January 6th, 2010


Japanese spam

I have been getting a lot of Japanese comment spam in the last couple of months - always from anonymous users, usually entirely in Japanese though with the odd random word in English; no links, just text. I have set up automatic screening for anonymous comments, so nobody apart from me sees them before they are deleted; but I am surprised that this has persisted, even after I switched on the option requiring anonymous commenters to identify the letters in a randomly generated image. This must mean that someone is physically going to the trouble of posting these comments which I cannot read and nobody else will read.


January Books 3) Mortal Causes, by Ian Rankin

I was already becoming a fan of Rankin's novels about Edinburgh policeman John Rebus, but particularly enjoyed this one for the Northern Ireland dimension. Last time Rebus went outside Scotland (to London, in Tooth and Nail) it wasn't really a success, but here he takes an effective day trip to Belfast(though he mysteriously visits a fictional Malone Road police station) to chase up Loyalist terrorists who may be planning to attack the Edinburgh Festival. The whole picture came together rather neatly at the end, in an arrangement of events reminiscent of the better Agatha Christie novels but in a believable police procedural setting - including high-level collusion with the terrorists, and the blurred lines of demarcation between organised crime, the forces of law and order, and the press. I did wonder about the sub-plot with the seductive and mildly psychotic lady lawyer, but perhaps this is a set-up for something in a later volume. Apart from that, all nicely done.

LibraryThing Unsuggestion: Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

January Books 4) Year's Best SF 8, edited by David G. Hartwell

Another sf anthology revisited from my bookshelves (though I found I'd left a bookmark at page 402, and don't remember previously reading the last few stories). This is Hartwell's selection of the best stories of 2002: of his 23 choices, I think I count precisely one which made it to the Nebula shortlist, and two which were Hugo nominees (one of which, Michael Swanwick's "Slow Life", won). That year's double winner was Neil Gaiman's Coraline, which I guess is excluded from Hartwell's collection as fantasy rather than science fiction.

I liked very much almost all of Hartwell's selection. The one that really got under my skin was A.M. Dellamonica's "A Slow Day At The Gallery"; two others that had stuck in my mind from first reading were Charles Stross's "Halo" and Greg Egan's "Singleton". There were unfortunately a couple of mawkish stories about cute old people, which I note is a disturbing and not particularly funny or interesting trend in American sf these days. All the others are very good. Worth returning to.

LibraryThing Unsuggestion: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. Also numerous other books I have read, some of which I even enjoyed.