Member Reviews

I was so pleasantly surprised by The Phlebotomist that I couldn't resist snatching up a copy of The Stringers as well. Unfortunately, it didn't hit me as well. Panatier approached this whacky story with high energy and a lot of (immature) humor. While his writing is good and the story itself is extremely unique, the structure of the story (between a plethora of footnotes, lots of rambling off topic, and the sheer volume of childish humor) left me very frequently rolling my eyes and wanting to get to the meat of things.

People who tend to like more satirical stories (which is not me, I'll admit) will find this enjoyable. I've seen lots of comps to Hitchhiker's Guide, which feels apt (because I wasn't particularly fond of that series for the same reason as this one).

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Stringers is the adventures of Ben, a seemingly normal guy who works at a bait and tackle shop, follows a diet where healthy food cancels out the sweets, gets high with his best friend, Patton, and builds a huge Lego sculpture in his apartment while sucking down rows of cookies. He also knows way too much about the mating habits of insects, wrist watches, and something called the Chime of Jecca. He does not know how he knows this but he does. It also makes him valuable to intergalactic bounty hunters. 

The story is decent. Ben is kidnapped by string hunters who will sell him to the highest bidder. Ben and the other kidnapped stringers do not want this so they try to escape. The kidnappers have a way to dig into their mind for information, and Ben is of particular interest because he knows the location of the Chime of Jecca, and this Chime can destroy the universe. He has to escape from the hunters, find the chime, and destroy his memory of it so that nobody else can find it. 

I did not care much for this novel, mostly because I did not like the characters enough to carry the story. Ben is pretty insufferable, and I did not care about anyone in the universe that he was trying to save. The only decent person in the whole novel is Patton, and this is because he kind of reminds me of one of my friends growing up. He has a deep loyalty to Ben, even when Ben is not loyal in return. Besides the relationship between Ben and Patton, there does not seem to be much that is interesting about any of the other characters. The jokes are mostly unfunny, juvenile, and immature, and it makes almost all of the scenes unbearable. The worst part about Stringers is the slew of completely unnecessarily footnotes scattered throughout the novel. These are absolutely pointless and nothing but a nuisance. I actually stopped reading the footnotes about twenty pages in because they were not adding anything to the story but distracting my reading. The book starts fairly interesting, but it was a chore to get through the second half. I did not care about the characters or the story enough to really be interested in the outcome.  The best part about Stringers is the awesome cover art.

I received this novel from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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The beginning of this book was great. I liked the author's style as well as the concept. After a couple of chapters, though, I struggled to maintain my interest. I usually do not read this genre, but wanted to try something new, I was unable to read it all the way through.
I cannot provide a complete review, but recommend this to others who like this genre. The style is snappy and entertaining, it was the story that was not for me.

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"Stringers" by Chris Panatier is an impressive debut novel that tells a compelling story of survival and hope in a dystopian future. Set in a world where a deadly virus has ravaged the population, the book follows a group of "Stringers," scavengers who venture into the dangerous ruins of the old world to collect valuable materials for their survival.

One of the book's strengths is its vivid and detailed worldbuilding. Panatier has created a convincing and immersive world that feels both post-apocalyptic and familiar. The descriptions of the ruined landscapes and abandoned buildings are particularly vivid, and the author does an excellent job of conveying the atmosphere of a world in decay.

The characters in the book are also well-drawn and engaging. Each of the main characters has a distinct voice and personality, and their interactions are both realistic and compelling. The book also explores themes of family, loyalty, and sacrifice, and the characters' struggles to survive in a harsh and unforgiving world are both moving and thought-provoking.

Another notable aspect of the book is the writing itself. Panatier has a distinctive and engaging voice, and his prose is both elegant, accessible and so incredibly funny. As in, laugh out loud funny! Additionally, the book moves at a brisk pace, and the tension and suspense build steadily as the characters face increasing danger and uncertainty.

Overall, "Stringers" is an impressive and well-crafted novel that will appeal to fans of post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction. With its strong worldbuilding, engaging characters, and elegant writing, it is a book that will leave a lasting impression on readers. Highly recommended.

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While it is sometimes nice to pick up a book by a familiar author and in general know what kind of story you're about to get, I do appreciate an author who takes chances and tries something very different from what they've written previously. Stringers, by Chris Panatier, feels like a risk and one I'm not sure pays off.

Ben Sullivan knows a lot of useless facts. Especially facts about sex (and very specifically not just human sexuality) and the biological functions of a cornucopia of living creatures. He doesn't know why he knows these things - he just does. Just as he also knows about The Chime, which is ... well, I'm not going to give it away.

Ben's best friend is Patton, a dude generally pretty stoned, which is maybe a blessing given what they encounter. For all his stone-ishness, Patton remains a loyal friend and the two of them experience a whole lot of strangeness when they're abducted by aliens.

I was very mixed on this book. This could very easily be titled Ben and Patton's Excellent Adventure - it's got that kind of vibe to it. But I'm not a fan of that movie, frankly.

The book is full of humor. But it's middle grade boy humor - sex and farts and other bodily functions kind of humor. And there will surely be an audience for this (beyond the middle grade boys) but it's really not for me. I've seen this compared to The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy - and I can totally understand this connection, but let's be really clear ... this is not a classic.

I did like the character of Ben Sullivan. Patton at least had the endearing quality of faithfulness, and their journey had some intriguing promise, but the plot then seemed to take a back seat to the humor.

In the author's note for readers at the start of the book, Panatier writes: "Don’t skip the footnotes. There’s a code for a million dollars in one of them. Okay, that’s a lie, but still. Read the footnotes." And so I did. At least for awhile. I read the first 53 footnotes - which according to my Kindle was only 20% of the book.

Reading footnotes (or endnotes ... these are endnotes in this book) is a process - it's a little more complicated with an older version of the Kindle, but whether physical or digital, the reader needs to flip to or click on the note and then back again. This takes me out of the flow of the story so it had better be important. And yeah, sometimes these were important. Sometimes. Other times, it was the author (or was it the narrator of the story?) trying to be funny. That endnote #53 for instance ... the boys are being introduced to an alien. ""This here is Ghuxch-hexer-chchch," said Apat." And we're taken away from the moment so that the author (or is it the narrator ... I'm still not sure) can have us read, "Gesundheit." Yes, that's what you're getting yourself into.

We do get to learn what a 'stringer' is - through the use of a parable with Jed Clampett as the central figure in the story - and it does tie in to the aforementioned abundance of random knowledge.

Again, I appreciate that Panatier tried something new, but this goofy humor didn't work for me and it's so chock-full of it that the more interesting story gets lost.

Looking for a good book? Stringers by Chris Panatier is a sci-fi humor story. If you like this kind of thing, then you might want to check out this book.

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review

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4.5 of 5 stars
My Five Word TL:DR Review : A Blast of a Book

Having read and loved The Phlebotomist by this author I was absolutely jumping for joy when I was granted a review copy of Stringers. Three things must ye know of Stringers.

Firstly, it’s completely unlike Panatier’s debut novel – they stand at the furthest opposing points that I can think of to be honest and this being sci fi I did feel a little nervous about requesting a copy.

Secondly, and this could just be the mood I was in when I picked this up, but, this made me laugh out loud on so many occasions that it was practically addictive. It was like that moment when you open a huge bag of crisps, sweets, popcorn (or whatever it is that takes your fancy) and before you know it you’ve eaten the entire (family size I might add) bag and you’re puzzled about where they’ve all gone. Basically, this made me feel good, even down to the fact that I persisted with the ‘harder sci-fi’ elements and actually felt like I was on board, and when something makes you feel good you don’t want to stop. Hence I read this almost in a day.

Thirdly, I can safely say this was one of my most anticipated reads this year and we all know how damaging over hype can be to any book. Seriously, my expectations were up there amongst the stars but I’m happy to report that on this occasion the anticipation and hype were rewarded with a fantastic read and then some.

The plot. I can see where the comparisons to Hitchhiker’s Guide come from here. You have your two witless humans, abducted by a space bounty hunter, you have a really amusing (although obviously humour is very subjective so whereas I found this pretty darn amusing others may not) cosmic space opera with a really unique concept. Now, I can’t tell you too much about the plot other than to say that one of the abductees has a wealth of information stored in his brain, something that certain other ‘aliens’ would pay handsomely for. As you may imagine, our two humans are about to go on the ride of a lifetime, dangerous, life threatening and very strange. I seriously don’t want to give away anything else because I had a lot of fun finding out in what direction this story was going in without any prior knowledge.

The characters. We have Ben and his pal Patton. Ben is a mind of useless information – well, probably not useless if you want to know in depth details about the sex life of insects or the inner workings of a wristwatch, but otherwise, yeah, not terribly helpful during your bog standard day. He doesn’t know how he knows what he knows, he just knows it. And, unfortunately it’s like a constant assault of information flooding his brain day in day out. He’s desperate to find out what it’s all about. Patton is a good friend and joins in for the ride not suspecting what he’s letting himself in for. Naecia is another of the abductees, an alien, also with a wealth of strange information within her own brain. Aptat is the bounty hunter. He has a sharp tongue, is totally calculating and, I don’t know if I should confess to this, but I really enjoyed reading the chapters where he was involved. Last but by no means least, we have Pickles. I’ll leave you to discover that one for yourselves.

In terms of criticisms. Well, I did have a slight slowing down period when I was getting on board with the science fiction elements – but, I’m happy to say that this was only temporary and even more happy to have actually felt like I understood all the explanations. Also, I’m not going to lie, there is a certain ‘ick’ factor to some of the chapters that maybe could have been shortened a little for me. But, overall nothing that actually made me want to give up or that spoiled the read.

In a nutshell, Stringers is a witty, madcap, cosmic adventure that was thrilling to read and made me laugh, cringe and (almost) cry and that kept me reading into the wee hours of the morning. I’m absolutely fascinated to see what this author will spring on us next.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.

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Left the following review on Goodreads and Amazon: I read the Phlebotomist and was thrilled by the twist, which then dovetailed into an exciting dystopia with surprises at every turn. Stringers is no different: surprisingly fresh, told through a unique voice in the MC. And funny! I was cracking up the whole time

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"You dirty little space herpe..."

I personally love it when an author can translate the laughs into a novel that is not your everyday type of read. Panatier does just that in Stringers, and while it's a vastly different excursion from his novel Phlebotomist, it's worth every twisted turn and laugh out loud oddity.

There is a lot to take in with this novel and for good reason. Ben is a character that touches on the weird nerd in all of us. His eccentric personality paired with intimacies of the bug world left me either laughing or rolling my eyes at the absurdity of this kids plight. Space excursion meets shenanigans and together they birthed Stringers. I adored it.

I especially loved seeing Panatier bring his style of plot weaving to this novel. He has a way of creating a network of narrative that merges together masterfully. Definitely an author I recommend keeping in your radar. World building and creative sci-fi space chaos go hand in hand as we learn the meaning of the Chime and the fate tied to it.

If you enjoy weird reads, science fiction, goofy humor and action, than I highly recommend grabbing your stubborn pickle jars and journeying through the mindscape of Panatier's newest creation.

Thank you Angry Robot Books for giving me more reasons to love this author!

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Very promising first half but it took a turn in the second half in a way that I didn’t think matched the original tone. Whimsical and fun for sure, but not one I would reread.

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Oh boy, this was a lot and I'm really struggling to give it a rating. I think I'm settling on 2.5? There were some really good things here but wow I should have taken the "appreciate a good fart joke" part of the summary much more seriously than I did.

I think that is where this book lost me. The humor was funny at first but I quickly grew tired of the random bug facts and jokes about pickles and poop. I appreciate that Chris Panatier went there with this sophomore release, but for me it just didn't work.

I did find the science plot of the book really fascinating and to be honest, that was one of the only things that kept me from DNFing. I also liked the structure of the prose and the way Panatier incorporated multiple POVs and his imagination, so I am still interested in reading his first book, The Phlebotomist, which has been lingering on my shelf for over a year.

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Don't panic, Douglas Adams's status as the greatest sci-fi comedy writer of all time is safe. But Adams did pave the way for some worthy successors like Chris Panatier. Stringers is a wild galactic trip with aliens, artificial humanoids, and a swarming extragalactic super species.

When Ben and his buddy Patton head for a rural rendezvous with a stranger they met in an internet chat room, they had no idea they were going to be abducted by an alien slave trader. As it turns out, Ben has the key to the destruction of the galaxy in his untapped memories, and the swarming super species wants to tap him. With the help of his fellow trafficking victims, maybe they can save the galaxy.

Stringers is an enjoyable story that doesn't dwell on the meaning of life, but has a fun plot and likable characters. There are plenty of good moments and memorable lines, like this character's comments about immortality. In response to another character's question about whether he is immortality, the artificial humanoid character says, "If no one kills me, yes. Of course, how does one prove immortality? Forever has no endpoint. So, I suppose I'm immortal in the sense that I will live until I die." This kind of thoughtful humor is sprinkled throughout an adventure story that will leave you asking for more. And, not to give a spoiler, but Panatier does leave it open further adventures. . . . I would go on another adventure with this crew!

Thanks to NetGalley for the complimentary electronic review copy!

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Fast paced book filled with humour and a lot of bug sex. I mean a LOT. I was just on the verge of being overdone, but author somehow keeps it from overwhelming the plot though personally I'd have preferred it toned down slightly. Still not a big drawback.

Hard to describe parallels to this book as it's 'out there', but in a good way.

Overall a fun read.

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Comedy combined with Science Fiction is rare because it is so hard to do. When it clicks though it is worthwhile as you get some absolute classics such as Red Dwarf or Hitchhiker's. Those are mighty large shoes to try and fill, but Chris Panatier is giving it a go in Stringers, a book that feels like it may be the offspring of Douglas Adam’s classic series of books but remains true to itself with its darker tone. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll read about someone pooping via a tube.

Ben is extremely ordinary in every way apart from one. He somehow has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the sex lives of insects and an impressive recall about watches. The only issue is that he has never researched either of these fields and was born with this knowledge preinstalled into his brain. Ben is what is known as a Stringer, an entity that can recall information from a past life. Stringers are bought and sold on the intergalactic market and Ben has just found himself as the hottest property in space.

As a fan of Hitchhiker’s, I felt an immediate affinity for Stringers as they are both about useless blokes being sent into space with odd objects to confront things they just cannot comprehend. Ben is particularly hapless having drifted through his life so far, his most impressive skill is the ability to make excellent flies for fishing with. On his journey into the unknown comes his best pal Patton, the only human even less capable than Ben. When they face alien technology and entities there bumbling antics are very amusing and a jar of pickles is not going to help.

A parallel story runs alongside Ben’s that eventually combines to become one. This centres on a Stringer hunter and their prisoners. This unlikely group will form an alliance with Ben and Patton to take on a larger threat than their distaste for one another. Panatier has a very wry sense of humour, and this is shown best in the patter between these frenemies, they will work as a team for now, but are not past gutting each other with a spoon if they get the chance.

For a comedy Stringer has a dark heart. Ben is not a happy human and his actions are less about being a hero and more about survival. He does develop as the book progresses and his friendship with Patton is a real highlight. So, when these two are captured at one point, their imprisonment hits even harder, there are some dark chuckles to be had, but between some hard scenes.

Having a comedy element did not stop Panatier from also producing some great hard science fiction concepts. The book is packed with some interesting ideas that the crew must take advantage of to survive. The book is also impressively alien. Too much outer space fiction is all human like aliens walking around. Stringer has many diverse types of races that feel truly alien. It is here that Ben’s intuitive knowledge of insects comes to the fore as he can make parallels between the aliens he meets, and the myriad of insect and animal facts ingrained within.

The use of Ben’s inner voice gives Stringers a distinct style and provides many of the funniest lines. It can aptly call itself a sci fi comedy, but the tone is far darker than you may think. The stakes are high and Panatier has no issues making the reader know this. Both Ben and Patton must go through some troubling times to succeed and not all the crew are guaranteed to make the end of the book. This darkness gives Stringers its distinctive style and makes it quite unlike anything I have read in the past, which is always a refreshing discovery.

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Stringers is a fun, sci-fi adventure novel that reminds me of Russian Doll and Aliens wrapped up in a comedic style adventure that would be perfect for a TV show. It’s episodic in length and has great prose that carries the story forward. Its world-building is a little complex, but you will get the hang of it. Carrying many influences from Micheal Jackson to so many sci-fi references, this novel is a stringer indeed!

The other aspect of this novel is this novel is all about a man who has a fondness for describing how insects have sex with each other and going into very vivid details. It’s also about a man warming his pickles. That’s about as much as I’ll say of it. The story is funny, and man this is what if A Memory Called Peace – which was a great novel, this is what would the parodic version of this would be.

It’s a funny novel, and the novel does have sometimes its fair share of nitpicks – maybe a little bit too much worldbuilding in some areas, some over-detailed explanations in others, maybe a few scenes could have been paced better. But look, to write a novel of this scale requires serious time, effort and a lot of detail. You really need to get this novel now!

I've submitted my amazon review

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A very good read. I highly enjoyed the places this book took me. I'll definitely be on the lookout for more from this author in the future.

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Bug sex, bounty-hunting aliens, and pickles.

It’s blog tour day with Angry Robot and Chris Panatier is back again with an absolutely original novel! If you’ve been following me for a bit, you might remember I’m heavily into fantasy but have a harder time getting into spacey science fiction. That being said, even though I’m not the world’s hugest SF fan, this was a really fun novel.

Panatier brings the humor in Stringers. I mean, who else can make a jar of pickles the star of the show? If you read any review, you WILL see mention of the pickles. Such a little thing that became such an amusing thread throughout the book. I spent a good amount of the novel laughing out loud. I especially loved the banter between Ben and Patton. Their friendship was wholesome, yet went through some trials in this novel.

There was also a streak of seriousness within the novel, especially as Ben is introduced to an addictive substance. We see him go through a shift as he becomes more dependent on it and it takes the book to a new level.

There’s a lot of info about bug sex in this book. A lot. I can just imagine Panatier researching this and it makes me laugh even more.

This book features footnotes, which, I think writers are aware that readers often love or hate footnotes. I’m not usually the biggest fan, but I didn’t mind them here. It added to the mysterious narrative in Ben’s head of bugs and watches.

Stringers is unique, witty, fast-paced, and humorous. Panatier’s books will slap you awake and keep you entertained until the end. I enjoyed it very much and can say that if you’re a big science fiction fan, this book is likely to be one of your favorite books this year!

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Ben Sullivan, the lead protagonist of Stringers, Chris Panatier's new novel, has a wild view of the world. Imagine having a mind that is chockful of useless information, information that has somehow inexplicably been there your whole life. Add in heaping loads of social awkwardness, and you have Ben. His whole life has been full of oppressive details about the mating habits of animals, exotic watches, fly lure creation, and not much else.

We start our story with Ben at work making an exotic and beautiful fly lure, and he is being accosted by a customer Jim. Jim would like "oneuh them boom trains then." Ben reminds Jim that he can have one of them boom trains flys for some cold hard currency. We segway from the current conversation into the mating habit of moles, dolphins, and porcupines. This intrusiveness of thoughts permeates every waking moment for, Ben. His life is one constant battle against animal sex lives, watches, and fly lures.

His desperation is apparent. From a character perspective, I think Panatier did a great job with Ben. Ben is more than his quirks, but his battle with his quirks defines who he is out in the world. From there, we segway to the Ben's Samwise Gamgee, Patton. Patton is a screwup, an often drugged kid in an adult's body who never could grow up. He is also fiercely loyal. We should all be so lucky to have the caliber of friend that Patton is.

Again, in a moment of great desperation and curiosity, Ben finds another person in an online group who has similar issues as he has and decides to meet up with them. Patton fears that Ben will be made into a skin vest or something and demands that he comes along. He is always trying to protect his friend. One thing leads to another, and aliens abduct both Patton and Ben.

Now the real adventure starts.

This story's blurb proclaims it to be a bit like Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, except instead of towels, the friends are armed with a giant container of pickles and whatever wits the two f them can scrape up together. I found this to be very true. Stringers is an amusing story; it wasn't "side stitch" funny but undoubtedly funny enough to see how ridiculous this predicament is.

I also loved how Panatier described space and aliens. It wasn't hard science fiction, but just enough details, especially about what a stringer actually is, to make my science fiction-loving heart happy. And to top it off, Panatier nailed the ending. None of which I can talk about for fear of giving anything away.

All and all, this is one of my favorite science fiction reads so far this year. So much so that I will check out Panatier's The Phlebotomist. I am in for a treat if the writing is anywhere near as fun as this is.

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Chris Panatier is a skilled storyteller, combining a clever premise with appealing heroes. This face-paced adventure is a super fun read from beginning to end with fully realized characters who have senses of humor no matter which corner of the universe they hail from.

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Being a science fiction fan, the landscape of books out there could look fairly similar and synopsis oftentimes doesn’t do the book justice. The books that really shine are the ones that manipulate the root notes of science fiction to create a lush, exciting, engaging, and all around fun composition. Stringers is one of those books.

Stringers was high on my anticipated list after reading Chris Panatier’s debut The Phlebotomist. The first things I read about this book was a mention of space opera, Hitchhikers Guide, a jar of pickles, Becky Chambers, alien bounty hunters, and mating habits of Brazilian bark lice. If that isn’t a collection of wtf items that triggers your ‘must read’ senses then check you pulse.

After i finished reading the book, the thing that surprised me the most was the aspect of the ‘dredge’ – a coffin shaped device used to mind-map shapes into images, and layering of afterimages that reaches past ‘priors’ memories. The creativity and execution of this layer of consciousness, thoughts, reincarnation, and the ‘oblivion fray’ amongst this semi-silly frame really puts this into a deeper read than the goofy-humor the synopsis may lead you to believe.

All in all Stringers is a unique multi-layered space-opera-adventure-romp sprinkled with top-tier self aware humor. A great selection to beat the reading slump and definitely one that will get readers talking.

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Aside from having the brightest covers in the SFF game (check out Panatier's first novel The Phlebotomist as well), Chris Panatier has quickly made a name for himself with quirky, well-researched, abnormal (in the best way) throught-provoking SF. Panatier's characters are vivid and feel genuine to their settings; too often non-humans end up just reading like re-skinned humans, but he's been able to capture and express that other-ness to differentiate amongst his protagonists. Beyond the characters, Panatier has developed and explored a fascinating system of memory and thought that, as a driving force in the universe of Stringers, works both as a plot-driver and as a intriguing thought experiment. He's also not afraid to toss a little humor into his work, both being willing to go weird (bug dongs spot the landscape as footnotes) but also injecting a little meta-humor with a call out to an author friend. It's tricky to combine the strange and unique into a gripping, wonderful SFF story that still retains its humanity, but Chris Panatier's Stringers is a resounding success. Plus, there are pickles.

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