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The Gap Sequence - Stephen Donaldson - 20/12/2008 3:44:31 PM   
homersimpson_esq


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There are epic science-fiction book series, there are awesome epic science-fiction book series, and then there is the Gap Sequence by Stephen Donaldson.



I've just started re-reading these and the scope and vision (two things common to all good SciFi literature) is astonishing. From a sparse first novel (it's notably thin, although the subject is notably harsh) it expands exponentially to an epic adventure that is as scathing as it is enjoyable. One of the most satisfying SciFi series I've read. As a film fan my thoughts natural err towards thinking adaptations but I really wonder who could pull off something of this scope. It has Fincher's darkness written all over it.

For those unfamiliar with this work, it follows the trials and tribulations of three wonderfully-named characters: Morn Hyland, a beautiful girl captured by space pirate (of the swarthy unattractive sort ) Angus Thermopyle and subsequently rescued by space pirate (of the dashing sort) Nick Succorso. How Donaldson crafts the epic from these simple beginnings, creating a world that runs thick with the grime of the universe, where you feel you could reach out and touch the dirt, is beyond belief.

If anyone enjoys SciFi of a mature and ridiculously well-structured variety, then I seriously recommend these books.


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RE: The Gap Sequence - Stephen Donaldson - 20/12/2008 10:07:01 PM   
elab49


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I was unsure when I read the first one - it didn't really capture me. Now I just think that I was still in a Chronicles mindset so didn't appreciate it as much as I should have. Because when I read the 2nd book I couldn't put them down until I'd finished the first 3 and waited impatiently for the rest. Excellent follow up to Thomas Convenant, but the quality of the writing wasn't a surprise.

I'm a big fan of some of his short stories/novellas as well.

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RE: The Gap Sequence - Stephen Donaldson - 24/12/2008 12:30:41 PM   
homersimpson_esq


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Anyone else even heard of these?! Big response! Glad you like them elab! 

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RE: The Gap Sequence - Stephen Donaldson - 24/12/2008 12:56:55 PM   
ilovebeerme


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I'm going to check for them int he library next time I'm there. They have some pretty unfavourable reviews on Amazon regarding the treatment of female characters and the overall 'nasty' tone, but reviews on Amazon are usually bobbins. I'll let you know how it goes

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RE: The Gap Sequence - Stephen Donaldson - 24/12/2008 4:28:24 PM   
homersimpson_esq


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That's possibly folk who read the first book, went 'dear lord what is this filth?' and gave up. The first book is thin, but the story is fairly heavy-going, emotionally wise. Not a lot happens, but what does happen isn't particularly nice. Utterly engrossing though, and as I say it expands exponentially from thereon in.

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RE: The Gap Sequence - Stephen Donaldson - 24/12/2008 4:58:38 PM   
mafyou


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I've heard of the books and I'd quite like to read them, they're not high on my list though. But I do like Donaldson after reading the First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant.

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RE: The Gap Sequence - Stephen Donaldson - 24/12/2008 7:22:40 PM   
elab49


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quote:

ORIGINAL: homersimpson_esq

That's possibly folk who read the first book, went 'dear lord what is this filth?' and gave up. The first book is thin, but the story is fairly heavy-going, emotionally wise. Not a lot happens, but what does happen isn't particularly nice. Utterly engrossing though, and as I say it expands exponentially from thereon in.


Ditto - I had to get beyond the first book before the story really caught me. It is a harsh introduction but on second reading - after finishing the series - it made much more sense.

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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RE: The Gap Sequence - Stephen Donaldson - 24/12/2008 9:28:23 PM   
homersimpson_esq


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The author's Afterword at the end of The Real Story also helps to understand the structure of the books, too. (It doesn't spoil the other books either.)

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RE: The Gap Sequence - Stephen Donaldson - 31/12/2008 8:21:33 AM   
ilovebeerme


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Picked up the first one from the library. They have the whole series, so I'll let you know how it goes

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RE: The Gap Sequence - Stephen Donaldson - 3/1/2009 12:10:44 AM   
homersimpson_esq


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*starts biting fingernails in case beerman hates them and comes after him with his modly powers*




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RE: The Gap Sequence - Stephen Donaldson - 28/1/2009 10:55:00 AM   
homersimpson_esq


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So Beerman, have you started it yet?

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RE: The Gap Sequence - Stephen Donaldson - 29/1/2009 2:06:44 AM   
ilovebeerme


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I finished the first one a couple of weeks ago and it was great. I'll certainly be picking up the rest when they get returned to the library

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RE: The Gap Sequence - Stephen Donaldson - 1/2/2009 6:27:17 PM   
homersimpson_esq


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Good stuff! Glad you enjoyed it. 

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RE: The Gap Sequence - Stephen Donaldson - 1/2/2009 8:11:01 PM   
rupert303


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read these books when i was about 16, then re-read when i was 21-ish...best sci-fi i ever read. though not for the faint hearted. they are pretty relentlessly grim.

definitely donaldson's opus - far better than covenant.

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RE: The Gap Sequence - Stephen Donaldson - 8/2/2009 12:34:20 PM   
Mogwai


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I just bought Forbidden Knowledge from Amazon Marketplace for £2.76 and ordered The Real Story from the library. I couldn't get the other books from the library.

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RE: The Gap Sequence - Stephen Donaldson - 11/2/2009 2:40:06 AM   
hozay


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^ Don't do it Mogwai,it's all lies.Although something about your choice of signature tells me you might like it (The Real Story I mean).

I picked up The Real Story last week on the strength of this thread and some  knowledge of homer's tastes.Well no offence homer but this book is fucking horrible,purile,an offence to the English language and makes Schopenhauer look like an advocate for Women's Lib.The writing is abbysmal and repetitive beyond belief.How many times can you use the word "angry" in one short novel? This whole story could have been done far better by just about any other author I can think of in half the space or less,say 60 pages or so.I perservered,I really did until about 40 pages from the end but I'm not going any further because I don't care what happens to these people or the story or that there's a promise of better to come (which I find very hard to believe).I read the first trilogy of Thomas Covenant which I thought were quite good however they also left a bad taste in my mouth to the extent that I had no desire to read the follow-ups or to track down anything else by Donaldson.Should have kept it that way.Ptooey,I'm off to read some Heinlein or Asimov to cleanse my soul.

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RE: The Gap Sequence - Stephen Donaldson - 11/2/2009 6:08:17 AM   
ilovebeerme


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You see I did think it was nasty and horrible but only because the characters were nasty and horrible. I didn't get any underlying misogynistic feelings, just an outline of some pretty despicable characters. And why not? Nothing wrong with grotty, horrible characters that make you want to hurl the book from you in disgust.

He explains at the back of the first one that it's just basically Wagner's Ring Cycle told in a sci-fi setting. Not that I know anything about Wagner's Ring.

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RE: The Gap Sequence - Stephen Donaldson - 11/2/2009 10:08:04 AM   
sharkboy


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I'll have to confess, if it wasn't for my interest being piqued by Donaldson's comparison to Wagner at the end of book one (and the fact that I'd already picked up the first 3 books), I'd probably have given up after the first installment.  I like Donaldson as a writer (the Thomas Covenant books are easily my favourite fantasy sequence), but the first book didn't really recover from its obvious expansion from a novella.  Short as it is, at least a third of that book is just unnecessary padding that does nothing more than bloat the narrative.

As for the misogyny, I don't think the defence of character portrayal holds true.  There have been plenty of novelists who have been able to describe vile nasty characters without it seeming like they're enjoying it, and Donaldson's skills are certainly high enough to do this too. Add to the fact that there was similar criticsm aimed at him for Covenant (the protagonist violently rapes one character who then becomes infatuated with him), and I think it becomes clearer who the character flaw truly lies with.

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RE: The Gap Sequence - Stephen Donaldson - 11/2/2009 10:37:44 AM   
ilovebeerme


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Fair enough. I've not read Covenant and I've only read the first one in the Gap Sequence.

I didn't really get the impression that Donaldson was enjoying himself through Thermopyle. Maybe I'm being naive but for me he was just a deeply flawed and unpleasant character. Hyland's behavior was plausible given the situation she was in and I didn't get the impression he was torturing the character. She had two choices - comply and perhaps survive or resist and die. She chose the first as many people would.

I guess it may become more apparent as I go on though.

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RE: The Gap Sequence - Stephen Donaldson - 11/2/2009 12:20:53 PM   
homersimpson_esq


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Ah, a discussion begins! Excellent!

Hozay, I do see where you're coming from. When I first picked up the books it was on the understanding that the first book, while short, is tough going. But I didn't see any underlying misogyny from Donaldson. Yes there is the rape connection with the first of the Covenant books, but just because a novelist decides to explore a distateful event, and the fallout from it, does not make him necessarily enjoy it. I find that it is the horrific nature of the events in The Real Story that underpin everything that happens later on. Choice, or lack thereof, plays a huge role in the series - freedom and imprisonment are key factors.

What I would say is if you've got this far with the book, what harm can be done in finishing it? As Beerman says, there is an explanatory passage at the end (which means that you may be nearer the end of the book itself than you think because of this addendum at the back) which goes into the structure of the books without necessarily spoiling the story.

Sure, the world that Donaldson is creating is unpleasant. Pirates, corrupt cops, aliens (that's to come) populate this with nary a moral fibre between them. And at the centre of this is this trio of Thermopyle, Succurso, and Morn. I've just finished Forbidden Knowledge and I'm having a break for a couple of books. Yes, they're not easy reads, but they are ultimately rewarding.

Sharky, have you read the whole sequence, or just the first one? If you've read them all, what did you think?


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RE: The Gap Sequence - Stephen Donaldson - 11/2/2009 12:41:20 PM   
hozay


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beer do you really not consider Morn a victim? I'm sure Donaldson felt or intended as much.

Spoilers

I don't have a problem with nasty or unlikeable characters whether capable of redemption or not.That's not my problem with this book.I don't like the style it's written in and I really hate unnecessary repetition.Thermopyle is an angry,relentlessly bitter man but how many times does the reader need that reinforced,every second paragraph for the entire book? I found the writing to be artless and totally lacking any subtlety or wit.The three main characters are caricatures worthy of a comic book rather than a novel and the story itself,supposedly about two swashbukling space piratey types, is nothing more than a vehicle/excuse to unleash hell upon the central character Morn- everything revolves around this.
On the mysoginist interpretation,it's pretty obvious why some people might leap to that conclusion.The woman is stunningly beautiful,the archetypal object of desire.She's vulnerable from the off.She destroyed her father (subtle that) and family.She is,as far as Thermopyle reckons,responsible for everything wrong with his world/universe.Both men are instantly beguiled by her (the siren?) and everything they do is solely with the aim of possessing and controlling her.She's described as cold,cunning, calculating,incapable of compassion (the one time she does show any compassion it is clearly portrayed as self serving) and dangerous,even deadly, when left to her own devices.Thermopyle's jealousy and the percieved betrayal etc.etc christ it's endless and if there isn't enough symbology there we can move onto the violence and degredation directed at Morn and last but not least the zone implant.Jesus,the more I think about it the worse it gets.

I hadn't noticed the lengthy Afterword at the back of the book. I'll read that tonight.Wagner? That's a long bow.

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RE: The Gap Sequence - Stephen Donaldson - 11/2/2009 12:52:56 PM   
hozay


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quote:

ORIGINAL: homersimpson_esq

Ah, a discussion begins! Excellent!

Hozay, I do see where you're coming from. When I first picked up the books it was on the understanding that the first book, while short, is tough going. But I didn't see any underlying misogyny from Donaldson. Yes there is the rape connection with the first of the Covenant books, but just because a novelist decides to explore a distateful event, and the fallout from it, does not make him necessarily enjoy it. I find that it is the horrific nature of the events in The Real Story that underpin everything that happens later on. Choice, or lack thereof, plays a huge role in the series - freedom and imprisonment are key factors.

What I would say is if you've got this far with the book, what harm can be done in finishing it? As Beerman says, there is an explanatory passage at the end (which means that you may be nearer the end of the book itself than you think because of this addendum at the back) which goes into the structure of the books without necessarily spoiling the story.

Sure, the world that Donaldson is creating is unpleasant. Pirates, corrupt cops, aliens (that's to come) populate this with nary a moral fibre between them. And at the centre of this is this trio of Thermopyle, Succurso, and Morn. I've just finished Forbidden Knowledge and I'm having a break for a couple of books. Yes, they're not easy reads, but they are ultimately rewarding.

Sharky, have you read the whole sequence, or just the first one? If you've read them all, what did you think?



I missed your post because my internet connection is playing up and it just took half an hour to post mine.Anyway yeah I just looked at the back of the book after reading the Wagner comment.It's late here and I've an early start but I'll finish the book and the Afterword and maybe add to my comments later.I'm sorry I don't usually rip into books or movies that much because I really don't want to lessen in any way the enjoyment others may get from it (despite my own misgivings) but this one was a bit much for me and I had to say something,ineloquent as that may be.

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RE: The Gap Sequence - Stephen Donaldson - 11/2/2009 1:29:18 PM   
elab49


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I think it is perfectly reasonable to come away from the first book with concerns about mysogyny - it was one of my takes on the first book which, as I mentioned above - I found difficult. That changed reading the rest of the series and I do think that deliberate on Donaldson's part.

But if I'd left it after the first book (and ignored my friends urging that I try the rest), I might well feel the same.

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Deviation] LIKE AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS TOO. IT MADE ME LAUGH A LOT AND THOUGHT IT WAS WITTY. ALSO I FEEL SLOWLY DYING INSIDE. I KEEP AGREEING WITH ELAB.


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RE: The Gap Sequence - Stephen Donaldson - 11/2/2009 1:48:43 PM   
homersimpson_esq


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A word in your first post Hozay struck me as in part explanatory for the perhaps overly-simplistic narrative structure of the first book - 'archetypal'. These characters are deliberate archetypes - Donaldson set out to write a story which gave equal import to the three main archetypal characters. I won't go into detail here because he does that himself in the afterword. But it is important to recognise that he wrote The Real Story as a stand-alone initially, and then expanded it some time later. I'm glad he did.


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RE: The Gap Sequence - Stephen Donaldson - 11/2/2009 10:42:38 PM   
ilovebeerme


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quote:

ORIGINAL: hozay

beer do you really not consider Morn a victim? I'm sure Donaldson felt or intended as much.

Spoilers

I don't have a problem with nasty or unlikeable characters whether capable of redemption or not.That's not my problem with this book.I don't like the style it's written in and I really hate unnecessary repetition.Thermopyle is an angry,relentlessly bitter man but how many times does the reader need that reinforced,every second paragraph for the entire book? I found the writing to be artless and totally lacking any subtlety or wit.The three main characters are caricatures worthy of a comic book rather than a novel and the story itself,supposedly about two swashbukling space piratey types, is nothing more than a vehicle/excuse to unleash hell upon the central character Morn- everything revolves around this.
On the mysoginist interpretation,it's pretty obvious why some people might leap to that conclusion.The woman is stunningly beautiful,the archetypal object of desire.She's vulnerable from the off.She destroyed her father (subtle that) and family.She is,as far as Thermopyle reckons,responsible for everything wrong with his world/universe.Both men are instantly beguiled by her (the siren?) and everything they do is solely with the aim of possessing and controlling her.She's described as cold,cunning, calculating,incapable of compassion (the one time she does show any compassion it is clearly portrayed as self serving) and dangerous,even deadly, when left to her own devices.Thermopyle's jealousy and the percieved betrayal etc.etc christ it's endless and if there isn't enough symbology there we can move onto the violence and degredation directed at Morn and last but not least the zone implant.Jesus,the more I think about it the worse it gets.

I hadn't noticed the lengthy Afterword at the back of the book. I'll read that tonight.Wagner? That's a long bow.


Further Spoilers


I think she is undoubtedly a victim, I just don’t think that means that Donaldson enjoyed writing about her suffering. He just created a situation, which evidently has an awful long way to go, that resulted in her character suffering. I didn’t get the impression that Brett Easton Ellis is a misogynist from reading American Psycho. It’s quite clear that Bateman is but that’s an entirely different thing. Hyland is just a female character in a world of shit. She was captured by a self loathing, violent, merciless space pirate! There are only so many places that can go.

Perhaps she is ‘cold, cunning, calculating, incapable of compassion (the one time she does show any compassion it is clearly portrayed as self serving) and dangerous, even deadly, when left to her own devices’, maybe that’s just her. These are not necessarily poor character traits. ‘Cunning’ applied to a man is often admired. Where would Josh Calvert be in Night’s Dawn without his cunning? ‘Cold and calculating’ are necessary traits in many a fine space captain. ‘Dangerous and deadly’ are what we look for in almost every male lead in any fantasy/sci-fi book that I can recall. They are more often than not also rakish, rugged, handsome and virile. So why can’t Hyland be beautiful?

I agree that the violence and degradation directed toward her is seriously unpleasant and makes for tough reading, but I saw it as more of a failing of Thermopyle than of Hyland. Nothing that happens is her fault. Even the initial ship destruction is a result of a genetic quirk that she has no control over. If anything I got the impression that he has a very low opinion of men.

I do see where you are coming from (as I said, it was a tough read) but I don’t see why an author should be accused of misogyny as soon as shit things happen to beautiful female characters. We see male leads tortured and degraded almost endlessly in books and we just go ‘Woah! Cool story’. Their ability to withstand their treatment is noble and their revenge is often the main arc for the character and the very thing that makes you go ‘fuck yeah!’ when reading.

I hope Morn has her day. Guess I need to read the rest to find out.



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RE: The Gap Sequence - Stephen Donaldson - 9/4/2009 10:38:16 AM   
Mogwai


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If you were to take all the reviews for this novel; the positives and the negatives, an overwhelming majority would declare that it is ‘dark’ or ‘disturbing’ or ‘a crime against humanity’. I shudder to think what an actual ‘dark’ book would receive. We have a slight tendency to over-express ourselves; we take an element and blow it out of proportion.

When I read The Real Story, I expected a deranged, a sickening vision of lewd and disgusting behaviour. I’ve read reviews where the reviewer would say that the sex is gratuitous, the violence is extreme. It isn’t. In fact, the sex is not played up; it’s there but Donaldson doesn’t focus upon relaying detail upon detail of what happened.

What I am trying to express here is not that it’s all fun and games, no, because the core of the story is about the degradation of a woman. It is a dark subject matter. It is uncomfortable to read. Yet, I never found outrageous, or in your face. It’s simply told without any flourishes.

The main problem I had with it is too ‘undercooked’. It’s as if Donaldson hasn’t fleshed out the story, or I think, rather, he has to get this cumbersome prologue before he gets to the actual ‘meat’ of the story. I didn’t extract anything from the book, the character didn’t seem particularly real and, if I’m being honest here, I didn’t really feel for Morn’s plight.

That’s not to say I that I was indifferent when she was raped or humiliated, but generally most people would find that to be terrible. However, I didn’t find she was much of a character, she was one-dimensional for me. This criticism goes for the other two characters. I think I’m right in saying that this was supposed to be the case, that they were designed as fitting certain archetypes.

Of course, saying all that I am going to read the second volume. There is potential there because in the background of The Real Story, there is a sense that a world is emerging into view. I am looking forward to when we see this future more clearly.

So to summarise, I think that the book is very much a small step to something bigger. That it is preparation to the main story. I hope. A good example of this is The Dark Tower series by Stephen King, the first is bad, in fact, many people can’t finish it. However, the second book is excellent and the series goes on from there. I hope that The Gap series is like that.

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