account of adolescence.

This second book opens with a dramatic and memorable account of a soul-harvesting night-voyage through the skies by the god Ra. It’s a beautiful and dense chapter which clearly shows why novels can play more glitteringly in the mind than any of the baubles offered by Hollywood or videogames. The richness of the opening of this second book may be challenging for some younger readers, but older teenagers who have read and enjoyed Reswyt should have no problems. All the basic set-up has been done by the first novel, and now the second can plunge us straight into a complex set of plot lines strung across richly-drawn worlds. I’m currently only some way into this new book, but already the plot is spiralling outward into a complex tapestry. My experience of Reswyt shows that David Mayer will have no problem in gathering all these threads together again for a satisfying ending.

Nekhet is available now for the Kindle on Amazon USA and Amazon UK.