Cover Image: The Galaxy, and the Ground Within

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within

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Gora is a pretty unremarkable planet. It is basically a rock with no water or air. It is a sort of rest stop on the way to somewhere else. The Five-Hop-One-Stop is a rest station on Gora where you can get food or fuel and take a break from driving your ship. It is run by an alien mom and her child. After an incident traps a group of strangers on the planet, they are forced to get to know each other. They come from various species, backgrounds etc.

This is the sort of laid-back, contemplative sci-fi that I've come to expect from Becky Chamber's Wayfarer's series. Here we don't have TOO much going on, just a lot of conversations and thoughts. Different people, different beliefs that all come to understand each other a little more after being forced to spend time together. As usual there are aspects of sexuality and gender that play a part in the story that Chambers is telling. This is inclusive, feel-good fiction at its best.

What to listen to while reading...
Alien Days by MGMT
Habits (Hippie Sabotage Remix) by Tove Lo
Breathless by Caroline Polachek
home with you by FKA Twigs
Feeling Lonely by boy pablo
Horizons by Surfaces
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3 stars, <a href="https://reviews.metaphorosis.com/review/the-galaxy-and-the-ground-within-becky-chambers/">Metaphorosis Reviews</a>

<strong>Summary</strong>
A set of strangers of different species have each stopped at a planetary waystation for a layover, but are trapped together for a long period, and get to know each other. 

<strong>Review</strong>
My reading of this series is not ideal – the first book and this last one. From what I’ve read, though, and from what I’ve heard of the intervening books, I’m not too sorry about it. Many people seem to love this series, and there are certainly things to like about it. I found this book, though, as with the first one – <em>The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet </em>– extremely slow going.

This book appears intended to wrap up and intertwine the threads of several of the series’ characters – all of different species. Perhaps due to that, it read to me more like an exploration of those species than a story in itself. We learn heaps and heaps about each species – almost as if Chambers is throwing into this last book all the neat stuff she thought up and hadn’t found a place for until now. It’s xenologically interesting, but doesn’t make for great plot.

The other thing that wore on me – both in this book and to some extent the last – is that all the characters are relentlessly good. They have different opinions, they argue (a little), but they’re all good people trying to do good things. I liked them all, but all good and no bad made for low tension, and, frankly, low credibility. When have you spent a long time with a group of strangers not one of whom has any major bad traits – or even minor ones that get a little annoying? Every character here is endlessly interested in learning about others, reforming their own behaviour, and deeply comprehending others’ viewpoints. I agree with all those things; I think they’re important in the real world. But I also have a hard time suspending my disbelief that everyone would act that way.

Maybe Chambers set out to write an optimistic novel, to counterbalance the grimdark there’s so much of. If so, she succeeded. Unfortunately, optimistic as it is, I also didn’t find it enthralling. It was a pleasant read, but felt very long and slow-moving.

<strong>I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review.</strong>
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Becky Chambers has done it again. She's given us her trademark standout culturebuilding, imaginative xenotypes, and inclusive characters. She's given us a reflective, heavily character-driven interplay with ample opportunity for introspection and extrospection. Her subtle touch at revealing the messiness and tension present with the intersection of diverse cultures and perspectives, even under a veneer of pleasantry, is masterful. Readers who enjoyed the other entries in the 'Wayfarers' series will find themselves on familiar ground here, with this one probably farthest toward the character-driven and reflective vs. plot-driven and fast-paced end of the spectrum.

With a motley group of non-humans unexpectedly trapped together in a literal bubble and forced to reckon with their biases, ignorances, and internal conflicts, Chambers has given us perhaps the perfect novel to reflect on our time in pandemic life. Ultimately, she has demonstrated once again that realism and optimism in speculative fiction need not be mutually exclusive.

4 Stars; Hopeful and Excellent
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This is. Story about nothing specific & it’s beautiful.

As usual, Becky Chambers has created something beautiful. strange and lovely.  This book didn’t have a particular plot, but the character driven emotional resonance was impeccably crafted.  There were also pockets of humor that made me laugh out loud, and the usual touches of humanity (even among the non humans) that left me crying,  I’ll read anything she writes!

Thank you so much NetGalley and Harper Voyager for this eARC!
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I think Becky Chambers writes the best societies I've read in a very long time. I used to write papers on the Darkover series by Marion Zimmer Bradley and my opinion would be that (human) society would eventually develop along paths we are used to seeing, despite their technological differences.  Becky shows us that different SPECIES can absorb and accept each other's differences and form communities.  Why can't we wrap our heads around that as members of different societies?  This is a fabulous story, and you don't have to have read the others, but you will love them ❤
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I am so sad that the beautiful, magical Wayfarers series has come to an end. Chambers has such a knack for writing warm, lighthearted sci-fi that manages to simultaneously wrestle with oppression, center relationships and love, and point out the absurd in our 'human' customs. Just like the other books in the Wayfarers series, The Galaxy and the Ground Within delivers.

I described this to my sister as being about several travelers who get stranded at a bed and breakfast in a small town after a communications emergency (but, you know, in outerspace and all of the travelers are different species). The story centers on Pei (who is featured briefly in The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet), Speaker (an Akarak communicator who is briefly separated from her twin, Tracker), Roveg (a Quelin exile who has an appointment he is desperate to make) and Ouloo and her child, Topu, who host the Five Hop (the bed and breakfast in question). As per all of Chamber's books, these characters and the relationships they form with one another are really the heart of the story. Although each of the travelers only intends the Five Hop to be a quick stop for them, they come away from the experience changed by one another.

What I've loved so much about the Wayfarers series, is that when Chambers builds these complex worlds, she helps reimagine what our world could look like. As Saidiya Hartman says, "so much of the work of oppression is about policing the imagination," and Chambers dares to imagine so many different ways of being. I have always enjoyed all of the different approaches to gender, sexuality, and family that Chambers embeds in her books. The Galaxy and the Ground Within expands on that. Roveg started his family with a queer platonic relationship, Topu uses xe/xyr pronouns and xyr mother, Ouloo, is planning a gender celebration for whichever gender xe chooses; Aeluon children are raised by a group of fathers; and Akaraks are largely asexual. Chambers also has a knack for reimagining what systems of community care could look like. I was particularly drawn to the description of Akarak rakree, which had many parallels to mutual aid (especially the idea that mutual aid is not always just things!). There is also a discussion between Pei and Speaker that really spotlights the causes of harm, which I loved.

I also felt like this book in particular did an excellent job of challenging ideas of ability/disability (although it is possible that I have just become more sensitive to disability justice in the last year or so). This narrative seemed particularly prominent because of Speaker, the Akarak character. Speaker must constantly wear a mech suit because the atmosphere created for other creatures is not designed for her body. She needs to breathe methane and she doesn't need to eat as much protein, which means that in many ways the world is not designed for her. Speaker also does not have fully functional legs and relies on the ambulatory properties of her suit to help her function. There is an excellent discussion where she talks about how a doctor offered to cure her and she declined because she simply was not interested (a conversation that later has impacts on Pei's reproductive decision making). There is also mention of how the GC (the larger governing body) refused to provide planetary accommodations for the Akaraks because of the potential environmental impact, another discussion that disabled people in the U.S. have to have regularly. There is an excellent line on the subject, when the Akaraks tell the GC "how convenient for you to at last work with a species whose bodies are compatible with your bureaucracy." 

All of this makes The Galaxy and the Ground Within one of those books that I could go on for ages about (and would love to read in a social justice book club or something!), so I'll end here by simply saying I loved it, would recommend.
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The Galaxy, and the Ground Within was one of my most anticipated releases of 2021, and Becky Chambers absolutely delivered on her talent for exploring humanity and community (in outer space, no less) via mail drone.

The novel follows three galactic traversers - Rovig, Pei, and Speaker - who find themselves grounded on the waystation planet Gora due to massive technological failure in the stars and space above. Each is grappling with their own stress and worries. As they wait for answers they must learn to navigate relationships with each other that likely would not have happened otherwise. Speaker, Pei, and Rovig are each of a different species of aliens, and each of them differ again from the species of their ground host and her child. However, despite the fact that a Human does not appear on the page in the flesh until the last sixty or so pages, the humanity of each main character is never questioned and is ever present.

I loved this novel for so many reasons, some of which I've already written about (oh the humanity!). There's so much queer rep, I could cry. Asexuality and non-binary identities in seen on page, along with a relationship between two different species. Becky Chambers also has a knack for exploring difficult topics, such as refugee status, xenophobia, and body autonomy, and she does so in a reflective, caring, and honest way. As the story came to an end, I not surprisingly found myself crying at the connections made across difference, and the profound affect a stranger can have on your life. 

The Galaxy, and the Ground Within is a character-driven space opera told from multiple points of view, and is so beautifully written. Highly recommend this and the rest of Becky Chambers' stories! The Wayfarers series may have come to an end, but I anxiously look towards the horizon for anything and everything that Becky Chambers writes next.

Thank you to NetGalley and Harper Voyager for the advance reader's copy in exchange for an honest review!
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Another wonderful entry into the Wayfarers Series.  What the author has done so far in this series, taking far flung cultures and species and telling the most humanist or stories has been fantastic.  Continuously in this series, acceptance comes to the forefront and I always close these book with a sense of awe and upliftedness (not the realest of word, but we will keep it).
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The last book in the Wayfarers series follows the same in depth exploration of its characters' lives and experiences seen in all of the author's books in this series.  The story is set up well by the author to allow her to showcase the characters personalities, strengths, weaknesses and fears as they are accidentally thrown together by unforeseen events.  The author's steady and calm development of the story, the characters and their lives explores social interactions while basing the entire series in an interlocking story line in the far future populated by multiple species scattered through the galaxy.   This series is not to be missed!
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A beautiful novel of five well crafted characters that are marginalized by their societies who are searching for community, and most importantly, home.  This is sci/fi only in that the characters are non-human, but remove their physical descriptions and it could easily be translated into a novel based on Earth.  Five beings from very different cultures coming together in an emergency with nothing to do but wait, decide to be nice and open to learning about each other. 
 
There’s no plot.  Nothing happens.  They don’t come together to defeat something.  They get together and share food and themselves.  They look beyond their differences and strangeness and see the being within.  A story we all need to read in this polarizing time.  By the end I was crying with their kindness and thoughtfulness to each other.  

Stand alone book, but it would be best to read at least the first in the series, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, also a great character and relationship book.

Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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I got an ARC of this book.

I am a huge Chambers fan, but I have generally only engaged with the audiobooks. That made this book so difficult for me. I need this as an audiobook to really compare it to the others in the series. I think I would have liked it more if it had been audio.

I really liked this book. It was comforting and wholesome. There were times that I was snorting at humans with these other species (cheese really is weird if you think about it). There were times I was giggling and hoping for an interspecies relationship to form (I really had a strong ship that did not come to be, but did have a nice friendship form which might be even better than what I was hoping for).

It felt a lot like the first book in the series in the tone and the meandering character development. There was a lot less plot in this one than any of the others. Instead it was just these sentient beings interacting and dealing with large things at the same time. It really seemed to focus on the idea that you truly have no idea what someone else is going through. Every single one of the characters had something going on that was important than no one else knew. They were really wonderful and complex characters. They are not perfect and they are aware of that as well.

It really was fluffy and wonderful. I can’t say that enough. It was soothing to be in this queer norm universe. I just want to climb into this world and live there. I want to learn Klip. I want to learn how to cook for the different species. I would love to work at this waystation. I can’t think of a better life than that.

It was wonderful to see some species get more fleshed out than before, made them feel more real. I think I will need to re-listen to all the other books now that I know more about the different species. I am not ready to let this series go. I have cried so much over this series. This time the tears were for just how accepting and wonderful the parents were. The talk about which cakes would be made made my heart hurt, because that is just not my experience explaining my gender to my family. I needed this world. I don’t know what to do with myself now that it is over.
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The fourth book in the series is a self-contained story. There are characters from previous books, but the reader doesn’t need to know them to enjoy this story.  Like last book this is more of a slice of life and not a huge story of heroes and villains. This story covers group of various species of travelers stuck at a waystation due to a global satellite failure.  It covers how they interact with one another and their host at the fuel stop.  It also gives the reader more insight to the various aliens that make up this story universe. Reading this felt like a comfortable blanket wrapping around you. There are life decisions made by each character at the end of the book and it is because of the time and talks they had with each other.  There are some spoilers for the previous books but a new reader will not be lost. 

Digital review copy provided by the publisher through Netgalley
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can really only give this a neutral rating because I did not realize this book was the fourth and possibly last book in the series. So I was perpetually lost and didn't quite understand what was happening, to the point where I was asking myself why I kept reading. Yet, some how I did. I finished the thing, without really understanding the backstories of most of these characters, and yet I found some parts really enjoyable. I cannot stress this enough: please read the other books. I could follow the plot because it was pretty simple but it seems to rely on the socio-political conflicts that may have built up during the last three books.

There are three new characters here from what I understand, and they are all long haulers like the crew of the Wayferer the ship that most of the series takes place in. All three characters are stuck on a backwater planet after a malfunction in the planetary orbiter keeps them planetside. They all clash as they must adjust to their new settings as they wait for the go a head to leave the planet.

Based on the blurbs from the other books in the series, this fourth book is more contemplative and quiet. It is driven by the three leads and their bemusement at the quirky innkeeper and her child. They all have conflicting interests and conflicts, and each one is basically left to stew in their thoughts for most of the book. I never would have thought it would work. But here I am, finished with it, and wondering how did that work? I don't know but it did. I do wish I had started with the first three, and I will revisit this book once I am finished with those books.

I have a feeling that fans of the series will gobble this one up, and I do hope that new readers will start at the beginning, because there is some good stuff in here that will make a lot more sense if the whole series is read.

*I received this ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.
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The Wayfarers series, four character-driven sci-fi books all loosely connected in the same interstellar Galactic Commons setting, has been an absolute breath of fresh air. A palate cleanser from the dystopian world we find ourselves living in. I recommend starting with THE LONG WAY TO A SMALL, ANGRY PLANET, but each stands alone and can come in any order after that. This last one, THE GALAXY, AND THE GROUND WITHIN, is one of my favorites. 

A small group of strangers is temporarily stuck in the middle of galactic nowhere, in a random rest stop at a wormhole crossroads. They are all different species, all have somewhere else they need to be, someone else they'd rather be with. Their host is gracious, but tensions remain. Of course, that basic plot description gives away about as much of the real story as a Quelin's rigid exoskeleton. And that's what I love about Chambers's books — the world building is superb, and the characters are beautifully drawn, but the story at the heart of each book is both intimate, focusing on interspecies interpersonal relationships, and expansive, with a philosophical, big-ideas base. They're warm, profound, uplifting, heart-expanding human stories. Even the ones with hardly any humans in them.

Topics, tropes and themes: diversity, physical ability and accommodations, gender, war, politics, colonialism, refugees, hospitality, kindness, family, bodily autonomy, stranded strangers

Content notes: strong language, exiled character separated from family, colonialism, references to war and battle, references to sex, injured child in a coma
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Contemporary life is a busy thing, full of demands and schedules and deadlines and destinations. The same holds true in Becky Chambers’ Wayfarer universe, where a cadre of sapient species are part of an intergalactic civilization called the Galactic Commons (GC, for short) with its own rules, expectations, and inequities.

It’s natural for those in the GC—just like it’s natural for us humans on Earth—to get lost in the day-to-day of one’s own life and the immediate stressors and concerns that go with it. And it’s equally jarring—as the year that was 2020 has shown all of us—when the routine and freedoms we took for granted get upended.

That brings us to The Galaxy, and the Ground Within. The sci-fi story takes place almost entirely down the well, a world that Chambers describes in the book’s first pages as, “one bone-dry planet of mediocre size, possessing no moon, no rings, nothing to harvest, nothing worth mining, nothing to gasp at while on vacation. It was merely a rock, with a halfhearted wisp of atmosphere clinging meagerly to its surface. The planet’s name was Gora, the Hanto word for useless.”

Gora’s biggest claim to fame is that it’s a pit stop, the intergalactic equivalent of a rest station that resides near a hub of interspatial tunnels that people in the Wayfarer universe use to get to more interesting planets and places. But when a catastrophic event grounds all travel, we spend time there with a handful of stranded travelers and their host, each of whom has their own distractions, their own preconceived notions, their own stories.

This group of initial strangers are quite different from each other—none of them are the same species, for one, and they all have subtle stereotypes or implicit biases about the others.

They also, however, are able to see the individuals in front of them, overcome their preconceived notions, and make connections that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. The reader can’t help but make connections with the characters as well—like Chambers’ other books in the series, this is a story about people rather than plot, and each person is fully fleshed out.

The characters in The Galaxy, and the Ground Within are also unique (to us human readers, at least) because there isn’t a single homo sapien among them. There’s Speaker, a tiny beaked Akarak whose species had been enslaved and currently has no planet; Pei, an Aeluon who speaks in colors and is at a personal crossroads; Roveg, a many-legged Quelin who has been banished from his own kind for publicly saying other species are not inferior; and Ouloo and her child Tupo, furry long-necked and four-pawed Laru who have made a home on the “useless” planet.

Just because they aren’t human, however, doesn’t mean that the struggles the characters go through don’t resonate with humanity’s own societal faults. Speaker’s species, for example, was historically enslaved, and even now that they are “liberated,” they’ve been shunned by the rest of the GC. Other sapients generally view Akaraks with suspicion, and the group on Gora didn’t consider Akaraks at all, much less how they are treated. Sound familiar?

The book’s plot—as much as it has one—is that for all their differences, the group first comes to respect each other, then depend on each other, and finally, become changed by each other. That’s not to say that there aren’t conflicts or moments of fear, but at its heart, The Galaxy, and the Ground Within is a story of people who are inherently decent and striving to do the right thing.

While it’s likely Chambers started this book before the events that were 2020, a post-pandemic (well, almost post, hopefully) reading can’t help but resonate with our own unexpected pause, how an unplanned and undesired halt to where we think we’re going can change things irrevocably.

Handling the unexpected, however, is not the exception to life, but the rule. “Life was never a matter of one decision alone,” Pei thinks near the end of the book. “Life was just a bunch of tiny steps, one after another, each conclusion that lead to a dozen questions more.” Everyone stuck on Gora experiences that by the end of the book. And everyone on Gora is now connected, not only through their shared experience, but through their empathy and appreciation of those not exactly like themselves. We should all learn that lesson, and fans of Chambers’ previous Wayfarer books will love this one as well.
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Ahoy there me mateys!  I received a copy of this sci-fi novel from NetGalley in exchange for me honest musings . . .

This is the last book of the series and I adored it.  While all four can potentially be read as standalones, I have loved each subsequent book more and more and recommend them in order of publication.  I honestly go back and forth about which is me favourite and will certainly be reading the series over and over again.

The book takes place near the planet Gora whose planet has no value except as a way-stop for people traveling to other places.  Three such travelers find themselves stranded there due to a mechanical failure.  The interactions between the characters while they wait are what drive the plot and action.  I was hesitant about some at first but by the end loved them all.

Unlike the other books in this series, humans are not main characters and only play a minor role.  The result is learning about the other races through the lens of their own cultures.  It was lovely.  This can be read as just a feel-good story or, as always, the reader can drawn deeper insight about our own cultures and belief systems.

To me all the books in the series tie together so well even if at first glance they seem to have less in common.  Becky Chambers is skilled at payoff but it is not flashy or bright.  It is comfy, cozy, and hopeful.  Sometimes that is exactly what I need.  Arrrr!
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It was a real treat to spend a whole book focusing on non-human characters. Through their perspectives we humans are strange beings with a love for milk and cheese (one of my favorite scenes). Like her other novels, each chapter was from the point of view of one of the characters. The book had a good pace and was easy to read. There was an overarching plot, but the real focus was on each character's backstory and their interaction with other alien species.          

Throughout the series I have been fascinated by each alien species and appreciated how distinct each was. The creativity behind the making of each specie is where Becky Chambers', as an author, shines. I love the sci-fi genre because of its exploration into the unknown. This book series allowed me to use my imagination and picture a world far, far away from here.  

I was so excited when I heard that Becky Chambers was coming out with a new book! Then, I was sadden to read that this is the final installment to the Wayfarer series. I hope she gets inspiration in the future to continue on in the rich universe she has created.
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I've just been in a "humorous sci fi that makes you think about life in a different way" kind of mood lately and Becky Chambers always delivered. Her fourth installment in the Wayfairers series does not disappoint!

I loved "Long Way to a Small Angry Planet" so much and told everyone in my orbit to read it. While the second book didn't quite grab my attention, and I never got around to book #3, something about the premise of the fourth book pulled me toward it, and I am so glad it did. 

I absolutely love character driven stories like this one. Not much happens, so if you're looking for the high-stakes quest-driven plot of book 1, that's not what this book is. But if you want to learn more about this fascinating world Chambers has created and read about different people coming together and making genuine connections despite their biases and preconceived notions, I would definitely recommend picking up this book.

While I don't think you have to have read all of the books to enjoy this, I do think there are some things I would have recognized with more familiarity if I'd read books 2 and 3. I would at least recommend reading the first book before diving in to this one. 

I sincerely look forward to what Chambers writes next!
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While this is Wayfarers #4 you can start reading here as this series is very different. In fact all four books can stand alone. I loved the story line but did have a hard time with how to navigate the story. I kept skipping action and having to go back and find what I missed. And I did not want to miss any part of the story. This is about perceptions about people and what happens to those perceptions when you are thrown together. A good story for this time. We need to go past perceptions and find out who people really are.
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I just love this series so much! This book is the equivalent of a sitcom “bottle” episode, where the cast is in only one or a few locations, and there isn’t much to do, so they develop deeper relationships. In Wayfarers terms, this means being stuck in the galactic equivalent of a convenience store on a long trip. No one is where they are going, they are just waiting to go where they are going. So there’s a random assortment of characters, including Pei of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet. (I just love how this series is tangentially related, each one set in a different place, with different people, except for one person you know from another of the novels.)

All of the characters are pretty delightful, and they are all good-hearted folks (I love how, with few exceptions, everyone in the Wayfarers series is kind and has good intentions). They learn about each other’s cultures, including meeting a new species who have been denied a home planet, and left in the cold by the Galactic Commons government. It’s an effective way to show the point of view of someone whose value has been ignored by society, and with systemic difficulties and prejudices stacked against them.

I love these books because they are interesting and thoughtful, filled with great characters, and nothing too bad ever happens. They are an antidote to me for most of the heavier literature out there. I’m using the word “love” a lot, but I can’t think of a better descriptor. These books are like a nice warm blanket on a cold and rainy day; so comforting and cozy and nice, which is something I really appreciate after the difficulties of the last few years.

I’m disappointed to learn that this is the end of the Wayfarers series. But I know that I absolutely love anything that Chambers writes, so I’m definitely here for whatever comes next.
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