Cover Image: Backpacking through Bedlam

Backpacking through Bedlam

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I was excited to read Backpacking through Bedlam as a long-time fan of the series, but I do not think someone who hasn’t read the previous inCryptid books would be able to fully appreciate the character dyamnics and even the world that has been built out through the previous eleven novels. Some series can be read as standalones, at this point on the series I don’t believe inCryptid is one of them. The cover of the book is great, I can’t tell whether it is referencing a specific moment in the book or not, but the characters look accurate and it captures the tone of the novel well.

I really like Alice as a character, and was glad that her finding Thomas (which was basically narratively unavoidable) wasn't stretched out over her entire arc as the protagonist. Despite that, I still found the pacing of this book a little odd. The previous book ended with them making it home, only to have to duck back out to resettle the refugees Thomas had assumed responsibility for. While it was interesting to see them visit the same planet and civilisation that Sarah and co visited in Calculated Risks, it seemed like an odd choice unless said setting will become relevant in future novels, perhaps focussing on Artie or Elsie (I would love to read more about Elsie, although Arnie could certainly have an interesting point of view also). There was also a time jump to explain more backstory of Alice finding her way off-world which, while necessary, also affected the immediacy of the plot a little.

The pacing does pick up eventually, and Alice and co find their way to New York. I enjoyed the way Alice interacts with the ghosts in the family as opposed to the younger family members who never knew them as humans. It's a fascinating layer to this multi-generational story, and I hope we learn more about Alice's father and childhood in future books. Fran and Jane also deserve more novel presence, at this point, Fran is largely mentioned in the short stories. I was glad that in this book Alice truly begins to feel the effects of the strain she placed on all of her relationships in her pursuit of Thomas. In fact, while I was glad that Thomas and Alice’s relationship didn’t get magically fixed the second they returned home and slept together, I thought their disagreements were a bit repetitive and lacking the emotional weight I would assume they would hold, though this can perhaps be attributed to the emotional fatigue both Thomas and Alice would be experiencing at this time.

I appreciated the way Sally's integration into the family was (realistically) strained at times, while never approaching a cliched younger woman-jealous wife dynamic. Alice is a grandmother, with the emotional maturity to match, and I loved seeing Sally try to deal with being adopted by a woman with extreme luck, severe abandonment issues, and a varied assortment of guns and other weapons. While we're on the topic, Sally is a great character, I enjoyed the details of her past and personality that was revealed in this book, and I can't wait for her and James to reunite, or for her clergy to form.

The continuing dragon storyline in this series is one I have always enjoyed, and can only hope that the potential expansion of the prices from not just conservation to a potential matchmaking-facilitation for endangered species is a fascinating one, with some truly unique ethical dilemmas to be encountered.

I wish more was shown about Thomas in this book, and I was surprised at the lack of pushing he did to reunite with his children. I understand there were pressing matters at hand, but I'd like to see an explanation for this in upcoming books. Perhaps history or nerves, although his response when meeting Verity could perhaps partially explain it. After his absence, he doesn't expect to be welcomed instantaneously onto his family's life, and instead waits to be invited. Seeing Thomas and Dominic interact was a delight I had not expected, and I'd love to see Thomas interact with the extended family (but especially his children) in future inCryptid novels. On the topic of unexpected delights, Istas was a fantastic addition to this book, and had some of my favourite lines of the book.

The plot of this book, while as I mentioned oddly paced, was gripping and will have ramifications into future books. The reliance on Healy luck slightly strained belief, but has been set up strongly enough on previous books, with both positive and negative effects for the bearers of said luck, to not fully ruin the emersion in the plot. Without spoiling anything, I also have to mention how much I appreciate badass Sarah making an appearance in this book. Her character development was slow and believable, and now she has reached her full, X-Men style power, and it is great.

All in all, Backpacking through Bedlam was a solid instalment in the series, though as with most books this deep in a series it should not be read as a standalone. I'd recommend this book to people who have read the previous 11 books, but also to fans of the Raine Benares series by Lisa Shearin, the Allie Beckstrom series by Devon Monk, or the Hollows series by Kim Harrison.

Bonus Mini Review: The Mysteries of the Stolen God and Where His Waffles Went

I liked the glimpse into James’s life as a Price, and the maturing of his relationship with the Prices, and also Antimony’s relationship with Sam. This novella hinted at the family drama to ensue once Thomas and Alice truly return to the fold, and it allowed for a truly fascinating exploration of Aeslin mice. It also helped fill the gaps between James’s adoption and his (presumably imminent) reunion with Sally. I was glad that the domestic abuse mentioned in this novella was treated with the gravity it deserved, the Aeslin mice may seem like a childlike, Disney-ish element to the series, but as always with Seanan McGuire’s works, the more fantastic elements are used to explore unexpectedly serious themes. All in all, this was a cute story, which solidly leads into the presumed events of the next book in the series.

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3.75/5 stars! This book is for a very specific reader. Readers that enjoy science fantasy and out there epic fantasy will likely devour this book and enjoy the entire series. As a lover of fantasy, I mostly enjoyed this story. I hadn't read the rest of the series, but the author did a good job of re-emphasizing the facts enough that I didn't feel lost. My concern with this story is that it didn't give me anything new or unexpected. Would read more of this series.

I received an advance review copy for free through NetGalley, and I am leaving this review voluntarily

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Backpacking Through Bedlam by Seanan McGuire

Now this is the book I have been waiting for since the end of book 5!!! This is a “shut up and take my money!” novel.

I am a HUGe fan of Seanan McGuire’s books - she is one of my favorite authors, hands down, and for good reason -she consistently writes numerous excellent, honest, and fun books every year. I was thrilled when DAW and NetGalley gave me an eARC of her newest Incryptid novel, Backpacking Through Bedlam which is the 12th novel in the series. Finally Alice and Thomas make it home and have to deal with Verity’s declaration of war from the end of book 5.

(To recap, the Incryptid series involves a family of cryptozoologists that work to protect the natural diversity of the hidden world. Every few books, the point of view narrator shifts to another member of the same family, which has the added benefit of keeping the series fresh and invigorated.)

The beginning of the book felt a bit slow to me - mainly because I was tired of dimension hopping and just wanted to get back to Earth to move that plot along. And move along it did! Things resolved, almost too quickly for my tastes - I wish the book had spent more time, or even a whole other book, on the dealings with the Covenant in New York and everything with the dragons. I also wish that we had gotten to spend more time with more family members. I particularly want to see how Artie is doing.

The bonus novella was also fantastic - it gave me more of what I wanted in terms of family drama. More importantly, it gave me much more insight than ever before in the internal workings of Aeslin society and I would adore an entire book from their POV.

My only complaint is I have to wait a whole other year to find out what happens next!!! This book is a must buy. Thanks to DAW and NetGalley for an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

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A direct sequel to Spelunking Through Hell, has them finding a world for the refugees of the bottle world they were trapped in to settle and then get Thomas, Alice and Sally back to Earth. In typical fashion things never give them a break and they are sent to New York by the Queen of the Routewitches to deal with something that must be taken care of now. The novella at the end is a great payoff for fans of the mice. I enjoyed learning more about them and the event that caused a mouse to join the worship of the newest of the family gods.

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"Backpacking through Bedlam" is another strong chapter in the InCryptid universe. McGuire is realistic about the circumstances she puts her characters into, and no matter what, she holds true to what makes sense for both the characters and the story.

"Backpacking" doesn't exactly tie up the story, but it does have a feel of bringing things full circle. McGuire shows real skill in her plotting and characterization. Character decisions make sense and the ending is satisfying but leaves you wanting more.

Again, don't start with this one, start with "Discount Armageddon" and enjoy your adventures with the Price clan!

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Thanks to Netgalley for an ARC of this book, in exchange for a fair and honest review.

I've read and enjoyed every book in the InCryptid series, and this was no exception. This, though was one of my favorites. I have particularly enjoyed the more recent books in the series, in which we depart from the straightforward good guys v. Covenant plots, and delve more into the other things involving the Price family, and giving us the stories of the other characters.

In this book, following up on the previous book which follows Alice Price's attempts for 50 years to find her husband Thomas after the crossroads took him, they finally make it home - but of course the action is not settled, and the grandparents are now callled upon to help deal with the Covenant! It's a fun book filled with action, with several of the familiar characters involved in the action, and with more back story about Alice's history - and why her daughter, in particular, hates her.

Alice's story is more complicated than those of many of the characters, and, if you choose to move beyond the action and the story, raises some interesting questions about life decisions. Well worth reading and thinking about - and I can see a lot of plot complications for further books involving Alice and Thomas!

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It was okay. I hadn't read any other books in the series, so I didn't know all the characters, and maybe missed some nuance and meaning. I wasn't a huge fan of the main character and her family, maybe because I haven't read the other books, and don't have the background on them, and maybe because they came off as a bit self righteous to me. I never found a hook that would pull me in. I very much enjoyed the mice, however. Religious mice who create ritual and scripture from the life of the human they've chosen is interesting and fun.

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Alice and Thomas are back! But how does Happily-Ever-After work when you're a sorcerer and a famously stubborn Price who have been separated by the Crossroads for 50 years and you still need to work together to get 100+ dimensional refugees to a safe place before you can breathe easy? Not to mention the ongoing war with the Covenant back on earth. Things are complicated. Good - great even - but very complicated.

With Alice and Thomas starting to unpack 50 years of baggage amidst more chaos (because we wouldn't want them getting too comfy or anything), we get a good amount of Alice's internal dialogue this book. One of the things I really love about the InCryptid books is how matter-of-fact and real the relationships are. While everyone is dimension-hopping and figuring out how to save people, protect cryptids and keep the Covenant at bay, they are also having very real, human moments. Jealousy, frustration, loyalty, love, worry and joy. I legitimately enjoy when one of the characters quickly talks themselves through a difficult internal feeling, and we get some really great moments like that in Backpacking through Bedlam.

I'm also learning that long series arcs are one of McGuire's real strengths. Both this series and the October Daye series are at points where some BIG stuff is happening and I love the way she's built them up and things are starting to play out. It really is wonderful when you, as a reader, can trust an author to take you on a long journey, and to do it well. This series has great payoff so far, and there are definitely hints of longer threads still in the works that I can't wait to see through.

Last note, the novella at the end is especially lovely if you, like me, are a fan of the Aeslin mice. We get some more behind-the-scenes glimpses into their lives and social structures, and it was just delightful.

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Thoroughly enjoyed this latest book in the series. I can't wait to see what happens next and hopefully revisit some previous characters.

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This is the twelfth book in the series, and it falls into the pitfalls that books of this pedigree often do.

The first third is spent as an epilogue to the previous book.
The next third is spent having characters bump around and reunite with other beloved characters that they haven't seen for a little while.
Then the book seems to jostle itself awake, and realize that it's supposed to have a plot or something. It produces Something.
And hints at a big showdown that might be in the next book. End. Curtain.

I haven't read any of the previous books of the series, and even I was bored of rehashing the same conversations over and over by the end.
Husband is worried about safety of wife. Family is big and blended. Danger danger, trauma something. Trust is important because family is important and also past betrayals still sting. Husband is worried about wife. Wife is obsessively worried about husband, and hurt that he is worried and doesn't trust her. Family is big and complicated. Organized religion is bad, unless you are a comic relief mouse worshipping the protagonist. They aren't in the loop with modern life (laugh). Danger danger. Spouses are worried and clingy.

Thanks to Netgalley and DAW for a copy of this book to review. All opinions are my own.

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In this latest installment in the InCryptid series, Alice and her long-missing husband Thomas are finally reunited. But a reunion after fifty years apart is a lot harder than Alice ever bargained for, and they’re not quite the same people they used to be. And on top of that, the family they’re coming back to is at war with the Covenant, so there’s not a lot of time to slow down and talk things out.

I’m not really sure what to say about this one other than I loved it. This series just gets better and better. I’m glad we returned to Alice’s POV – and I hope we get one more from her, too, in which she and Thomas and their family have a proper reunion, for better or worse. There’s a lot that needs to be hashed out there.

Representation: LGBTQ characters, POC characters

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I was sent an ARC of this book from the publisher for review. I was thrilled because I love this series. The premise is that there is a family who has been protecting cryptids in North America for generations. They broke away from a group in England who started out hunting dragons. Now that group from England has realized that these rogue members who they presumed were dead are alive and well and working against them.

It is always hard to review a series book because so much depends on knowing what comes before. That is especially true in this book. This isn’t a series that you can just pick up in the middle. I would absolutely recommend going back and starting this series at the beginning though. It is one of my absolute favorites. This is one of my auto-read series.

This book doesn’t disappoint. One of the recurring storylines in the background of the series is that there is a grandma who has been traveling through dimensions looking for her missing husband. For some reason she hasn’t been aging. It has been something that is just mentioned almost as a running gag through ten books. Then Seanan McGuire told her story starting in the last book and made it poignant. Alice found her husband and now they are trying to come home and restart their life together. Of course it can’t be that easy.

When your life goal is suddenly met – then what?
What is your purpose now?
How do you live with a person who is very different from the man who disappeared fifty years ago?
Can you reconcile with the family that you walked out on?
What if they don’t want anything to do with you?
Mix that all up with witches and dimensional jumping and dragons and you get an idea of this book. If you’ve been reading the InCryptid series you are going to love seeing Alice trying to fit back into life on Earth. If you haven’t started yet, it is time to pick it up.
Review will appear on on Dec 20, 2022

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Seanan McGuire continues her awesome InCryptid series with Backpacking through Bedlam which immediately follows Spelunking through Hell. New places and old are visited as refugees are found homes before Alice and Thomas (with Sally) can return to their home. Once back on earth their homecoming is interrupted by Covenant problems that need prompt resolution. Alice and Thomas travel to New York to help Verity and the crytids, and Sally (whose own clergy branch has already started) also goes along. More excitement ensues as they travel toward a hopefully more settled if not more peaceful future. The novella at the end, “Where His Waffles Went,” about the mice and James with most of the rest of the family, is the best cheese and cake ever!
Highly recommend not only this book, but the entire series.

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This is a pretty calm book, which is nice if you want some light afternoon reading--not as nice if you're in the mood for lots of action and suspense. I'd call it Medium Angst--there's some interpersonal conflict going on and more combative conflict, but it's a little more low stakes than previous books.

There are kind of three sections to this book: other dimensions, Michigan, New York. All had their highlights, but they were all kind of slow paced.

I did really enjoy seeing Alice and Thomas together again at last, but this isn't my favorite installment in the series.

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I would like to be adopted into the Price family immediately. They’re awesome and I love to read the latest. Glad we’re looping back to see how it all started.

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Backpacking Through Bedlam is the 12th main-series novel in Seanan McGuire's InCryptid series, her urban fantasy series following a family, the Price/Healy family who tries to protect cryptids - sentient and non-sentient species whose existence isn't believe by science and who are hunted by human-centric killers. This is also the second novel to feature as its protagonist Alice Price-Healy, grandmother of some of the first few protagonists, after last year's Spelunking Through Hell.* I'm a huge fan of this series, and am a big fan of Alice as a character from earlier short stories and features, so I basically read this book in one day the moment I got it through NetGalley, despite having older stuff on my TBR that I needed to read first.

*I'd noted in my review of that book that Alice's present-day story appeared to be a one-book arc - this was apparently incorrect, so here we are with book 2.*

And well Backpacking Through Bedlam is still enjoyable InCryptid, as it combines the fight against the Cryptid-hunting Covenant of St. George with Alice's difficulty reuniting with Thomas and figuring out how to act after 50 years apart. The character beats between Alice, Thomas, and Sally are very good, and the bonus story at the end does the same with James Price as it deals with the impact of last book's epilogue. Still, this doesn't quite reach the heights of the series as it trods some well-traveled ground in its plotting, as the book again features Alice joining Verity in New York City to hunt the Covenant, and while I enjoy the return of some of Verity's supporting cast, this series is always best when we meet new Cryptids and their communities, which isn't really the case here. But that familiar setting works to ground the character development, which is topnotch, and Alice is delightfully violent and fun, and it all mainly works.

----------------------------------------------Plot Summary-------------------------------------------------
After fifty years, Alice has done it - she has found Thomas, her one true love, and rescued him from a bottle dimension with seemingly no exit. It cost her almost everything - the friend in Uncle Naga she thought she really had but who was really just exploiting her, her relationship with her two children - especially Jane, who hates her for abandonment - and a normal life in time, aging along with the rest of the Earth. But finding Thomas should have made it worth it, right?

But to Alice and Thomas' discomfort, in the fifty years of their separation, the two of them both have habits, tendencies and bits of their character that are unfamiliar to one another, with Thomas being seemingly more understood by his essentialy adopted daughter Sally. Alice can't help but feel pangs of jealousy about all this, and is desperate to find the time the two of them can stay together in peace to reconnect in the ways they once had.

Yet even after Alice, Thomas, and Sally rehome their refugees from the bottle dimension and return to Buckley, the three of them barely have time to get any rest - for the Covenant is waging almost open war on North America thanks to their family, and both the Cryptids and Gods of North America demand that Alice and Thomas do something about it. And so they find themselves heading to New York City, where 3, maybe 4 Covenant Strike Teams are hunting the Cryptids protected and looked after by Verity, and who would do anything to hunt down and kill members of the Price Family.

To survive and win, Alice, Thomas and Sally will need to find a way to work together, and to understand one another in the ways Alice and Thomas once thought they did prior to their separation....or else their return to our world alive will be cut deadly short......
Backpacking through Bedlam continues the story of Alice from the last book, which seemingly ended on a happy conclusive ending - Alice having rescued Thomas, with them bringing back Sally as well and planning on staying home once they returned the refugees to their various worlds, with them able now to reunite with the family Thomas was separated from and Alice estranged herself from essentially in her mad quest for Thomas. I certainly thought it was a one and done novel (although prior story arcs like Verity's and Alex's had first novels that were also self contained with happy endings, so I probably should've expected this).

But McGuire does something smart here, and recognizes that the relationship between Alice and Thomas can't simply resume as it was after their 50 years. During that time Alice drove herself mad in searching for Thomas, Recklessly throwing her body at enemy threats; meanwhile Thomas found himself the leader of refugees and essentially a surrogate father to Sally, who knows Thomas as he is now honestly better than Alice does. The two of them still love each other, but they aren't the same people anymore and their connections will take time to rebuild, something that Alice struggles with...especially as she both sees the connection that Sally has with Thomas that Alice doesn't have anymore and is a little jealous and Thomas makes errors in speaking to her by asking her to be careful, words he should know she absolutely hates, even if they're well meaning. And of course, even though we never see Thomas' perspective here, we can see how Thomas is fearful and afraid of how Alice will throw herself still recklessly into things and not recognize that she needs to protect herself and possibly others now that she has things once more to protect.

And so Backpacking through Bedlam works really well as it explores these issues through a plot that throws Alice, Sally, and Thomas back into the meat of things in the series - the family's struggle against the Covenant as it wages war on the Cryptids of North America. The story returns us to Manhattan eventually, where we see a bunch of Verity's side characters, and the resulting war - think book 2 but on a much higher level as there are now 20 Covenant agents instead of 3 - is a lot more dangerous and threatening. And McGuire makes this plot compelling as she weaves in the old characters with Alice's crew of her Thomas and Sally, deals with Sally and Thomas' return to the modern world (its own issue, which Alice is not the right person to help them deal with), and of course has some new fun with the Mice. This is a very series myth-arc intensive plot, and it works to that extent.

That said, Backpacking through Bedlam also feels in many ways like kind of a retread in where the plot winds up going. As I've stated in prior InCryptid reviews before, the best books in these series feature new side characters, new Cryptids with new quirks of biology, and new interactions. Here, the first third takes a quick detour to a dimension last seen in Sarah's arc before the final half of the book takes place in Verity's old hauntings in New York City, with Verity's supporting cast in tow. I like that supporting cast, but it's nothing new, and them dealing with covenant hunters is also something very done before, so it does kind of feel like we're replaying greatest hits a bit, even as Alice's character arc is still really good alongside those greatest hits to prevent this book from ever being a disappointment. I WILL add that this book does a FAR better job than Verity's books at actually making its portrayal of New York City feel like it is New York City - Verity's books felt like they almost could just be a generic city, whereas here we actually have the subways and aspects of the City that are unique to New York and I really appreciated that.

All in all the main story of Backpacking through Bedlam is really well done as it shows Alice & Thomas' character arcs continuing in ways that really work. And I should add that the novel's bonus novella, "The Mysteries of the Stolen God and Where His Waffles Went" is really great, with similar character development for both James Price (in light of Sally's return in last book's epilogue) and a few Aeslin Mice characters, who are just a lot of fun and are really interesting in their society. Definitely value added there and highly recommended for fans of this series.

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How are we already at Incryptid #12???
Backpacking through Bedlam follows Alice Healy-Price (again), now that she has found and been reunited with her lost husband and escaped the pocket dimension that the Crossroads sent him to. [It helps, of course, that the crossroads were destroyed by Antimony a few books ago]. Alice and Thomas are searching for a place where the people Thomas was protecting can find homes and be safe before they return home to our dimension and the ongoing fight with the Covenant.

While I did enjoy this book (and I have yet to find something written by Seanan McGuire that I don't enjoy), this book felt a little bit like a middle book. So much about this novel is predicated on knowing what has happened prior; McGuire does an incredible job of reminding us of what happened and providing context, but 12 books in and a LOT has happened. I loved getting more information about the family dynamic, and the bonus short story focused on James was such a great read. I also enjoyed getting a little more context and development of where we are, narratively speaking, in terms of the war with the Covenant, especially now that Antimony is back, Sarah is back (although what's going on with Artie???) and there is a new generation starting. This book definitely feels like a set up for a BIG showdown, so I am 100% waiting to see what happens next. 3.5/5 stars (rounded up because I love the series overall!)

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All I can say of Seanan McGuire's Cryptid series is keep them coming! Each one telling more of the Price family history is better than the last and Backpacking Through Bedlam is no exception.

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Backpacking through Bedlam hands down is an excellent addition to the Incryptids series. The world building is so vivid and real and the characters are so well defined. You literally feel transported into the story. I am so incredibly excited to see Alice she Thomas finally reunite in this book. I love that it realistically displays both the joys and issues of such a long separation and how that will affect not only their relationship as a couple but affect everyone in their life and entire family as they have to adjust to this new altered c state of dynamics with someone that most either never knew, were tiny children or mistrust his identity m. So well done and the book itself while exploring this still brings all the high jinx and action we love and expect in the Incryptid series. I highly recommend reading it!

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If you’re like me and you read Seanan’s books because you love complex characters with complicated lives, this latest installment is going to thrill you! It’s a rollercoaster of love, anger, and living with the consequences of choices - your own and those whose lives touch yours.

Lots of backstory about Thomas and Alice, who I’ve ended up caring about far more than I thought I would. The magic of Seanan and her characters who demand your heart. Lots of excitement with the battles with the Covenant which feel like they’re building toward something enormous.

Definitely not an entry point but do yourself a favor, if you haven’t read an InCryptid book, start at the beginning - they’re amazing.

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