Cover Image: You Sexy Thing

You Sexy Thing

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An assortment of ex-soldiers, human and alien, have recently retired from the a mind-linked military ad are about to realize their dreams: their restaurant is about to be reviewed by the foremost restaurant critic of the galaxy and possibly receive a coveted award. Wealthy patrons will then flock to their establishment, and riches will flow their way. What could possibly go wrong? To begin with, a package containing a possible imperial heir, an explosive assault on the space station in which they live and work, and being kidnapped by a sentient bioship, You Sexy Thing, which is programmed to take them to a prison planet before it’s hijacked by the most notorious, vicious, scheming pirate king of all time. So of course, the way out of their dilemma is to teach the ship to cook…

Cat Rambo’s space opera is at times hilarious, emotionally deep, complex, and playful, but always vastly entertaining. The worldbuilding details drew me along as the plot darkened and the characters revealed layer upon intricate layer of depth. I’m a sucker for stories that hook me with humor and whimsy before socking me in the gut. You Sexy Thing delivers on all counts. I’m particularly pleased to see that Rambo left the door open to a sequel, although with storytelling skill like this, I’ll gladly follow her into whatever new universe her imagination concocts.
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It was a fun space romp! While I wish it was a bit better, it came out just alright for me. The characters were fine, but they aren't the kind that stick around in my head after I read it. But thank you for letting me try it out!
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You Sexy Thing is a virtuosic standalone SF novel by Cat Rambo. Released 16th Nov 2021 by Macmillan on their Tor imprint, it's 304 pages and is available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately. 

I've been a fan of the author for years and some of their short fiction is not just good, but sublime. The writing here is, as always, competently written and eminently readable. The main themes here, of found family, finding one's purpose, and making the universe a slightly better place, sit side by side with LGBTQIA+ representation (which -hallelujah- does *not* drive the entire plot), adventure, and a solid mix of humor which surprised a chuckle out of me in several places.

There is so much going on in the plot that it could easily have devolved into a muddled chaotic mess, but the author is skilled and technically so adept at their craft that the whole gels into a cohesive and entertaining melange. 

The titular "Sexy Thing" is an AI bio-ship central to the plot, and this is not a racy/sexy book by any salacious definition of the word. There is some inherent violence (it's a pirate space opera), but again, not egregious, and the violence is integral to the plot. As in much of the author's oeuvre, there is heavy tragedy mixed in amongst the humor. I found the second half of the book hard going at places. 

Four stars. All in all a good and worthwhile space opera with some foodie moments. The author writes very very well.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.
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I picked this up as I’ve previously enjoyed Cat Rambo’s short fiction – in particular Red in Tooth and Claw as well as Every Breath A Question, Every Heartbeat an Answer and I was curious what a longer story from them would look like. They’re particularly good at looking at what comes after being a solider and in this respect You Sexy Thing is no different. But this makes it sound heavier than it is. The most straightforward comparison is A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet, in that both books have a crew that is very close with a new member who is put among them and becomes one of them. But that does both books a disservice. You Sexy Thing has a much more cohesive story although this doesn’t stop the action shifting from various ships and planets.

While there is a large cast of characters each of them is distinct and memorable – from Dabry, Niko’s second in command who’s also the head chef and passionate about his herbs and spices, to Skidoo, who is Octopi shaped but formed of two symbiotic beings and is unembarrassed about seeking their pleasures where they can. Atlanta, the outsider to the crew is both naive but capable in her own way and her development over the story, in particular the ending is both satisfying and adds to the comfort factor of the book. Finally, the star of the book is the ship You Sexy Thing. A sentient bio-ship, they have gone through a succession of owners who have barely stretched their potential and Niko’s crew give them plenty of opportunities to experience new emotions such as pride, petulance, novelty, a sense of learning and a range of others. Rambo’s description of these is perfect and very much endears you to You Sexy Thing as they’re very much their own character in a way that’s different to other ship’s AI. It doesn’t feel like a human voice, but is a person in their own right.

Overall the plot shifts between Niko’s past and the crew’s present with several flashbacks from different characters. While the short works well as a standalone, there are plenty of hints at a wider story, both with a sinister threat, and the mystic Lassite’s constant mutterings about the importance of Niko to the Golden Spiral and following the path. All in all it was an enjoyable sci-fi adventure, and I would look forward to seeing what’s in store for Niko and the others.
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You Sexy Thing by Cat Rambo is a action-packed sci-fi novel of found family, peril, and cooking, blended together in a remarkable and entertaining way.

Niko and her restaurant staff are military veterans who managed to break away from their old lives by convincing the military that Niko is a culinary artist. Her real artistry is in keeping the ragtag bunch of former soldiers working together as they try to get her space station restaurant off the ground. But just when things look like they’re heading for success, disaster strikes, and the staff find themselves hurtling toward a horrible destination, and then toward a worse one.

One of the interesting things in this novel is the use of third person omniscient point of view, which allows the narrative to flow from one character to another as if a camera that could read their minds was moving amongst them. While it may take a little bit of getting used to, Rambo uses the technique to excellent effect, allowing for “head hopping” with intent.

You Sexy Thing is described as a mashup of Farscape and The Great British Bake-Off, and that’s an apt comparison. Not quite as zany as Space Opera by Cat Valente, there’s still plenty of humor blended into the mix of You Sexy Thing, and it’s likely to appeal to fans of sci-fi, cooking, and a whole lot of weirdness!

The publisher provided me with an advance copy of this novel in exchange for review consideration.
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I really like the social commentary present in a lot of sci fi, and You Sexy Thing is no exception. Despite the name, this book is not a romance (though, as with most fiction, there are romantic sub-plots) and I liked the way this book critiqued war, imperialism, classism, racism and more. Some of the commentary is more up front (The Holy Hive Mind being the prime example), while others (the language and social barriers faced by sentient people resembling earth animals) are more integrated into the world-building.

Niko was an amazing main character and I really liked the setting of a fine-dining restaurant stocked by ex-military staff. I think it's a set-up that has huge potential, and I can't wait to see where the series goes from here. I can't list every character I thought was amazing (it'd be pretty much all of them) but I particularly liked Niko, Atlanta, Darby, Talon and Thorn, the Thing and the way they all interacted as friends, members of a team, and operatives under Niko's command.

I wasn’t a huge fan of Lassite’s prophecies, as I feel they took away from the suspense as much as added to it. However, I have to admit my bias in the situation. I’m never a huge fan of prophecy or time travel in books, as I think they rarely add to a story. It can be done well, and I don’t think most people would take issue with how it is done in You Sexy Thing. I also think there was a couple of coincidences in the storyline that strain belief a little, although I wouldn’t be surprised if they are explained further in future novels. The first book in a series always has a hard time of telling an engaging story in its own right, while also laying the foundation for what is to come. I think You Sexy Thing strikes a good balance between the two, I am just (as always) impatient to know more. 

Some of the first sci-fi novels I ever read were Anne McCaffrey’s Ship Who Sang series, and I adored the Thing’s additions to this book. I loved the diversity of characters in general, and the representation of gender and sexual minorities was incredible. I think in science fiction especially, racial, sexual or gender homogeneity is less explainable than a joyful array of sexuality and gender, and I always like to read the variations that authors come up with. I also liked the world building surrounding religion, the sourcing of food/eating of meat, clones and sentience. 

Overall, I really enjoyed You Sexy Thing and I think things wrapped up well. I was surprised that some issues never came to a head in this book, but the novel was fast-paced, exciting and fun, and as a lover of long series, I am not mad in the slightest. However, if you prefer stand-alone novels or episodic plots with all loose ends tied up by the end of the book, be warned, there is some fairly major unfinished business at the end of this novel. 

I think You Sexy Thing would appeal to people who would prefer a less maths based alternative to Yoon Ha Lee’s Machineries of Empire or SL Huang’s Cas Russel series; to people who enjoyed The Circus Infinite by Khan Wong; to lovers of classic sci fi with a fun, fast-paced take; and to anyone who enjoyed the found-family heist feel of Six of Crows, but would prefer a few more space battles and explosions.
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I love a good space opera, especially if it features a sentient spaceship, but I don’t think I’ve ever read a science fiction novel before in which food and cookery play such a big part as they do in Cat Rambo’s You Sexy Thing. A fun, action-packed SF adventure with a brilliantly diverse cast of characters and a pacy, page-turning plot, it opens on a remote space station with a group of ex-soldiers whose only way of escaping service to the Holy Hive Mind was to set up a restaurant and throw themselves into their new line of work. When TwiceFar station is destroyed, the soldiers-turned-restaurateurs escape on the aforementioned sentient spaceship (the titular You Sexy Thing, of course) only to find themselves in arguably even more trouble – involving a dead celebrity, a dubious food critic, pirates, an awkward ship and an unexpected new addition to the team.

If that all sounds like gentle, light-hearted fun, well…it is, in some respects. There’s a lovely dynamic between Niko Larsen – ex-captain of the Holy Hive Mind – and her team, sort of part military unit, part work colleagues, part dysfunctional family, and indeed there’s a strong theme of found family running throughout. For all that it’s often very funny though, that light breeziness hides a darker backstory to these characters, and there are some genuinely bleak moments scattered throughout the story. The Holy Hive Mind might sound like a bizarre mix of Monty Python and Warhammer 40,000 but it’s a pretty dark concept, an expansionist military power that’s part cultish religion, part creepy collective consciousness. The prospect of being forced to return to the Holy Hive Mind hangs over Niko and her team at all times, and over the course of the story it gradually becomes clear just how much they’ve all been through together before reaching this point, and how personal the stakes really are.

That backstory becomes increasingly important as the book progresses and the darkness starts to set in, Niko’s past coming back to haunt her even as more of this intriguing setting is revealed to us as readers. The world building on display is light touch but really impactful, and in particular the wild variety of alien races makes for a lot of fun. The visual archetypes behind these characters – the squidlike Skidoo, feathered Milly, leonine twins Thorn and Talon, and so on – go in some interesting directions, not least with the benignly promiscuous, sensation-seeking Skidoo, and the sheer variety lends itself beautifully to a story in which diversity and respect play important parts. For all the action and adventure, all the cool tech and weird aliens, what has the most impact is the relationships these characters have with each other and with the world around them – as SF settings go, this feels like one you might actually want to spend some time in.

It’s not often you read a space opera in which cooking plays as important a role as fighting or adventuring, but it works beautifully and adds a delightful extra element to this story, and there’s something genuinely satisfying about a spaceship trying to wrap its hyper-advanced brain around the culinary arts. These little moments of whimsy – including a few enjoyable pop culture references – fit perfectly in with all the other elements of this fun, irreverent novel, balancing out the darker aspects that lurk beneath the surface. All told, You Sexy Thing nails that brilliant sense of scope and potential that space opera allows for, but its own unique blend of ingredients (obligatory cooking reference) give it a sense of identity that sets it apart from the rest of the SF crowd. It’s fresh and it’s fun, and I can’t wait for the sequel (in the meantime though, I can see myself investigating Cat Rambo’s back catalogue!).

Many thanks to Cat Rambo and Tor Books for sending me a copy of You Sexy Thing, in exchange for my honest review.
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This book was fun! It took me about fifty pages to get into the omniscient narration style but once I did I didn’t want to put this book down! The idea of an ex-military squadron owning and operating a restaurant was a space opera plot I didn’t know I needed in my life! There’s a reason I love the found family trope so much! And the sentient bioship was just icing on the cake! The food aspect of this book is compared to Great British Bake-Off (GBBO) but really there wasn’t as much food content as I expected from the tagline. It more embodies the feeling you get from watching GBBO.

This book reminded me a lot of Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers series. There are some pretty heavy parts in this story but they’re infused with hope and a good dose of sarcastic wit. I laughed a lot but there are some places where I cried. It still makes me sad to think of some of the events of this book.

The other reason this reminds me of Becky’s books is that the aliens are diverse and peculiar. They act alien and not like pseudo-humans. I loved the whole crew so much! The Farscape comparison is a good one.

The story is billed as a standalone and while it ended in a satisfactory way, it is open-ended enough that a whole series could be written from this book. I, for one, am hoping for some more books following this crew and their culinary and non-culinary adventures!
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a GREAT read. the characters are really interesting and I was immediately invested in them. it's a really cool world and the magic system is interesting. the world building got a little complicated but not in a bad way. we love a found family!! I think the story thread got a bit tangled in the end but I really liked it. 
the food was super cool it's really involved in a lot of the story and it's integrated well. 
I was waiting for an explanation as to why the ship was named 'you sexy thing' which I didn't get but aside from that the ship was my favorite.
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You Sexy Thing by Cat Rambo was a fun spin on SF, with the added AI and food element really bringing the story into its own.  Rambo's characters are authentic and unique, and you can tell they know their food and cooking from the story.  Definitely one I'd recommend to people for a fun and different entrant into the SF space.
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I really enjoyed this book as an exploration of found family in space. If you break down the main plot of the book it feels deceptively simple, however each character and interaction together is so rich that there's no way it could ever truly be described that way. Each character has their own separate motivations and it starts to become clear that not all of them align. I loved the inclusion of food and the idea of how cooking changes in a world that has replicators. I was fascinated by the ship itself. The idea of a bioship that's matched with intelligence and what that means for it's autonomy. I love a good found family in space book and this managed to hit all those notes and include some fun galactic politics. Can't wait to see where the rest of this story goes.
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Ever finished a book and wondered why it didn't work for you? Sadly, this was the case for me with You Sexy Thing. I can't comment on GBBO x Farscape as I've never watched either - so I would pitch it as NeoG x Velocity Weapon - which still sounds pretty damn promising. On paper, a rollercoaster space opera in which a famous captain retires on a technicality from a military organisation reluctant to let her go and must stay one step ahead of her former commanders and a vengeful space pirate is exactly my jam. It has a dazzling array of aliens, found family and an organic sentient spaceship who wants to learn to cook.  

But I didn't get drawn in by it, in the end - I just coasted through the easy read, less interested and less caring than I expected or wanted to be. The omniscient POV wasn't intrusive and didn't annoy me, but I ended up finding the characters lacked depth. The plot skitters along across a suggestion of deeper currents that never come to the surface. It was fine as a light-hearted / casual space opera read - neither a dog's breakfast nor a gourmet dinner - but it didn't satisfy as a first course, and hasn't convinced me I want to stay around for further dishes.
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My Thoughts: You Sexy Thing… A fun space opera has issues with pacing, but keeps it together long enough to get across a good story. 

Rambo adds a lot of things to love to the mash-up: high-end foodie love, ex-military toughs, well-drawn alien beings, an ever-expanding plot. This is what got my interest… I’m a foodie. I have an ever-expanding waistline… I’m an alien?  

The verdict: Chapter transitions were rough in places, and it seemed almost episodic, but it shouldn’t have… Yet, there’s so many things I loved along the way. It took me awhile to get through, but I kept going back.

3 out of 5 stars.

Thank you to NetGalley, Tor Books, and the author for an advanced copy for review.
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The first course of a new space opera series, You Sexy Thing by Cat Rambo sets the stage perfectly for an untold number of follow-on stories set in this sandbox. Stories I very much want to read. This review is based on an advance copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley for that purpose. The book is available now. 

The author does a great job of seamlessly laying out the landscape for the series, identifying and describing various alien races and power players in the universe without making it seem like a series of flash cards. Led by Niko, briefly an Admiral of the Holy Hive Mind, and her faithful four-armed sergeant (and self-taught chef) Dabry, the cast of characters are an interesting and diverse lineup of humanoids and aliens including a pair of were-lions, an avian pastry chef, and a sentient ship similar to Moya from “Farscape.”

I love “Farscape” so when the ship, the titular You Sexy Thing, made its first appearance I found myself smiling and nodding along as the Thing studied and learned from it’s passengers. There is also a through-line of cooking, and food, in the story as Niko and her crew use the opening of a restaurant on a space station to escape military service in the Holy Hive Mind. Without taking over the plot, cooking gives the characters depth as well as highlighting a necessity of life that is rarely remarked upon in space-based stories.

As well as serving as an introduction to the cast and sandbox, You Sexy Thing features themes of revenge and regret throughout an adventure that turns surprisingly dark before wrapping up with numerous plot threads dangling and waiting to be explored. There are so many more stories (I want) to be told, and meals to prepare and serve, in this series. Bring on the next book!
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Thoroughly enjoyable but it felt a little surface level. That's the particular downside to having a large cast of characters: two of them were brilliantly handled, showing all their sides and growing and adapting. One of them who was supposed to really grow and change... Didn't. She was such an outside observer presence, even in her POV sections, that I couldn't buy into the way she latched onto the rest of the crew and grew attached. I think this will shape up to be an awesome series, but things felt a little too convenient here, and we didn't dig deep enough into the really impactful moments.

There are a lot of interesting things left hanging, though, which makes me think that book two will really bring us much more of interest.
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Published by Tor Books on November 16, 2021

You Sexy Thing might be imagined as a salad made from leftover plot elements that were tossed together in the hope that the combination would be pleasing. We have space pirates and a clone and a hive mind and a sentient ship and a mix of humans and aliens who have remained loyal to their former military leader. The novel purports to be a science fiction space opera, but it crosses over into fantasy with the addition of alien shape shifters who use magic to change themselves into lions and a mystic who is traveling on the Spiral of Destiny. Interstellar travel is powered in part by portals that were designed with magic. I guess that’s one way to get around physics. Fortunately, magic plays a relatively nonintrusive role in what is essentially an action novel with a bit of human interest, or alien interest, as characters bond while overcoming adversity.

Niko Larsen operates a restaurant on a remote space station. She has managed the difficult task of retiring from a military organization called the Holy Hive Mind, taking some of the company that she once commanded with her. As the name implies, Niko shared consciousness with her company before she pulled it from the Hive Mind. Notable members of the former company include Dabry, the restaurant’s extraordinary head chef; Skidoo, who resembles a squid; Thorn and Talon, twins who use magic to shift their shapes to those of lions; Gio, a former quartermaster assigned to food prep; and Lassite, a mystic who keeps a bag full of ghosts. Milly, the pastry chef, is a newcomer.

Fortunately, the novel doesn’t take itself too seriously, although the story isn’t played for laughs. Niko is trying to make enough money to buy a ship, the first step in her long-delayed and ill-defined plan to rescue a Florian named Petalia from space pirates who are holding her in captivity. Florians might be described as sentient, mobile plants who have some of the qualities of mystics.

Before joining the Holy Hive Mind, Niko escaped from the space pirates, making an enemy of the pirate leader named Tubal Last in the process. She also seems to have made an enemy of Petalia, given her stint with the Holy Hive Mind and the restaurant gig, neither of which involved any obvious effort to make good on her promise to rescue the Florian.

The plot shifts into gear when a food critic visits the restaurant just as a wealthy patron arrives. The patron owns a rare bioship called You Sexy Thing. One thing leads to another and Niko’s company, along with the critic, end up on the bioship as their space station is being destroyed in a reality-based version of a video game. Nico’s people are joined by a princess named Atlanta who was packed into a box and delivered to Nico by the future version of FedEx for reasons that never make much sense. A couple of adventures later, the ship (oh happy coincidence!) travels to the pirate habitat, where Nico will reunite with the unhappy Petalia. Action ensues, occasionally interrupted by hard feelings and gourmet meals.

The story makes a surprising amount of sense, given the odd mishmash of B-movie sf themes, including hive minds and plant people and sentient ships and space pirates, not to mention the fantasy themes of magic, mystics, and ghosts. Cat Rambo asks the reader to accept a number of underdeveloped plot elements, perhaps to avoid bogging down the story with contrived explanations. This isn’t the kind of story a reader will want to overthink. The best science fiction encourages readers to think, but there is room for slightly silly stories that are meant only to entertain. You Sexy Thing falls into the latter category. I assume a sequel will follow. I’m on the fence about reading another of these, but this one had sufficient entertainment value to mert a recommendation.

RECOMMENDED
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Cosy space opera about a group of former mercenaries who left the military to run a restaurant. After an attack, they take refuge in the bioship, You Sexy Thing. Shenaniggins ensue. 

It doesn't quite reach its target in terms of comedy (Hitchhiker's Guide and Space Opera do set a very high bar). There were times when i know i was supposed to laugh...and didn't. But it did have lots of un-humanlike aliense. Enjoyable; i'll probably read the sequel.
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You Sexy Thing is an exciting sci-fi romp that mixes the humour of The Hitchhiker’s Guide with the found family of the Wayfarers series. Niko Larson and her crew managed to escape from the Grand Military of the Hive Mind. How, you might ask? Through a calling for art. Specifically, cooking. Now the group spend their days working in their restaurant, The Last Chance. An award of culinary excellence is at their fingertips, and their new life is barrelling towards success. Then the space station is destroyed. They manage to escape on a sentient spaceship named You Sexy Thing, belonging to an eccentric billionaire. Unfortunately, the spaceship believes it’s being stolen. Even more unfortunately, it then is stolen. By pirates.

This quirky, character-focused book was a charming read. It was brilliant at creating detailed, varied aliens with different cultures, dialects, and appearances. You Sexy Thing has casual queer representation that’s always brilliant to see in sci-fi. The difference in tone between the main plot and the finale was a bit difficult to reconcile – swapping out light-hearted humour for torture scenes is jolting. The truly omniscient narrator was an interesting stylistic choice that worked well with the large cast by giving them all time to shine. At the same time, it did create a distance that rendered the emotional scenes a little less hard-hitting than I’d prefer. Small criticisms aside, this book was an enjoyable read that I’d recommend to fans of eccentric stories and characters.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Tor for a review copy of this book. 

Alright, first I need to say that my new niche is restaurants in space. This is only the second restaurant based sci-fi I've read, but I am hooked. Though this book doesn't take place in a restaurant the whole time, the fact that the main characters, while they are ex-military, are now restaurant staff and just love food. 

I really adored the relationships in this book. They were complicated and very tight-knit, which was really fascinating. I enjoyed how the dynamics were represented and how there was this mix of family and military unit between the characters. 

The worldbuilding, alien races, planets, and social/political dynamics are explained and how they all work together. It's so interesting to learn about Niko's past before the military and during the military. I think that she is such an interesting and complicated character. The discussion of humanity, AI's, war and empires, and revenge/grudges is just fascinating. There is so much interesting commentary in this book that I can't even talk about without spoiling it. 

So, I will say this. If you like space, space travel, discussion of sentient life, war, revenge, queer characters, and some sci-fi action this is the book for you.
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Literally anytime I read a book description that has the words “fun” and “space”, I am in. This one even has a little baking added in for extra flavor, plus the cover was a huge draw too. I think this will be a series, and it worked pretty well as an opener — I didn’t feel a strong attachment to the characters just yet, but I could see that coming in time. I always love an AI with questionable motives, and it was fun to watch this one grow and change. Cheers to a fun space romp!
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