Posts Tagged ‘2010’

Zoo City

In Book Reviews on October 5, 2014 at 10:28 am
Angry Robot 2010

Angry Robot 2010

“You play golf now as well as Blood Skies?” Des says mockingly.
“No, I hate golf. It’s the genteel version of seal-clubbing, only not as much fun.”

Nutshell blurb: Zinzi December is a criminal. In this particular society, criminal are lumped with animal familiars and have certain powers. Zinzi’s power is that she can find lost things. She ends up on a mission to find a missing person and from that point everything goes wrong.

I fell in love with the writing style of this book. Lauren Beukes has a wry sense of humour as well as a knack for description, both of which greatly appeal to me. I put the golf quote up there, incidentally, because that’s exactly how I feel about that particular sport. There were so many lines in this book that I could relate to which made my reading experience that much more fun.

The main character isn’t a very likable person. She actively participates in email scams. You know the ones. Some tribal princess is in dire need of help. She can’t access her vast fortune and needs your help (and money) to do it. Of course, you’ll get a cut of her considerable wealth once she has access to it. That sort of thing. However, Ms. Beukes somehow makes her likable. It was very easy to overlook her criminal activity and sympathise with her. That takes skill.

The animal aspect was very cool as well. (A lot of people have likened the concept to Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. I’m not going to do that here because I’ve never gotten around to reading those books. I just wanted to let you know that in case you decided to say ‘Oh hey, this sounds like Philip Pullman’s books.’) It was interesting that only criminals get ‘animalled’. I would love to have an animal that went everywhere with me. Zinzi has a sloth, which is pretty darn cool. Bad things happen to you if your animal gets killed, though. It kind of reminds me of this (skip to 1.30):

Not very nice.

Overall, this was a really good book and as I said, I love her writing. However, the ending was a bit much for even me. I can sum it up in two words: BLOOD BATH. Now, I read lots of zombie, dystopia and horror books so I have a pretty high tolerance for blood, guts and gore but this exceeded what even I find acceptable. I found myself cringing quite a lot, but not in a good way. The violence was excessive, wanton even, and I didn’t think that it served the story in any way. It left me with feelings of disappointment and sadness when I finished.

It is a good read and I definitely don’t regret spending my time and money on it, however, if you are at all squeamish, approach this book at your peril. It won’t deter me from buying any of her other books, though. She is very talented and I’m looking forward to reading more of her work.

Nothing to Envy

In Book Reviews on September 14, 2014 at 6:00 am
Granta Publications 2010

Granta Publications 2010

North Korea invites parody. We laugh at the excesses of the propaganda and the gullibility of the people. But consider that their indoctrination began in infancy, during the fourteen-hour days spent in factory day-care centers; that for the subsequent fifty years, every song, film, newspaper article, and billboard was designed to deify Kim Il-sung; that the country was hermetically sealed to keep out anything that might cast doubt on Kim Il-sung’s divinity. Who could possibly resist?

I actually had two books to write blog posts on before this one but I finished this book the other day and I decided to bump it up in the queue. I’ve never in my life been so affected by a non-fiction book and I really want to tell you about it.

Nutshell blurb: This book contains the stories of 6 people and how they lived in North Korea until they eventually defected to South Korea.

I feel that I need to tell you that I don’t really read much 20th century history. I love history but for some reason have never been interested by pretty much anything that has happened in that century. I began to think about why as I read this book and here’s what I came up with. The covers always look so drab (I know that we aren’t supposed to judge books by their covers but I can’t help it!!!) and they are usually in various colours of camouflage which puts me right off. Also, they seem to be written about various battles, areas where battles took place, tactics and weapons rather than about the actual people involved. They are also, frankly, intimidating. Just looking at books like these makes me think that they will be talking about things that I know nothing about and therefore won’t be able to absorb half of it and end up feeling really stupid.

Yes, I realise that these are really dumb reasons.

When I boiled away all of the rubbish, what I came up with is that I would prefer to read a book about specific people rather than just a country and it’s economy/politics/etc… I’m really glad that I came to this realisation because I think that it will open up a whole new set of books for me to read. I’ll be more inclined to read biographies and other books such as this that take place during that time period.

This particular book was recommended to me by a friend. She and I have these great conversations where we talk about historical stuff and then realise that we know absolutely nothing about what we’re talking about which then inspires some Googling and a subsequent trip to the library to find more information. One particular day, earlier this year, there was an article on the BBC News website about a new law in North Korea which meant that students had to get the same haircut as Kim Jong-un. My friend and I talked about it, decided that we knew nothing about North Korea and then she found this book.

Seriously, considering my intense love of dystopian regimes in books, how on earth have I not had sense enough to read more about North Korea until now? Shocking, really.

So anyway, this book.

Ms. Demick tells the story in an interesting way. Instead of telling one person’s story and then moving to the next, she intertwines them with what is happening in the country over the space of many years. It’s quite gripping and I found myself getting emotionally attached to the people whose stories they are. Because they are more than just characters in a book. They are actual people and these things actually happened to them.

What blew me away is the amount of mind-control involved in keeping the people so ignorant of what’s happening in the rest of the world and actually vilifying pretty much everyone outside of their country.

To a certain extent, all dictatorships are alike…all these regimes had the same trappings: the statues looming over every town square, the portraits hung in every office, the wristwatches with the dictator’s face on the dial. But Kim Il-sung took the cult of personality to a new level. What distinguished him in the rogues’ gallery of twentieth-century dictators was his ability to harness the power of faith…Once in power, Kim Il-sung closed the churches, banned the Bible, deported believers to the hinterlands, and appropriated Christian imagery and dogma for the purpose of self-promotion.

One of the most difficult parts to read about in this book was the famine that swept through the country. People were still expected to work, but the government could no longer afford to pay them or provide them with food. People had to find other ways to find food and many became reluctant capitalists by providing services or selling things in order to survive. Many people still starved:

Yet another gratuitous cruelty: the killer targets the most innocent, the people who would never steal food, lie, cheat, break the law, or betray a friend.

One of the people interviewed for this book was a teacher and much later, after she defected, she looked back and felt guilty for not being able to help the dying children who surrounded her.

What she didn’t realize is that her indifference was an acquired survival skill. In order to get through the 1990s alive, one had to suppress any impulse to share food. To avoid going insane, one had to learn to stop caring.

Life didn’t suddenly become easy once they defected. It seems as though the South Korean government is quite keen to see them integrate into society but the defectors have trouble getting over the constant shame and guilt that they feel for pretty much everything. I can’t imagine it being that easy to get on with life. Especially if you leave people behind. One woman left her grown daughters behind as they were married with children and fully supported the regime. Those daughters were later taken away to a gulag once it was learned that their mother defected.

As I said earlier, this book had a profound effect on me because of my concern for the people involved. It broke my heart to read what they went through and it breaks my heart further to know that there are many people who are still going through the same things that they did.

Also, I’m not ashamed to tell you that this is the first non-fiction book that actually made me cry. (Ok, I didn’t actually shed tears but I teared up and got all misty.)

It brings to light my ignorance of what is going on in other parts of the world that are outside of my insulated and comfortable life and I want to read more stories about extraordinary people who overcome difficulties to survive. It’s inspiring and humbling.


In Book Reviews on August 31, 2014 at 6:00 am
Hodder & Stoughton 2010

Hodder & Stoughton 2010

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading this book. This seems to be happening to me quite a lot recently. I must be on auto-pilot when I’m in the library these days. I’m a lot more careful when I’m buying books. Well, obviously. I suppose it’s different when you’re actually spending money. Anyway, the claw marks on the front cover made me think that it was a werewolf book. I’m not sure what it is with me and werewolves lately. I don’t think that I’ve ever read a book that featured them so maybe this is my brain’s way of telling me that I need to. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that this book isn’t about werewolves. It’s about something much worse.


Nutshell blurb: So there’s this island in the Great Lakes and there are these scientists who are using DNA from extinct species to create a new species to be used as organ donors. Of course, it’s all going to go horribly wrong.

It’s such a wonderful feeling to pick up a book without knowing anything about it only to have it blow you away. This was one of those books that made me want to stay on the tube to the end of the line just so that I wouldn’t have to stop reading. (I would like to state for the record, that I have never been late to work as a result of reading a book even though I’ve been sorely tempted on many occasions. *sigh* It’s hard being conscientious.)

Ok, so I know you’re wondering about the cows. These scientists have created a new species from old DNA of something that was wiped out millions of years ago. Obviously, they needed an animal in which to incubate the tiny widdle eggs and so they chose cows. As it turns out, a mistake was made in the creation of these things and they turned out to be waaaaaaay bigger at birth than they were supposed to be. Like 200 pounds at birth. If you can imagine, this would make it exceptionally difficult when it came to giving birth, even for some big ‘ol cows. I’m not going to go into detail. It’s possible that you could be eating a hamburger while you’re reading this and I don’t want to put you off your meal.

I’ll just say that it’s pretty grim.

So, you’ve got these huge animals that are hungry as well as a couple of homicidal maniacs loose on the island (there are a few branches to this story) and it makes for really tense reading. It was quite exciting and I really want to read some more of Mr. Sigler’s work.

Who Fears Death

In Book Reviews on August 24, 2014 at 6:00 am
DAW Books 2010

DAW Books 2010

I’ll start off by saying that this book is not for the faint-hearted. It was both beautiful and terrifying and it took me a few days to get over reading it.

Nutshell blurb: Onyesonwu is Ewu – a product of rape as a form of ethnic cleansing. Her name means ‘Who Fears Death’ and she discovers that she has magical abilities. This is the story of her journey to find the person who is trying to murder her.

There are some heavy subjects in this book. Ones that certainly shouldn’t be ignored but are very difficult to read.

Like many women, the threat of rape is something that terrifies me. I can read books where people are dismembered horribly or eaten by zombies, but this is one subject I really have a difficult time reading about. The story begins with Onyesonwu as an adult and since it was her mom that was raped, I kind of thought that we would get away without reading about it in detail. Except that there are these things in books called flashbacks. Yeah.

It would have been cowardly for Ms. Okorafor to not write about it but it still made me squeamish.

The topic of female circumcision plays heavily in the story as well.

Why did I keep reading it? you might ask.

It’s a damn good book, is why. The writing is gorgeous and the characters are interesting. I didn’t connect as well as I’d like with the main character. She was moody, willful and sometimes not very nice but I think that the same could probably be said about me sometimes. She had a difficult time growing up as Ewu so I imagine that would have an effect on someone’s personality.

It was also a different experience for me reading about issues in a novel that I’ve only ever read about in the news. I don’t live in fear of soldiers invading my village and harming me nor is there any threat of FGM for me. Reading about these topics, even though it’s fiction, gave me some frame of reference for them. What we read in the news is very sterile with emotion taken out of it. To feel the terror from a character’s point of view who has had to deal with these issues is quite powerful. It makes it seem more real when I think that women in the world are actually going through these things and that it’s just part of their lives.

The story takes place in a futuristic Africa. The first image that actually popped into my head when I read that it was a dystopian story that takes place in a desert is this:

Tina Turner looking amazing in the desert. (Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.)

Let’s take a moment to appreciate Tina Turner looking amazing in the desert. (Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.)


It couldn’t be more different, though. There are some references to recording devices and computers but there’s also magic involved. Other than that, it didn’t feel very futuristic. I’m not complaining, though. It was unlike anything I’ve ever read and I was mesmerised.

As I mentioned, Onyesonwu had to get used to having magical powers. One of her abilities was that she could shapeshift. She was able to turn herself into different animals and birds. When she changed shape, she took on the characteristics of the animal that she became. I thought that was a nice touch and it was these types of details that made this story so enjoyable for me.

The ending felt a bit rushed, but other than that I absolutely loved it. I’m not sure about its re-readability factor, but it was an amazing experience.

The Road to Bedlam

In Book Reviews on August 3, 2014 at 6:00 am
Angry Robot 2010

Angry Robot 2010

This is the second book in The Courts of the Feyre series. The first one is Sixty-One Nails. Feel free to click on the link to read my thoughts about it.

Nutshell blurb: Niall Petersen has just received word that his daughter has been involved in an accident and he has to learn how to deal with her death as well as his new role within the Court of the Feyre.

This book is definitely better than the first one. I really liked Sixty-One Nails, but, as I mentioned in my post on that book, there was a lot of exposition which is a bit off-putting. It’s a tricky thing as an author, I think, trying to weave the rules of your world into the story rather than just telling us what you want us to know. We found out about the rules in the first one so this book is all about the action. And there’s a lot of action.

One of the things that I really liked about the first book is that it took place predominantly in London. I love books that describe the city in which I live. Especially an urban fantasy novel. When I see those places in my travels throughout the city, it makes me wonder if there is more going on than just what I can see. It makes my surroundings seem a bit magical and mysterious. The Road to Bedlam takes us out of London as we travel with the main character to solve a mystery involving some missing women. This mystery is a bit of a tangent from the main story but the court needed to get Niall out of the way because he had the potential to interfere with their politics. It’s still a great story, but I did miss London a bit.

Blackbird is pregnant and therefore cannot use magic lest she hurt her unborn child. It’s a bit frustrating that she has a smaller part in this story as I like her but being pregnant and unable to use magic doesn’t make her helpless in any way. She’s really resourceful and can hold her own, which is something that I really like. I just would have liked for there to be more of her in the story.

As I mentioned earlier in this post, there is a lot of action. Niall has been going through combat training and has gone from a soft office worker to a sword wielding badass. (As an office worker, this appeals to me greatly.) He’s much more comfortable with himself and his abilities and uses them often.

I really liked this book. The world is inventive and unique and the characters are interesting. I’ve never read anything quite like this and I’ll definitely pick up the third book, Strangeness and Charm.


Zombie Apocalypse

In Book Reviews on May 25, 2014 at 6:00 am
Constable & Robinson 2010

Constable & Robinson 2010

Nutshell blurb: In order to boost the morale of a disillusioned British populace, the government decides to host a festival in South London. To facilitate this, they’ve decided to dig up a plague pit that rests under a creepy English church. What could possibly go wrong?

I kind of have a thing for zombies. Or zombie literature, rather. I’m fascinated by the way that authors take a subject that has been done by countless others and re-spin it. Sometimes it doesn’t work so well, but sometimes it knocks my socks off.

In this case, my socks were well and truly knocked off.

This book is a record of this particular zombie apocalypse told from the perspective of many different people through blog posts, texts, police reports, journals, emails, government meeting minutes and such. It’s quite similar to World War Z in that it’s a collection of accounts that describe this event that sweeps across London. The way it differed from World War Z is that it was much more immediate. As I mention in my World War Z post, the stories are told by the survivors so they may have been in peril at one time, but they lived to tell the tale. In Zombie Apocalypse, the records people kept on their experiences were collected presumably once the zombie situation was under control. Sometimes people turned into zombies mid-diary entry or email. It was quite tense because you didn’t know who is going to turn or who will make it.

I really liked the idea that the zombie apocalypse started because someone dug up a plague pit and exposed humans to the disease that was lying dormant all of these centuries. At first no one seems very panicked. People know that crazies are running around attacking people but they don’t seem particularly concerned. Eventually they catch on, but by then it’s too late.

The characters were really interesting as well. There was a diary kept by a woman who was pretty much trapped in a tower block, but had enough food to last for a long time. I really enjoyed reading the police report and the diary of a 13 year old girl. There was a blogger who was an expert on zombie lore. He stayed locked up in his flat watching zombie films. There were many many more but these were the ones that really stuck with me.

In my blog post on World War Z, I stated that I wasn’t sure that this style of different accounts would work, but this novel nailed it. I’m looking forward to the next one.

The Passage

In Book Reviews on May 18, 2014 at 10:09 am
Orion 2010

Orion 2010

Nutshell blurb: 12 inmates used for experimental purposes escape from the underground Army testing facility they’re kept in. They wreak havoc on the earth and only one girl can save mankind.

I picked up this book not knowing anything about it. Even the cover blurb is a bit vague although strangely intriguing. It’s always a strange experience going into a story with no information. I had no preconceptions and no idea of where the story would take me.

That was kind of exciting, yet at the same time a little bit off-putting. There was no way I could predict what was going to happen (which is a good thing) yet sometimes I sat there thinking What is this story??

It was actually several stories in one and it reminded me of A Canticle for Leibowitz. (Except that I liked this story much more. Sorry, Walter M. Miller Jr.)

There were some really good characters and I’m happy to report that a few of those character were some kick-ass females.

That always makes me happy.

There’s also a really sweet note at the back of the book on how the author came up with the story. Apparently, it was inspired by his 8 year old daughter who told him that his literary books were too boring and that he should write something more interesting. They would spend part of everyday talking about the story and creating the characters. Frankly, she sounds a bit bossy. I like her.

Don’t worry, though. It doesn’t read like an 8 year old wrote it!

It’s definitely worth a read if you are interested in a different take on the vampire genre and are not intimidated by its nearly 1000 pages.


In Book Reviews on May 4, 2014 at 6:51 pm
Orbit 2010

Orbit 2010

The front wheel rose smoothly and the back followed, sending us into the air with a  jerk that looked effortless and was actually scarier than hell. I was screaming. Shaun was whooping with gleeful understanding. And then everything was in the hands of gravity, which has never had much love for the terminally stupid.

Mira Grant has a fantastic way with words. Her sense of whimsy drew me into this book right away.

Also, there’s a character named Buffy in this book.

That’s Buffy’s job, along with being the perkiest, blondest, outwardly flakiest member of the team.

Buffy is an unusual name and I’ve gotta say that it’s not often that I see it in print. (Unless, of course, it’s something to do with Buffy the Vampire Slayer.) It took me a while to get used to seeing it in a novel, especially when the character is nothing like me. That’s right, folks. I’m not perky, blond or flaky. (Depending on whom you ask…)

One of the things that I love about reading books on the same topic (ie. zombies, vampires, etc…) is seeing how the author tries to make his/her stories unique. They say that the devil is in the detail and that’s something that Ms. Grant nails. It was clear to me as I read this that she spent a lot of time creating this world and the result is that it feels authentic.

The zombies in this story were a result of two vaccines mixing and being distributed on a mass scale over the entire population. Everyone is infected and will turn no matter how they die. Special procedures are in place which require retinal scans and blood tests to take place before people are allowed to enter or leave any buildings or compounds. People no longer tend to gather together in large groups for fear of an outbreak.

Nutshell blurb: George, her brother, Shaun, and their friend, Buffy, are a group of bloggers who have been chosen to follow a presidential candidate on his campaign trail.

Now, this book fell down for me in a couple of places.

First of all, (and this has to do with my personal preference) I hate politics. And I mean that I REALLY hate the subject. Want to see my jaw go slack and my eyes glaze over? Tell me your political views. Please. Do go on and on about what you think of the government.

Yes, I did realise that this book was about a group of bloggers covering a campaign trail, but I kind of thought that there would be less political stuff because of the zombies. There was a lot of technical stuff and a bit more exposition than I would like as well.

Luckily, Ms. Grant has an engaging style of writing that kept me interested. And, as I said previously, the level of detail in this novel is great, but there were a few times when I found myself wishing for a bit more action.

My second complaint is that we didn’t really start finding out about the ‘dark conspiracy’ (as mentioned on the back cover) until the last quarter of the book. So again, I felt like I was reading another series in which the first book is setting up the second.

Please don’t think that I didn’t like it, though! It was really fun and the writing is superb.

I think that the next one is going to be even better and I highly recommend Feed if you enjoy the zombie genre.


In Book Reviews on January 5, 2014 at 11:59 am
Egmont 2010

Egmont 2010

This is the 3rd in the series by Michael Grant and I’m still really enjoying them. Since this is the third in the series, I’m not sure how spoilerific this post is going to be but please be advised that I will divulge a bit of information (at least from the previous books). It would be impossible to talk about this book without doing so. If you would like to know what I thought about the two previous books in the series, please see my posts for Gone and Hunger.

Nutshell blurb: Kids are still trapped under the barrier that separates them from the rest of the world. They’ve found a solution to the food problem they were having but have discovered a new range of problems. New factions have formed and kids are fighting against each other in a bid for survival.

It’s been interesting to see how these kids would deal with the loss of the authority figures in their lives and the decisions they make. Mr. Grant doesn’t shy away from heavy subjects, such as cannibalism, even though we’re dealing with kids.

The event which caused the barrier aka the FAYZ to be created also resulted in some of the kids receiving special powers. It has also caused the wildlife that was trapped with them to mutate creating even more peril for them. In the previous books, the kids were separated into two factions: the kids from Coates Academy and those from Perdido Beach. In this book, there’s been yet another schism between the kids with special powers and those with none. Some of the kids who don’t have powers are terrified of those who do and have declared war on them.

It’s quite an interesting situation because the kids with powers in Perdido Beach are trying to establish a system of government in an effort to return to some sense of normalcy. They lack the ability to enforce these laws and are constantly frustrated in their attempts to give everyone a stable living environment. But hey, most of them are under 15 . Whaddya expect?

One thing that made me a bit skeptical is the addition of new characters into the story. I would have thought that we would have met everyone who was noteworthy in the first couple of books since we’ve been trapped under a dome since then. As it turns out, there’s an island off the coast that was the home of a celebrity couple who adopted kids from several different countries (Brangelina, anyone?) and the kids have no idea what’s going on. They end up getting dragged into the mess eventually. I’m willing to suspend my disbelief on this subject. For now. In the last book, the kids on the mainland were starving and trying to find food. They all knew about this island and they have boats. Why wouldn’t it occur to them to travel to it? I’ll have to see how it plays out in the next book. Hopefully there will be a plausible explanation.

We also get more of a view on what caused the barrier to be created as well as a brief snapshot of what is potentially happening outside of it.

This was a very fun and exciting book to read and I did so quickly. I’m a bit leery series that go beyond three books. Sometimes I find that they have a tendency to drag things out that could have been said or explained in less time and space. So far, that doesn’t seem to be the case with these books so I’ll definitely pick up the next one when I see it in the library.

The Unit

In Book Reviews on July 28, 2013 at 6:00 am

The Unit

One World Publications 2010

I think it’s beautiful when men show their physical strength openly without being ashamed of it or apologizing. And I think it’s beautiful when women dare to be physically weak and accept help with heavy jobs.

This book affected me. Intensely.

Nutshell blurb: 50 year old Dorritt has just been admitted to the 2nd Federal Reserve Bank for Biological Material where she will spend the rest of her days in relative comfort, undergoing “humane” medical tests and donating organs to more important people in society until the day she makes her “final donation”.

This book scored high for me on the creep-out meter. I’ve been reading a lot of dystopia lately that has been deliciously scary but there is something about donating organs before one dies that freaks me right out. I mean, we will probably never experience a zombie apocalypse, an alien invasion or any of the many scenarios authors of dystopia have dreamed up. But this…this really feels like something that could happen one day. At least it does to me. I’ve never been the same since reading that email that did the rounds way back in the early 2000s about people being drugged in hotel bars and waking up in a bathtub full of ice with a note saying that their kidneys had been removed.

Anyway, back to the book. The fact that it weirded me out has no bearing on whether or not I liked it because I really really did.

As a strong, independent woman, there were things that were difficult for me to read without wincing such as the quote above. The important members of society were the ones in important jobs which served society such as being a doctor, teacher, police officer, etc… Being a parent left you home free as well. Women who didn’t jump into relationships and who made it to the age of 50 without having children or an important job were sent to the Unit. The same went for men who made it to 60. These people are considered dispensable.

The main character wrote novels and read a lot. She mentions that people who read a lot tend to be dispensable. These are the type of people I tend to befriend. Strong, independent, smart.

The reason that I get so affected by stories is that I have a very strong sense of empathy. When I read a book or watch a film, I usually put myself in the place of the characters. I don’t mean that I imagine myself actually in the film or book; I mean that I try to imagine what I’d do in that particular situation. What would my role be in the society?

Well, let’s see…I love to read and write. I have no children and am not sure whether or not I will. I don’t have a job that’s important to society. OH MY GOD, I’VE GOT TWELVE YEARS UNTIL THEY SEND ME TO THE UNIT!!!


This book put me through some heavy emotions. I was terrified, heart-broken, tense, over-joyed…All of these things. I was reading it on the way to work one day and I got to a certain point which made my eyes tear up. I almost started crying right there on the Underground. I absolutely love it when a book can trigger such strong emotions. (I’m sure my fellow commuters thought that I was a bit unhinged, though.)

I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads. It missed out on 1 star because I was unclear about why the author ended it the way she did. (Don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil it.) It was a pretty powerful ending but there was no explanation about why the main character made the choices that she made. I don’t feel that every story has to be perfectly wrapped up, but I do want to understand the motivation behind the choices.

Gosh, I’ve gotta stop reading this kind of stuff before bed…

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