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An anatomy of reviews of Rana Ayyub's Gujarat Files

Sneha Vakharia | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:49 IST

Investigative journalist Rana Ayyub is as polarising a public figure as her favourite subject - Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Her recent book, Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Coverup, which investigates the fake encounters that happened under Modi's watch as then-Chief Minister of Gujarat between 2001 and 2010, has stirred up a proverbial shitstorm on Amazon.

At the time of writing this, Ayyub's book has received 578 reviews on Amazon India. And the numbers are climbing with every minute.

Also read - Why Amazon cares about reviews enough to sue 1000 fake reviewers

To put those numbers into perspective: Jhumpa Lahiri's latest book has only 17 reviews. Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children has 70 reviews. Murakami's Kafka on the Shore has 43 reviews. Margaret Atwood's Booker Prize-winning The Blind Assassin has a paltry 4 reviews.

In other words, 578 reviews on Amazon is a big deal. That too, only six days after its release. But the inflated number comes with some fine print.

157 reviewers gave her book a rating of 5 stars. But 117 of those reviewers were not verified. That means none of these 117 reviewers had purchased the book on Amazon.

On the other hand, 410 reviewers gave her book a rating of 1 star, the lowest possible. But 409 of those 410 reviewers had not purchased the book on Amazon, but reviewed it anyway.

At 11 AM on 26 May, the Gujarat Files had 479 reviews. By 3 PM, it had 578, not because it's the next Harry Potter. But because a propaganda war is underway on the Amazon product page. And it's not pretty, because you know we, as a country, have reached an all-time low when the sickular-bhakt debate doesn't even spare internet product reviews.

Here are 11 exhibits to demonstrate just what we mean:

This reviewer is encouraged to write a book investigating his assertion.

This reviewer typed his first sentence with no sense of irony.

This reviewer likely don't read at all.

Some truths deserve repetition.

This reviewer lived to tell the tale.

Four people found this review helpful.

This reviewer is encouraged to email [email protected] He's welcome.

This reviewer is at a loss for words.

This reviewer suggests an alternate product that is close in form and purpose.

This reviewer changed his name to be more like the author's. Because he likes her so very much.

And I'd certainly read a book written by this guy. Wouldn't you?

All of this is, of course, to say that any genuine criticism of Ayyub's book is likely to drown in this wave of vitriol. As it did when Barkha Dutt's This Unquiet Land received 3,879 single-star ratings.

Some exercises are marvelously self-defeating.

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First published: 27 May 2016, 12:29 IST
Sneha Vakharia @sneha_vakharia

A Beyonce-loving feminist who writes about literature and lifestyle at Catch, Sneha is a fan of limericks, sonnets, pantoums and anything that rhymes. She loves economics and music, and has found a happy profession in neither. When not being consumed by the great novels of drama and tragedy, she pays the world back with poems of nostalgia, journals of heartbreak and critiques of the comfortable.