Favorite fantasy/sci-fi literature other than Tolkien
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Post Posted: Thu May 18, 2006 1:44 pm 
 

From my experience, Starship Troopers (the book, not the movie) is a great way to kick-start a campaign.  Turn the PCs into recruits in a disturbing war in a far-off land.  Start them off with too much quality gear and make things progressively worse as they progress.  I started a group off this way at level 7 in the drowic depths, encountering the "new" enemy, and they loved it.  I waited until level 12 to tell them they were playing ST.  :)

Gygax's stuff is great.  It's intentionally pure pulp, but reading about Obmi, Eclavdra, Gord etc. is always good for campaign ideas.  I recommend At Moonset Blackcat Comes if you want a quick read that will make you want to play right away.

If you have younger players, try out A Wrinkle in Time.  You can disguise it a bit and I guarantee they'll be intrigued.

His Dark Materials, despite the agenda and some pacing problems, has lots of great adventure ideas.  The fight between the armored sentient polar bears for example is pure D&D.

I've always regarded Dune Messiah as the ultimate blueprint for showing just how interesting a high-level character's life can be when he's a ruler, not an adventurer.

There's lots of others of course, but those are ones I've recently found inspiring.

  

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Post Posted: Thu May 18, 2006 2:06 pm 
 

killjoy32 wrote:woohoo youve read glory road!


Read it? Sheesh. I could rewrite most of it from memory.

I don't like to think about Glory Road.

At NIPI we had finally convinced Ginny to approve the license for Glory Road. Bob was always reluctant about games, what with AH's Starship Troopers... but the Gygax clout convinced them we could do it best.

And I was gonna write it. Talk about dreams come true...

And then Bob died and ALL licenses were put on hold if possible and/or cancelled. By the time the threads were sorted out NIPI had folded.

I had plans for that puppy... even had some prelim art done (which I still have).


I don't like to think about Glory Road.

::great heaving sigh::

  


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Post Posted: Thu May 18, 2006 2:18 pm 
 

ExTSR wrote:I don't like to think about Glory Road.


:cry:


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Post Posted: Thu May 18, 2006 2:22 pm 
 

Have not seen them mentioned and even thought the modules are often panned here the books were good IMHO....Dragonlance....the first three and perhaps the Twins set...after that I stopped reading for a number of years so I can not speak to the others.


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Post Posted: Thu May 18, 2006 2:26 pm 
 

I know a few people have mentioned him already, but George R. R. Martin is in the midst of probably the best fantasy series ever put to ink - The Song of Ice and Fire, which includes, so far, A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, and A Feast for Crows.

These books are brilliant, IMO (of course). Deep plot, lots of detailed characters, rich setting and background. It's great. I love it. If I only had to bring along one fantasy series with me to a desert isle, this would be it.

Oh, and for Howard fans, I loved the recent collection of Solomon Kane stories. Fun stuff.

  

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Post Posted: Thu May 18, 2006 2:43 pm 
 

MShipley88 wrote:
    The late Karl Edward Wagner was truly a great writer.  I am mystified why his character, Kane, has not earned greater stature among fantasy readers.  Read Reflections for the Winter of My Soul for possibly one of the best werewolf stories ever written.  Dark Crusade is great for fans of battle descriptions.  Other great stories included Linortis Reprise, Cold Light and Darkness Weaves.  Some of these are short stories found in two collections:  Night Winds and Death Angel's Shadow.  The full-length novels are good, but I like the short stories best.

Mark   8)


         Yes, a Kane fan! I also am surprised at his lack of popularity...I run into fantasy afficianados all the time who have never even heard of him (?).  I think it hurts that all of his works are now out of print (except in very pricey specialty edition), he's dead (not writing any new works), and that his output was so sporadic (only three novels and two short story collections in his career, plus a few scattered short stories in the mid 80's).  Unfortunately alcoholism really destroyed his skills long before he actually died.  In some of the critical analysis I've read from his friends, he was ahorrible procrastinator.  Apparantly the Conan novel he wrote (the name escapes me right now) had to be rewritten in like one weekend because he had kept putting it off and finally turned in a load of crap that was rejected by the publisher.  His Bran Mak Morn novel (Legion from the Shadows) was far superior and is the best non Conan pastiche written (vomit on the Offut Cormac Mac Art stuff...)
     I think another reason he's not better known, when you think about it, no one writes like him.  His greatest creation is an anti-hero (the FIRST anti-hero, Kane of the bible).  His stories often end with no triumph for good, and the "heros" dying pretty awful deaths, although Kane's plans are sometimes foiled he always escapes.  I can't imagine a writer trying to pitch the concept of a Kane series  to any publisher and not being laughed out of the office
  The strengths are the writing. KEW is simply the only author of the last 30 years I would dare to compare to Howard. His characters are memorable, his plots intriguing, his views of human nature chilling (but true).  There are several scenes in his works that will stick with you for years.  His battle scenes are some of the best I've ever read, Darkness Weaves has not one but two gigantic ship battles that are breathtaking.
         I would agree with Mark "Reflections" is a superior werewolf story, not to mention a very atypical Kane tale (he falls in love, for one) and a great plot for a DM to adapt to a D&D setting (a manor that is snowed in for the winter is beset by a werewolf that turns out to be one of the people inside the manor!).  As a matter of fact, "Cold Light" and "Lynortis Reprise" would also make great D&D scenarios. I would also agree with Mark that the short stories are generally superior to the novels, but Darkness Weaves is pretty incredible (I've read it, oh, maybe 20 times the last 20 years, and enjoyed it every time....)
   Mark, have you ever read "Misericorde"?  The best Kane story ever written and IMO one of the best fantasy stories bar none written the last 20 years. It's only found in the "Barbarians II" short story collection and in a few other various collections....hard to find, but well worth the search.

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Post Posted: Thu May 18, 2006 3:16 pm 
 

Hrm, I'm dissapointed nobody has mentioned Steven Erikson yet.

His series, "The Malazan Book of the Fallen" is the finest fantasy literature I've ever read, bar none. I'm a big fan of Martin, but the depth of Erikson's world makes Martin look like he's writing a comic strip. Albeit a very well written comic strip :p  Martin has created a compelling few countries, but Erikson does the same thing for an entire world.

The first book is 'Gardens of the Moon'. It then goes on to Deadhouse Gates, Memories of Ice, House of Chains, Midnight Tides, and the new one, The Bonehunters. Each is 800+ pages.

At this point, there's about 50 or 60 'main' characters, and that is in no way hyperbole. Probably at least that number again in important side characters. Innumerable side characters that do their thing and dissapear (although sometimes they'll show up as a main character 3 books later, heh).

The story he's writing is an epic in the truest sense of the word. Many of the main characters are extremely powerful (Ascendents, or nearing ascendency), but his writing is skillful enough that it rarely comes across as overbearing. Plenty of his characters are just regular people living in extraordinary times, and doing their best to survive.

I'd recommend this to anyone mature enough to enjoy it. Don't even bother trying to figure out what's actually going on for the first book. By the end of the second, you'll have a vague idea. A few books later things are more clear, but there's still surprise after surprise. It's been over 4000 pages and the story still feels like it's just getting rolling ;)  Nobody at all is safe from death. He doesn't over-write deaths either - sometimes people just get killed in a fight, without it being a climactic battle or anything.

I've reread the first 4 books 4 or 5 times now, and all but the last book (which just came out) 3 or 4 times. I've only read the last book once, but I'll reread it again soon I'm sure. Every single time I reread the books, I pick up on little things that I'd missed the first time - a seemingly inoccuous character that plays a hidden but vital role in some plot, some bit of subtext that I'd glossed over before, etc.

Do yourself a favour and get the first book from the library, or do yourself a bigger favour and just buy it ;)

**

If you're lookign for some lighter fare, I've enjoyed Steven Brust's writing immensely as well. The first book of his major series is "Jhereg", but don't miss out on his other writing - it's all good :)

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Post Posted: Thu May 18, 2006 3:21 pm 
 

Some very good titles in the thread. I may have to expand my insane paperback collection.
I've been reading a lot of the H. Hefner series lately. The stories are excellent, and the illustrations get you through the slower sections. I've always thought that illustrated books help the reader to visualize better.


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Post Posted: Thu May 18, 2006 3:39 pm 
 

How about Metamorphosis Alpha/Gamma World inspirational lit?

If you like Met Alpha, then Heinlen's "Orphans of the Sky" and Brian Aldiss' "Starship" ("Nonstop" in the UK) are required reading. IIRC, Ward said that MA was inspired by Starship, and Aldiss said Starship was an attempt to rewrite Orphans with better characters. I really liked both. How can you beat the two-headed book-loving mutant JimBob from Orphans?

I just read the prologue of Aldiss' "Helliconia Winter", which is really a stand-alone 50-page short story. It's set on a planet where each season lasts several centuries so civilization crumbles during Winter. The trilogy covers Winter, Spring and Summer. The Winter season would make a great non-Earth Gamma World setting.

George Martin's "The Earth Abides" realistically details how Nature slowly reclaims the US after a virus wipes out most of the population (about 1 in a million people survive).

Walter Miller's "Canticle for Leibowitz" is another great one, detaling three periods during the rebirth of civilization after a nuclear war in the US. The Catholic church helps maintain civilization during the "Dark Ages".

I've also heard that Andre Norton's "Starman's Son" and Gene Wolfe's "Hiero's Journey" are good in this genre, but I haven't read them yet.

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Post Posted: Thu May 18, 2006 4:47 pm 
 

ExTSR wrote:
killjoy32 wrote:woohoo youve read glory road!


Read it? Sheesh. I could rewrite most of it from memory.

I don't like to think about Glory Road.

At NIPI we had finally convinced Ginny to approve the license for Glory Road. Bob was always reluctant about games, what with AH's Starship Troopers... but the Gygax clout convinced them we could do it best.

And I was gonna write it. Talk about dreams come true...

And then Bob died and ALL licenses were put on hold if possible and/or cancelled. By the time the threads were sorted out NIPI had folded.

I had plans for that puppy... even had some prelim art done (which I still have).


I don't like to think about Glory Road.

::great heaving sigh::


wow frank what a story!

now i am gutted to think that such a project even existed and never saw the light of day! now THAT would have been one amazing RPG.  :(

oooh prelim art? now seriously, i would LOVE to see that!

damn what a bummer.

Al



  

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Post Posted: Fri May 19, 2006 12:30 am 
 

No, Badmike, I have not even heard of Misericorde.  If it is outside of the five paperbacks I have not seen it.

  Darkness Weaves was the first fantasy book I bought after reading Tolkien.  It was a jarring read...the gore shocked me...the ruthless and hideous evil...I tried hiding the book from my mom, it was so lurid to my 14 year-old eyes.  But you gotta love "heroic" fantasy when the sidekick is named "Arlebas the Assassin" and he is horrifed by the book Kane is reading.

   I believe the Karl Edward Wagner Conan story was Road of Kings.
(Just a ragged memory of a special edition paperback).  Like a lot of the Conan pastiche material, it was not very good.  

   One thing that interests me about those pastiche stories is how many of them fail to get Conan.  The Cimmerian does not save the world.  He does not travel to other worlds.  He does not slip between dimensions or stumble about in search of magical solutions...unless he absolutely has to.  There are no floating castles of ice or faery realms.

    IF you read the REH Conan stories you find that in most of them Conan has a logical, material world to rove about...and he is usually after money.  

   Another thing they can't seem to get right is Conan's age.  Robert Jordan has 18 year-old Conan acting like 40 year-old Conan.  

   Anyway, Kane is a creation to rival Conan.  Too bad there wasnt' more.  Wagner makes us cheer for the badguy and he usually manages to jerk us by the emotional strings while he's doing it.  Kane is also quite evil, but he always seems to be just a little bit less evil than his adversaries...especially the "good" ones.  I think Undertow is the only Kane story where he is entirely unsympathetic...and the irony in that story is wrenching.

   Everyone go out and find Kane.  He's totally worth your time:
Darkness Weaves, Dark Crusade, Bloodstone, Death Angel's Shadow and Night Winds.  If you can only afford one book, get Night Winds.

   One other thought...the Kane artwork, by Frazetta, was some of that artist's best.

Mark   8)


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Post Posted: Fri May 19, 2006 12:35 am 
 

A couple I forgot that haven't been mentioned:

Gene Wolfe's four part "Book of the New Sun".  Superior as both a fantasy or SF story (although it's really SF, except the sage pretty much reads as a good fantasy tale).  It really deserves all the awards Wolfe won for it.  I've read the 4 part series several times, after a 5+ year interval, and the story keeps revealing more and more everytime I read it.  The various sequels and such (Book of the New Urth, World of the Long Sun) aren't as arresting IMO.  Also wrote the two part "Solder of the Mists" written from a point of view of a greek soldier during the time when Gods walked the earth, what makes it intriguing is the soldier has a head wound that causes him to forget each days happenings after he sleeps (shades of 50 First Dates!!!!).  

I think someone mentioned the Thomas Convenent series. I always like this one because the hero is a selfpitying, whining, self aborbed, boorish dolt who commits a rape in the first book for dubious reasons and generally is unlikeable.  But that's precisely why I enjoyed the initial trilogy so much.....there are plenty of fantasy trilogies that involve brave, clean, thrifty, musclebound heroes fighting for the forces of good.  Also like the entire framing sequence of the trilogy and Covenent's method of being transported to the fantasy world (when he's knocked unconcious or in a coma, he is transported there where time passed like 100 times faster than in our real world) where he'a apparantly the reincarnation of that world's greatest hero. although he doesn't act like it.  The lunkhead even refuses to believe he's in a "real" world and thinks the fantasy world of The Land is a creation of his unconcious mind and thus doesn't even try to act heroic or like he gives a damn (the reason for the rape, plus the effects of a drug he's been given).  His initial appearance only makes the ending of the trilogy more satisfying, for he finally realizes real or not, he has a duty to protect the world and people of The Land against Lord Foul.
  Donaldson's Covenant trilogies (have read the first two, haven't picked up the newest one yet) are one of those "love them or hate them" varieties of fantasy.  Most of the criticism stems from the rape scene (which has very real consequences) and Thomas's refusal to act like a traditional fantasy hero. This is actually why I enjoyed the trilogy, I don't like my fantasy heros of the cookie cutter variety.

Someone mentioned Brust's Jhereg series, also a good one if you enjoy anti-heros.

Mike B.


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Post Posted: Fri May 19, 2006 12:42 am 
 

Oh God, Thomas Covenant!  Just kill yourself before you read it and save the time.

    Great writing, to be sure...and an interesting world...but soooo depressing.

    I prefered The Illearth War out of all the books, because the other character from earth...the blind genius guy...actually gives a damn about something...and fights against the odds for it.

Mark   8)


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Post Posted: Fri May 19, 2006 1:19 am 
 

MShipley88 wrote:No, Badmike, I have not even heard of Misericorde.  If it is outside of the five paperbacks I have not seen it.

  Darkness Weaves was the first fantasy book I bought after reading Tolkien.  It was a jarring read...the gore shocked me...the ruthless and hideous evil...I tried hiding the book from my mom, it was so lurid to my 14 year-old eyes.  But you gotta love "heroic" fantasy when the sidekick is named "Arlebas the Assassin" and he is horrifed by the book Kane is reading.

   I believe the Karl Edward Wagner Conan story was Road of Kings.
(Just a ragged memory of a special edition paperback).  Like a lot of the Conan pastiche material, it was not very good.  

   One thing that interests me about those pastiche stories is how many of them fail to get Conan.  The Cimmerian does not save the world.  He does not travel to other worlds.  He does not slip between dimensions or stumble about in search of magical solutions...unless he absolutely has to.  There are no floating castles of ice or faery realms.

    IF you read the REH Conan stories you find that in most of them Conan has a logical, material world to rove about...and he is usually after money.  

   Another thing they can't seem to get right is Conan's age.  Robert Jordan has 18 year-old Conan acting like 40 year-old Conan.  

   Anyway, Kane is a creation to rival Conan.  Too bad there wasnt' more.  Wagner makes us cheer for the badguy and he usually manages to jerk us by the emotional strings while he's doing it.  Kane is also quite evil, but he always seems to be just a little bit less evil than his adversaries...especially the "good" ones.  I think Undertow is the only Kane story where he is entirely unsympathetic...and the irony in that story is wrenching.

   Everyone go out and find Kane.  He's totally worth your time:
Darkness Weaves, Dark Crusade, Bloodstone, Death Angel's Shadow and Night Winds.  If you can only afford one book, get Night Winds.

   One other thought...the Kane artwork, by Frazetta, was some of that artist's best.

Mark   8)


    Agreee with you totally on the Conan stuff.  Unfortunately I think a lot of Conan writers read the comics by Marvel and not much else.  While Roy Thomas did a good job up until his departure, subsequent writers totally mishandled the character and completely got away from the "official " Conan timeline (which Thomas followed slavishly) to just write generic fantasy stories starring a big, hulking barbarian swinging a sword and pawing bimbos.  The later Jordans and such I think read a few of the later comics and tossed out really bad imitations. Ugh.
  The story behind Road of Kings is that at first KEW was asked to write the Conan story where he defeats the King of Aquilonia and takes the throne, and KEW was full of energy for telling this often referred to but never written story. But then De Camp and Carter decided THEY would rather write that tale, and KEW was pissed and lost interest in Road of Kings as it became another generic Conan pastiche.  KEW had signed a three book Conan contract that would have paid him $40k per book ( a good rate in the late 70's) but procrastinated so much that only Road of Kings was ever written and the contract for the other two books was cancelled.  David Drake, who says he saw him nearly every day, offers no explanation for KEW's inability to suddenly write starting in the mid 80's (he died in 1994).  He also wrote a screenplay for the third never-filmed Conan movie, I would love to see that someday.
  We should start a Kane thread, or a KEW fanclub, Mark  :D  I have the hardcover collection "Exorcisms and Ecstaties" which collects all of KEW's uncollected various short stories, along with some insightful (yet very sad and depressing) commentary and reminisces from his fellow writers David Drake, Stephen Jones, Peter Straub and others.  But it does NOT have "Misericorde" or "The Other One" which only appeared in Barbarians I and II and the limited edition and quite expensive Book Of Kane. They are later efforts but as superior as early Kane tales.
   KEW was also a horror writer of superior quality. His collection In A Lonely Place is incredible...every story in it won some kind of award, and they all deserve it.  Most flirt with fantasy themes ("Sticks", ".220 Swift).  Why Not You and I? was his other horror collection, not quite as good but still superior to almost anyone in the market.  Man, if KEW had just been half as prolific as Stephen King.....well, no use wondering.
  Some more tidbits:
   KEW wrote an unpublished Bran Mak Morn novel (a sequel to his Legion from the Shadows) that has never been released...written in the late 70's at the height of his writing power, fans have been teased by possible release dates for almost 30 years....
  The novel he wrote with his buddy David Drake, "Killer", is a really intriguing tale about a roman solider who has to battle an alien creature.  
  Kane is immortal, and he survives to modern times.  The short stories "Lacunae", "At First Just Ghostly", and "Deep In the Depths of the Acme Warehouse" at stories of Kane in today's world, very different from the older stories with lots of psycho sexual and violent imagery.
  Kane meets Elric: "The Gothic Touch" is a pretty cool little tale for the "Tales of the White Wolf" collection by various writers.  Although written for a Moorcock tribute it's really just a Kane story with Elric and Moonglum guest staring....!
  KEW dabbled in the western. His three Adrian Becker stories, about a confederate gunslinger battling the supernatural, reminded me very strongly of a more modern version of Solomon Kane. Would have rivaled Kane if he'd written more of these...."One Paris Night" is another incredible werewolf tale by KEW (he was a really good werewolf writer!) Sort of reminds of the Tim Truman "Jonah Hex" tales a few years ago.
   Mark, PM me and I'll try to get you a copy of "The Other One" and "Misericorde" gratis, we Kane fans have to look out for each other  :wink: You can find "The Gothic Touch" pretty easily (Its in the Tales of the White Wolf collection which isnt' very hard to find).

Mike B.


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Post Posted: Fri May 19, 2006 7:17 am 
 

Raymond E Feist - all of his books are excellent.
[You know the sort - you read the whole thing in 24 hours as you can't put it down]

Then we've got
Anne McCaffery - Pern series primarily
Elizabeth H Boyer - everything
Sterling E. Lanier - Hiero's Journey (someone mentioned this with the wrong author above)

then
L Sprague de Camp (Compleat Enchanter etc)
Terry Brooks (Knight of the Word series is the best)
Jean M Auel - Earth's Children
Icelandic sagas in general

I think that's the main lot - i.e. authors I feel the need to buy all (or most) of their books.

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Post Posted: Fri May 19, 2006 9:47 am 
 

This is the best thread in ages. The lists here are so comprehensive and tight, I find myself with little to add.

I will reiterate that I love Lieber, Vance, Henlein, Lovecraft, King, Herbert, Howard and Asimov.

That said, I just generated a new short list of books to read! Thanks and uh, Cheers!


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Post Posted: Fri May 19, 2006 10:19 am 
 

yeah same here. not so overly impressed with a lot of the newer stuff around right now, so was looking for some other books to read - at least its now given me some options! cool :)

at least with books i can afford them :)

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Post Posted: Fri May 19, 2006 11:38 am 
 

Badmike wrote:
         Yes, a Kane fan! I also am surprised at his lack of popularity...I run into fantasy afficianados all the time who have never even heard of him (?).  I think it hurts that all of his works are now out of print (except in very pricey specialty edition), he's dead (not writing any new works), and that his output was so sporadic (only three novels and two short story collections in his career, plus a few scattered short stories in the mid 80's).


I hadn't.  Just bought the 3 novels at Amazon, though (WAY cheaper individually than the Hardback compilation!).

I'm amused to see literary references in odd places, so I thought it was kind of cool to realize that obviously someone knew their Wagner when they named this guy: http://members.tripod.com/~tpww_wallpaper/kane.jpg   :)

  


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Post Posted: Fri May 19, 2006 12:10 pm 
 

Thanks guys now I have to go and hunt down all those books by Wagner. I used to have all five of the Kane books but sadly they were lost over the years due to moves and such but thank god for Halfpriced Books and used dealers on Amazon  :D ..

Roger Z's Amber has been mentioned as well and I forgot to myself to mention them. I had the honor of meeting him at a book signing / reading in Berkeley at a place called Dark Carnival and getting my copies signed. I have the old black cover copies of the first 5 and treasure them immensely. I also ran into Roger later that day at deli while getting lunch. I spent 2 hours talking to him that day and coresponded with him regulary until his passing.

Lots of good books being tossed out here so I guess I will be increasing my collection again.. I can hear the wifes screams already  :twisted:


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Post Posted: Fri May 19, 2006 12:24 pm 
 

Interesting the literary cross-currents here.  A surprising number of us have met or known the noteworthy fantasy authors of the 20th century.

Zelazny bears mentioning in any list of fantasy writers.  The first Amber series is great and the second is at least good.

I also loved Lord of Light and Creatures of Darkness and Light.

Mark   8)


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