What are YOU readin'?

huh. longer ago than i thought since i last posted. here is my most recent reading:

june

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city of stairs - robert jackson bennett - there has been a curious shift in some of the recent fantasy novels - where they are full of magic and gods, but much more informed by the political and economic impact on people's lives. the magic kingdom has collapsed, the gods are dead, and the slave territory is now in charge of their masters. an academic in the magic kingdom is murdered and agent of the new regime comes to the city to investigate, and find that magic still leaves its stamp on this land. a fun, interesting, enjoyable read for its cultures and approach to the material.

july
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three parts dead - max gladstone - a re-read, very similar kind of territory to the above. humans have discovered they can harness magic, god power, so why do they need gods? post-war there are few territories where gods still exist. here with the sudden death of the fire god a conspiracy is afoot and necromantic lawyer accountants are called in to sort the mess out. much more fun and engaging than that might sound.

 

strange and norrell - suzanne clarke - had this damn slab since it was published, but never read it till watching the BBC tv series. while traditional fantasy in some ways bores me, the ideas of magic and the potential still fascinate me. on the down side, this is a slab, it is at times very slow. but it does build momentum and is on the whole quite enjoyable reading.


this is life - dan rhodes - i've read a couple of rhodes novels, they tend to be reasonably light hearted, don't want to say comedy because his slice of life drama has more gravity than saying they are humour novels might suggest, but they are funny too. this one was on special for kindle, so bought and read. set in paris: a young art student finds herself left with a stranger's baby, japanese tourists tour the city with her best friend, and a famous controversial artist returns to his home city after years in exile. great.



august
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leviathan wakes - james s a corey - again a kindle deal, and conscious of this becoming a syfy tv series. not sure how that'll convert, given the book seems to be reasonably faithful to the laws of physics that TV sci-fi always seems determined to ignore. outer colonies of the solar system find themselves at odds against the inner planets after the destruction of an ice hauler. switching between the view points of one of the survivors of the destroyed ship and a colonial police officer, building through the escalation of events. a reasonably enjoyable big SF read, less subtle than something like mcauley's "quiet war", which was the last of the books i read in this kind of territory.


jagganith - karin tidbeck - selection of short stories from swedish writer translated into english, sold as part of jeff vandermeer's weird bundle a while ago. the 1st story put me off a little, elements of sort of steam punk that didn't work for me. but the remainder of the stories are steeped in swedish folk lore, strange encounters, appearances and disappearances. which bare some resemblance to similar british fairy tales.


wolves of london: obsidian hearts - mark morris - the first of a trilogy, which turns out to be somewhat frustrating, as the next doesn't come out for another couple months. the narrator was involved in armed robbery as a young man, went to prison, turned his life around, now teaches at a university in london. however, his daughter from a useful indiscretion gets in trouble, and he can only see old contacts as a way out. so, obvious set up, he needs to do one last job to save his daughter. except things escalate shockingly, the body count rises sharply, his younger daughter is abducted, and there are screaming horrible things in the night. this really is a trip, ripping from one place to the next. great. except by the end it rips the carpet from beneath your feet and then leaves you hanging in the void with no resolution and then gut punches you with a twist. yay?

 

the field of the cloth of gold - magnus mills - mills' latest novel, picked up at edinburgh book festival after seeing him do a reading for the 1st time. similar to rhodes on some level, read a number of novels, always enjoyed, should really close the gaps. on some level this reminds me of his novel i enjoy the most - three to see the king. the narrator arrives with a tent at a huge field by a great river, there is one other tent. over the course of the book other tents arrive, the residents interact, get on and don't get on. as the book progresses there are the scattered tents of the original loners vs the organised large scale newcomers. mills tends towards simple plots, mundane set ups, but in the process works well with characters, a level of humour, and the absurdity of the ordinary. mixed feelings about the end, but worth the journey.


the other wind - ursula le guin - only read shorts be le guin, for some reason never read any of her novels. though i have at least 3 somewhere in the mountains of ToBeRead. this one was a gift and i gather at least part through a sequence of earthsea novels. in someways i'm enjoying that this is late in a sequence, there are lots of references to things done, the past, and characters kind of shamble through, talk and reflect, and not necessarily a lot happens, at least not quickly. and that just appeals to me. a wizard dreams of the wall between the living and dead, the dead want to return. there are dragons in the west burning things down. so it goes.

I read Harkaway's Tigerman finally, and highly recommend.

 

The story is a lot less fantastical than The Gone-Away World, and in setting and character reminded me of his father's work (in a really good way).

 

I needed a Snow Crash fix, so reading that atm but will try Angelmaker soon I think.

So... i finally got my teeth into The Peripheral. It took me several tries to get past the first 50 pages because for some reason my brain just couldn't parse it. I had similar issues with Spook Country and Zero History. 

 

But now that i've managed to get past the opening, i'm getting rapidly immersed in the story and am really enjoying it!

 

I also have Neal Stephenson's Seveneves waiting.

The Man has an odd way of saying things, and sometimes I've had to read the first couple or three chapters *slowly*, sometimes re-reading the odd line or paragraph.  Sort of a cognitive adjustment period.  It's never stopped me from getting sucked into his books, just slowed me down a little.  At first.  Momentarily.  I always know it'll take off pretty soon, though.

Used to have the same problem with Neil Gaiman -- mainly due to his [seemingly, at the time] excessive use of commas, but either he's toned that down or I've adjusted to it.

Anyway, yeah, I know what you mean.


Cheers,
Patrick.

 

Ran into dis bradda at Amazing Hawaii Comic Con. Spiderman-esque superhero who's origin story involves being shot by Hawaii-branch Yakuza and resurrected on Kamehameha's altar to Ku Kailimoku, weilding a Hawaiian shark-tooth sword and donning a mask that's half Venom, half Ikaika warrior, and half... pineapple.

 

Apparently, at the peak of it's fame, the Pineapple Man comics outsold X-Men and Batman locally in Hawaii, and had international acclaim.

 

The weaving of Hawaiian culture, mythology, and comic book tropes is absolutely spot on and awesome. I just feel bad I didn't spot Pineapple Man on my radar in time to help creator Sam Campos with his Kickstarter. Do check it out!

 

 

Down and Out in Paris and London - George Orwell.

 

Having been kind of "down and out" myself these past 18 months - trying to find a cheap place to live, a permanent job, a living wage and some sanity along the way I decided to go bleak and delve into Orwell's life as a young man on the bread line. Now that I've finally given up alcohol I find I have enough to buy a few books each month. This was a new first present to myself.

 

I found it a quick and easy read, proving that common language and pretentious dialogue are definitely not required to produce a book of high acclaim. It does what it says on the cover, providing a clear insight into working class strife (Paris memoirs) and vagabond ways, tramping in London during the late 1920's. As such, I found it pleasing and insightful. In some ways it romanticised the hardship involved in daily survival and the warmth of fellow man, but it worked for me (no pun intended). A Polaroid in words.

 

Into the Wild - Jon Krakauer

 

I found this in a charity shop last week, and having heard of the film - via good reviews of the soundtrack album (but not seen or heard either) - I snapped it up. It's an investigation into the intentions, philosophies and events leading up to and including the fatal quest for adventure of the young Chris McCandless, an "Emory graduate who is found dead in the Alaskan wilderness in September 1992". It's a compelling page turner that adds depth and purpose to a seemingly irresponsible sojourn into the remote regions. No spoilers, but its a good read for anyone who likes to take extended solo trips, or those who seek solace in nature.

 

Finished China Meiville's King Rat on Saturday so I need to go shopping again. I find Meiville a tricky writer to get into but about a third of the way into his books they climb the rewarding curve pretty quickly. I've just done Peripheral, Stevensons Seveneves and King Rat on the bounce so I think I'll probably opt for something lighter now.

 

Intermittently I also read Fables by Bill Willingham, Southern Cross by Cloonan and Belanger and the Reprographics blog by General Lucifer. The first two a graphic novels/comics and the latter is semi-fictional blog that goes down well with afficionado's of grim northern britishness. You can find it here: https://generallucifer.wordpress.com/ and it's worth starting at the beginning. Parental Advisory warnings apply.

Thanks to being flat on my back with a cold for the last 3+ days, I've been doing a lot of reading…

 

The Dark Forest, Cixin Liu — Even more brutal to crawl through than his last book. Honestly, I think at least some of it is the translation, but the actual material is very dry and dusty too. Somewhere around page 250 or so I think I started to get into a bit more but then towards the end there were some major facepalm moments too. If you read the first one, you might as well read this one too just to find out how it ends, I suppose, but I have no future plans to read other books by him.

 

You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), Felicia Day — It turns out Felicia is just all around impressive and there's a lot of fun stuff in here, although a lot of it too is quite neurotic and skirting the edge of nervous breakdown for like 30 years it sounds like too. At any rate, it's quite amusing and I'd probably recommend it if you're a fan of The Guild, etc.

 

vN (Machine Dynasty), Madeline Ashby — Fairly interesting look at a future with Von Neumann robots that have something like the 3 Laws of Robotics built in, and what happens when one discovers she doesn't anymore.

 

I also found a Stainless Steel Rat book I hadn't read before and now I'm rereading Forever War.

i can't say i get excited about cixin liu, despite the hype. everything i hear about the book suggests it is a retro style, harking back to american writers i never read. and the dryness of the material outweighs the ideas. i've read a number of chinese novels/shorts, and i think enough of those cover the material that i'm not so inclined to bother.

in meantime, I've read:

 

alien separation - gini koch - this was bought in an import book store, had never heard of it, cover looked decent, description sounded like a fun read. it is 500 page slab, book 11 of an ongoing series. aliens have come to earth, they aren't that different from humans, adventures happen. the main character is just back from one adventure, in which she discovered who her nemesis really is. but before she can do anything about that, her and her team are whisked off to an alien planet and split up. there are about 200 pages of fast paced, quick smart, page turning adventure here. unfortunately the other 400 (yes, it feels like she crammed an extra 100 pages in there) of back story and digression and tangents about characters not even in this book, do little to hold the interest. it was decent enough, but i feel this one was enough and there is every chance i'll never read another.

 

ack-ack macaque - gareth powell - despite playing late night games of cards against humanity with powell and a load of other folk in the glasgow con bar, i'd never read any of his stuff. this, or its sequel perhaps, co-won the best novel at that con (split with ancillary justice). while the idea of a hard smoking/drinking, gun toting monkey fighter pilot seems to be enough for many people, and is the main selling point, it is i admit a little off putting to me. however, it is much more complicated that that. in the 1950s britain and france formed an alliance, other countries in europe joining over the years to form a kind of common wealth. 100 years on and there has been an attempt on the king's life. an ex-journalist has been rebuilt as a mostly cyborg after a helicopter crash, she arrives in london to follow up her ex-husbands murder. and the monkey. it is a good fun read, full on cyberpunk, brimming with ideas. over brimming even.

 

the sorcerer of the wildeeps - kai ashanti wilson - one of a new series of novellas coming from tor, aiming for the 100 page range, reasonably cheap ebooks. seen some decent stuff about it, but it was the following blurb that caught my eye:

"THE SORCERER OF THE WILDEEPS reads like Gene Wolfe and Samuel R Delany trying to one-up each other on a story prompt by Fritz Leiber. That means it's good. Read it." - Max Gladstone

a merchant caravan is travelling across the desert with a group of bodyguards/warriors for protection. the main character is a man from another country who has been nicknamed the sorcerer, this is because being a child of the gods marks him as different. the gods being some mythical/science hybrid - so that he has strange knowledge that no one else understands. except perhaps the captain - another child of the gods, but from a different family. to reach their destination they need to go through the wildeeps - a place a of strange magics that should be safe, except something has crept in. a pretty fun read, a mishmash of textures, woven in so that it feels solid and coherent. reflects on the characters relationships, teases in the worldbuilding, before gradually coming to the big adventure stuff.

 

sorcerer to the crown - zen cho - a malaysian author who lives in london. i previously read her collection of short stories - spirits abroad - which is a good collection of mostly contemporary fantasy/fairy tale, heavily influenced by malaysian culture. this is her debut novel, something a tribute to her love of "mr. norrell and jonathan strange". which means it has some of the same issues - the novel is set in britain, it is the british government, the british crown, britain at war, but all the references to england and english magic are somewhat off-putting. apart from that, it is a light, fast paced read - a fraction of the size and density of the influence source. zacharias has become sorcerer royal after the death of his mentor. freed from slavery as a baby and raised by the previous sorcerer royal society is up in arms at this black man taking such a prominent role. which makes him the perfect scape goat when it comes to finding a source for the decline of magic in britain. zen manages to mix in elements of malaysian cryptomagical references here, and of feminist texture and potential for magic. clearly she is tackling race and gender roles in a historic setting with interesting results.

 

twelve tomorrows - the second of these annual MIT fiction specials to be edited by bruce sterling. contains stories by stross, harkaway, beauman, kessel, and sterling himself. some average ok stuff, and some ooh that is quite nice stuff.

 

 

Here's what stands out in the past 30+ days:

 

A couple of books in Octavia Butler's Patternist series. 

 

Currently in the middle of Thomas Liggoti's Conspiracy Against the Human Race

 

Blindsight by Peter Watts. Came across mentions of Watts after playing SOMA and searching the Reddit board to see if there were any alternate endings and also general reactions. Fantastic, heady stuff.

 

Also received the Penguin reprint of Liggotti's first two shorts collections along with Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong in the mail yesterday. I've also got Wong's first two novels on the way as well, although I've already read both on Kindle. If you haven't read John Dies At the End, it's highly recommended.

 

 

Just started Richard Morgan's Black Man and have a couple more of his on their way from Better World Books, along with a copy of Mona Lisa Overdrive (which needs a re-read). After that I'm all out of books so will need to comb through this thread for good recommendations yaya

McTeague by Frank Norris was a full-on, old school, highly hysterical cautionary tale about the corrupting influence of money, greed, and envy.  The ending sequence reminded me a little of S. King's gunslinger books.

 

A Very Private Gentleman by Martin Booth was a really great, descriptive little book.  George Clooney made a movie of it (The American) that I haven't seen.  It also made me really hungry, because in addition to all the assassin and gunsmith kind of plot bits, there were a lot of picnics/meals with tasty Italian cheeses and cured meats and such.  It was written in first-person POV, which actually took a little getting used to for some reason.

 

I just started the first book of The Mongoliad, which is actually pretty good thus far.  I was a little dubious of a book with seven authors (too many cooks), but have been pleasantly surprised.  I like the technical descriptions of some of the dueling/sword fighting.  Character development is weak, however.

 

As far as what I'm going to read as soon as I can get my hands on it, WG's Twitter feed just put John Le Carre's memoir The Pigeon Tunnel at the top of my "to read" list.

Killing Titan, Greg Bear — Not as good as the first in the trilogy, mostly because the his first person narrative is coming from someone addled by contact with an alien library. Still fairly enjoyable though, and I'll be reading the 3rd in the trilogy just to find out WTF happens.

 

Wireless by Charles Stross. Been a little slow picking up on the Laundry Files. Remedying that neglect and wondering, why I didn't go there before ...

 

In parallel, reading all Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch stories. Because they're really good - and I've had enough of Scandinavian femi-crime stories. At least for now.

holy fire - bruce sterling - i think in many ways this could be sterling's most important work - a near future, where old folk invest constantly in life extension techniques, creating a two tier society of rich old folk living carefully and the reckless youth with nothing to show for their lives. the novel follows mia, a 90 something who after a stumbling block decides to throw herself at an experimental extension technique. the results are radical, she can pass for a 20 something, but in the process she runs away to europe and does exactly that. covers a lot of the politics of our age, the frustrations, along with art and fashion and the burning holy fire of life. this is at least my third read.


be my enemy - ian mcdonald - the second of mcdonald's everness trilogy, an at least notionally YA adventure. read book 1 about a year ago, which i had read with a friend - something i do sometimes, so we can compare notes and chat about it. so she only just got book 2, so we only just read it. another rollercoaster of non-stop action, jumping between alternate worlds with a growing sense-of-wonder. a middle book, so while lots of fun and drama, it doesn't resolve anything.


daker shade of magic - ve schwab - an american writer, who seems to spend half her time in edinburgh, clearly friends with some writers i follow on twitter. the idea sounds interesting - 4 cities called london, but in entirely different countries, worlds. our grey london, lacking magic, red london, with magic blossoming, white london, where magic is consumed and dominated, and black london that was consumed by magic and quarantined centuries ago. which also gives it a certain continuity having read be my enemy right before this. there are only two people alive who can pass between londons, magic having been severely controlled after black london's collapse. so of course, they are going to be the heart of the story of what suddenly happens to threaten the londons. maybe approaching 3/4 way through this, it is a bit plodding, certainly not in mcdonald's league, this is adequate rather than exciting.


follow me - victoria gemmell - vikki is a friend, i've known her for a handful of years, through writing events initially, socially after. she managed to get a publishing deal at the start of the year through good luck, for this her debut novel, a YA. we were at the launch night for the book, where it sold out on the night - being a small local press, though this was the 1st time this has happened. so straight to a 2nd print. onwards - kat and abby are identical twins, but over the years kat tried to separate them - dying her hair black, being a bit more goth rock, the studious introvert. but with abby's suicide her world is torn apart. to make it worse, she is the fifth suicide in their small town in a matter of months. trying to understand how it is even possible that her sister would do this, kat comes across "the barn" - a remote old building, converted into an andy warholesque hang out for art students, somewhere all the suicides had spent time... allowing for it being a book by a friend, i enjoyed well enough, spending friday reading it on trains back and forth to edinburgh.

by coincidence i am reading "falling in love with hominids", picked it up from the specialist book shop in edinburgh when i was over a couple weeks ago. i'm teasing through it, as i'm reading a few other things.

 

i finished "darker shade of magic", which remained average and not particularly exciting.

 

reading the night vale novel. which is obviously quite different in presentation from the podcast. the podcast, for those that don't know, is a community radio show for a community where weird shit happens all the time. the novel takes the pov of a couple of characters from the town, who have at least being passingly referenced in the podcast.

 

also reading 2312 by kim stanley robinson. fallen behind on his recent works, but been meaning to read this for ages. it is rambling, tangential, self-indulgent, in the way that KSR often is. i'm loving it.

Originally Posted by xen0phile:

I've been trying to get through "Madness and Civilization" by Foucault lately. I dunno. I'm not sure if I'm just dumb, or I am encountering sophistry.

 

It's a crapshoot when you're dealing with individuals who are paid by the quantity of words they churn out.

 

I'm trying hard to get through Lauren Beukes' Broken Monsters and Palahniuk's Haunted but either I think I'm just not in the right head/lifespace for these right now.  

 

I will say that Palahniuk is very much the literary equivalent of shock rock.

 

Oh, and wow, is urban fantasy taking over everything?  I remember when Stross joked one April Fools about writing a Young-Adult Urban Fantasy romance thing, but- Beukes?  Kadrey?  Morgan?  They've all gone elves and vampires and zombies and stuff while I was away.  It looks like the jokes on the SF.

Haunted has some creepy, gripping, humorous, well written parts to it.

 

Palahniuk's whinyness gets really grating after a few hours of reading, though.

Also the most grating part of Mr. Robot, and Doug Coupland.  The navel-gazing 1st-world-problems crying.  Unfortunately, it seems a lot of 'Literature' is just well-off selfish whiners with too many useless degrees whining about how they didn't get a book deal, or suffered a divorce (because they were a selfish whiner), or something.  

 

"Poverty is the new wealth," some priveleged hipster character says.  They also constantly talk about how they're "Making the world a better place," with their writer lives.

 

No.  Try actually being poor, or better yet: try actually helping out some people in poverty.  That might make the world a better place, not writing about how sad it is that society didn't serve you a Mick Jagger or a J.K. Rowling career on a silver platter, and that your parents wanted you to be a lawyer and are bored with your two houses and a pool.

 

Thinking about it now, there definitely is a difference between critiquing the world, creating a cautionary tale, showing the dark side of things, and just straight whining.  Most Paolo Bacigalupi spends a lot of time dwelling on the darkest aspects of human nature and civilization ever produced -- darker in fact than Palahniuk, IMHO -- but he never comes off as complainey.  It has to do with the selfish voice, accusatory tone and artificial fabrication of tragedy among well-off upper-middle-class people, "The world never did SHIT for me...  Life is SOOOO HARD!  Don't you SEE how SAD THIS IS!?!?!" vs "This is what happens," in an actual tragedy that happens in the world on a regular basis, like growing up in an ISIS occupied territory, or being a black kid in Camden New Jersey, or being a Micronesian meth-addicted homeless person in Honolulu, or something.  

 

Maybe it's just I've spent a lot of time with people who have it harder than myself, but to me the solution to making oneself happier and the world better is not to feel more sorry for yourself, but to go out and do something for someone else.  

 

 

Too long since I posted here. I have been stuck on Hank Paulson's book On the Brink about the financial crisis, which is surprisingly humble and blame accepting (though is a general "hey we pushed for deregulation and it was the reason for the crash) kind of way.

If you have a casual interest in this story I can't really recommend the book, yet there is a fabulous HBO film adaptation of the same name I do recommend. Topher Grace leads a perfect plain English explanation of credit default swaps, something that is no small feat.

I plan to return to the Expanse series next, with the stunningly good first Ep of the show on syfy (I know, right? ) I want to stay ahead of it.

I read Scalzi's Redshirts, which was entertaining, but not great. Maybe I'm just not deep enough into Star Trek to truly appreciate the premise. 

 

Finished Peter Clines Ex Patriots. It's basically superheros vs zombie apocalypse, book 2. They face off vs a military gone bad. It wasn't bad, but I wouldn't go out of my way to read this series. The library has them, so I gave them a shot. Undecided if I move on to books 3 or 4.

 

Annhilation, the Southern Reach series. I tried this and it was slow moving. It did have a well developed sense of creepiness and, while that's the point, it put me off. Got half way through and lost interest. 

 

Up next I'm going to try to get into some Ian Fleming and maybe read Carrie Brownstein's memoir. I have a long vacation starting next Wed. and I intend to get some reading done. And hopefully, start writing again. 

i know some folk loved red shirts, but i suspect like yourself not being a trekkie means i'd be ambivalent to it.

 

i loved the area x trilogy, but it just pushed all the right buttons at the time. i can also see why it wouldn't work for a lot of people.

 

was listening to a nice podcast conversation with carrie brownstein, her and questlove in conversation on her book tour for her book, recorded by the talkhouse podcast. i don't really know her, but i enjoyed the podcast, probably worth a listen if you are a fan. though, also maybe best left till after you've read if you are just about to.

 

i just started the bone clock by david mitchell. i had kind of burnt out after black swan green, and this one starts in similar territory, but quickly indicates that there is something other going on, rather than just a nostalgic wallowing in the 80s.

^ I quite liked the second half of Red Shirts once he pretty much got all the Star Trek crap out of his system, but yeah...

 

As for me, I reread Anathem this last week. So much crazy good stuff in there.

 

Now started Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. Not digging it immensely so far, but it's pretty light, juvenile stuff so I suspect it will be over soon.

Anathem in a week... wow.

 

My brain can't process information that quickly.

 

In a similar vein, I'm slowly making way through Seveneves.

 

I like it, it's interesting, it's entertaining, but its density and mass will, like REAMDE, probably mean I won't read it again.

 

Small Angry Planet was decent. Not great but it definitely picked up speed towards the middle. You need to throw yourself back to a mindset where all aliens magically breath and eat the same stuff as us but all looking incredibly varied and different. 

Feels weird after reading stuff like Aurora this year though.

Trying out The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi.  He's got some great phrases in there, like, "For a little while, America got to feel like a big swinging dick again."  Also some of the best, clearest snapshots of the Way the World Works, without the shortcuts and simplifications.   Like the science, the gritty reality, the wonky politics, the black swan left-field castrophes, the horribly trite human weakness and meaningless, narrative-free nonsense that makes up the majority of things -- it's all there, and it's all woven together into poetry too.  

Bacigalupi is almost more Gibsonian than Gibson at times, minus all the computers and mid-far future stuff, and the hautey artey art gallery angle.  

An Earthy Gibson.

Earlier this year, The Diamond Age - Neal Stephenson. Not his best work imo, meandering through a techno Victorian coming of age tale that dragged for the most part, warming up towards the final third then bowing out with a palatable lack of oomph! I was left thinking it was only the footnote to a trilogy of Nell, which of course, it wasn't. Not recommended.

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