Review: Into the Sounds by Lee Murray

7fb545_b3c01a58a5a2417586f7556466fb3bf1~mv2Continuing the story of Taine McKenna and Jules Asher which started with Into the Mist (winner of the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Novel, 2016), Lee Murray leaves the mist-shrouded Ureweras behind and drops us into one of New Zealand’s most remote and deceptively beautiful regions: Fiordland. Taking leave from the NZDF, McKenna accompanies Asher and a crew of scientists and hunters into the Fiordland Sounds on a Department of Conservation deer-culling mission. What should be a straightforward job rapidly slides into chaos as the team stumble across a high-tech poaching operation, a lost tribe, and larger, darker things lurking beneath the icy waters of the Sounds.

Into the Sounds is a worthy follow-up to Into the Mist, a non-stop adventure which threads together many overlapping aspects of New Zealand’s sometimes ugly history, with a solid dose of credible science fiction, and a critical touch of magic to hold it all together. New Zealand’s grand, sweeping landscapes take on an almost mystical quality as Murray takes us deeper into a part of the country often imagined but rarely explored.

While the bodycount starts racking up in the opening scene and doesn’t slow down, the full cast of characters are well-developed, and we feel for each of them as one disaster after another claims its victims, heroes and villains and strangers alike. The pacing is superb, the writing is clean and uncluttered, and I think this book makes an excellent addition to the series, and to the monster-hunter genre in general.

Readers who are new to the series can pick up Sounds and enjoy it without having read Mist. A third book, Into the Ashes, is slated for release next year from Severed Press, and I’m already looking forward to that.

Disclosure: Lee Murray and I are frequent collaborators, and I was offered a copy of Into the Sounds to read for review purposes. This review is my honest opinion of what is a fantastic, exciting read, and I highly recommend this series to fans of science fiction and monster fiction alike.


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May Update on All The Things

SJV Winner EmblemI thought when I did my last blog post that I had a lot to cover in one go, and I also thought I’d do well to do more frequent posts here to save myself being in this situation again, but here I am. Another bullet point post of all the happenings in my writerly life since February.

  • Hounds of the Underworld won the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Novel 2017 at this year’s Nat Con held in Auckland!! So grateful to everyone who nominated and voted, and especially to my co-writer Lee Murray for being such a powerful force to work with.
  • StokerCon. Wow. What a trip, what an experience. I’ve written a report on it, but have yet to get it out there. Because of All The Things that are also going on. A lot of opportunities came out of StokerCon, including:
  • Raw Dog Screaming Press have picked up the third book in the Path of Ra series, of which Hounds of the Underworld is the first, with the second book, Teeth of the Wolf, due out in September. Lee and I have things in place for Book 3 and are looking forward to writing it.
  • static1.squarespace.comUS independent press Omnium Gatherum have accepted the first two books in my dark-fantasy-yet-madcap series, Children of Bane. The first book, Brothers of the Knife, is currently going through edits and is due for release in September. Book 2, Sons of the Curse, will be out early next year. The series is planned out to 5 books in total, so I have a lot of word count targets in my future!
  • My alternate personality as a podcast narrator continues to burble away, with the production of Joseph Ashley-Smith’s dour, bloody tale Our Last Meal just released on Tales to Terrify, and a further podcast due to drop very soon at Beneath Ceaseless Skies for fellow kiwi spec-fic writer AJ Fitzwater.
  • My short story Riptide, after a long and painful birth, will be appearing in Suspended in Dusk II, due out from Grey Matter Press on July 10th.
  • Another short story of mine, The Silence at the Edge of the Sea, will be published in Cthulu Land of the Long White Cloud from IFWG Publishing in Australia before the end of the year.

And there are things going on the background which I can’t mention,because they’re simply so very exciting that it would possibly break the internet to do so. And that wouldn’t be very fair.

So here’s that list of guest posts and interviews I promised you last time:

With Alan Baxter

With Angela Slatter

With Lee Murray

With Jenni Sands

With Joseph Ashley-Smith at AHWA


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So Much News…

Wow, where on earth has the past half a year gone? I’ve thinking for a while “It’s been a couple of months since I updated my blog” but in fact it was July last year I last posted! Where have I been?

So, how about I just bullet point what’s been going on in the world of Dan Rabarts, dark fiction author, then?

  • Lee Murray and I finished writing Teeth of the Wolf, Book 2 in the Path of Ra series, and have run that through a bevy of beta readers and fired it off to the publisher, who is suitably impressed and excited. That’s a relief;
  • Hounds of the Underworld made it as far as the long list of the Bram Stoker Award nominations for Superior Achievement in a Novel, which was thrilling, and even though it didn’t squeeze onto the shortlist I still get little chills to think we were there on a list of excellent books which included Stephen King himself, if only for a little while;
  • Hounds has also made it onto the shortlist of the Sir Julius Vogel Awards for Best Novel, so fingers crossed on that front too;
  • In less than a week, I’ll be boarding a plane and making the long haul to Providence, Rhode Island, USA, for StokerCon, the annual convention of the Horror Writers Association. It’s going to be a blast. I’m going to be on a bunch of panels, doing a reading from Hounds with Lee Murray, and looking forward to making a whole lot of new connections. Nervous but super excited;


  • The trip to Providence is being kindly propped up by the International Promotional Fund for Literature, a grant adminstered by Creative New Zealand and the Publishers Association of New Zealand. Big thanks to CNZ and PANZ for supporting my venture into promoting both my own work and New Zealand dark fiction into the American market;
  • My Shadows Awards trophy for Tipuna Tapu arrived, thanks to the Australasian Horror Writers Association, and has spent the last month or so at my desk at work freaking out my colleagues, before coming home last night for a very special photoshoot, and it’s first time meeting its brother;


  • I’ve done a bunch of guest blog posts and interviews over the past few months, and I’ll do another post to collect links to all of those together after this one;

So what’s next? Survive StokerCon. In fact, survive travelling through the strange dystopic landscape of the USA. Survive without the family for a week. Plot out the third Path of Ra book. Finish edits on a different novel and get it into the right hands, in the hopes it might find a home. Survive the day job. Keep hurling those ropes at the sun. Cos that’s how we roll.


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Hounds of the Underworld

Hounds-of-the-Underworld-smallLee Murray and I are stoked to announce the release of our first collaborative novel, ‘Hounds of the Underworld’, Book 1 in the Path of Ra series, from Raw Dog Screaming Press. Here’s a little bit about the book, which you can order now from Amazon:

“…a wild and gruesome treat, packed with mystery, action, and dark humor. Horror fans will devour it!” —Jeff Strand, author of Wolf Hunt

On the verge of losing her laboratory, her savings, and all respect for herself, Pandora (Penny) Yee lands her first contract as scientific consult to the police department. And with seventeen murder cases on the go, the surly inspector is happy to leave her to it. Only she’s going to need to get around, and that means her slightly unhinged adopted brother, Matiu, will be doing the driving. But something about the case spooks Matiu, something other than the lack of a body in the congealing pool of blood in the locked room or that odd little bowl.

Matiu doesn’t like anything about this case, from the voices that screamed at him when he touched that bowl, to the way his hateful imaginary friend Makere has come back to torment him, to the fact that the victim seems to be tied up with a man from Matiu’s past, a man who takes pleasure in watching dogs tear each other to pieces for profit and entertainment.

“A dark tech-noir so near to our future,it could be tomorrow, hard-boiled and hair-raising! One of the best speculative fiction novels ever written.”
—Paul Mannering, Engines of Empathy

Hounds of the Underworld blends mystery, near-future noir and horror. Set in New Zealand, it’s the product of a collaboration by two Kiwi authors, one with Chinese heritage and the other Māori. This debut book in The Path of Ra series offers compelling new voices and an exotic perspective on the detective drama.

“Filled with an incredible unity of voice and magnificent world building, Hounds of the Underworld was impossible to put down. I was hooked on the first page.” —Jake Bible, Bram Stoker Award-nominated novelist and author of Z-Burbia, Mega, and Salvage Merc One

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Guest Interview: Victory of Limani

Steel-Blood-Jacket.inddEngaged to protect the Princess Zhinu from subversive elements operating within the Qin Empire, mercenary Victory is accompanying the British trade delegation on the ship Xianfeng. Currently, Victory is the vampire Master of the City of Limani, a neutral city-state between the British and Roman colonies, where she helps maintain order between the human and supernatural populations. The delegation is heading for the Qin colony city of Jiang Yi Yue. En route, we were able to secure a rare interview with her while she kept to quarters during the daylight hours.


Master Victory, which of your roles would you say makes you feel most alive? Mercenary, mediator, or mother?


Alive is an interesting word choice there, isn’t it? I spent the majority of my life as a mercenary, fell into the mediator role when I retired and accepted the mantle of Limani’s Master of the City, and became a mother to a child in need. Through circumstance rather than premediated choice, but I have no regrets there. Certainly, all of those roles have moments that can elicit extreme emotion. But life isn’t just the exciting or dangerous bits. Life is what happens in between. So, I think I’d have to go with hanging out with my family, sharing some drinks and laughs, as the time when I feel most alive. My roles are part of that because they are what led me to this point in my life, to have those experiences.


Since you brought up the subject of family: For those of us who might be unfamiliar, can you tell us something about the relationship between a vampire and her daywalker?


I’d be happy to, since I know the vampires of the Qin priesthood do not traditionally take on daywalkers—at least not the last time I was in the Empire. I’ve heard daywalkers referred to as “human servants,” but I hate that term. While the daywalker gets the benefit of longer life and the vampire gets the benefit of a daytime guardian, which was much more important in ages past, it’s not a one-way street. A daywalker has to be a partner, because the trust goes both ways. And while my partnership with Mikelos has grown out of love, it’s a relationship that needs care and feeding like any other, whether romantic or otherwise.


As someone who’s had numerous life partners in her 800-year life span, what, in your opinion, is more important to a successful relationship, love or trust?


Mikelos is the only daywalker I’ve ever had, but I’ve had mercenary partners, business partners, and romantic partners. Like with Mikelos, love can be part of all of those relationships, but trust is what makes it work. The only time I’ve been married, it fell apart because the trust was never fulfilled on either side, and what love might have been there faded as part of that.


Nature or nurture? Which is more likely to bear out?


I think that very much depends on the person. I never raised my daughter Toria to be a mercenary, but she decided to follow in the family footsteps regardless. All I did was offer her the opportunity to succeed at whatever she chose in life. On the other hand, a vampire progeny I once had was raised in his human life to be an assassin. I thought I’d turn him into the perfect mercenary partner, but he gave it all up to pursue a life in academia.


That said, what qualities, if any, does your daughter Toria show that you recognise from your young self?


Because of the circumstances that led me to becoming a vampire, I actually have no memories of my human life or childhood. That being said, there have been plenty of occasions when I’ve wanted to throw up my hands at my daughter’s hot-headedness only to have my vampire sire make snarky comments about payback being a bitch. Apparently the arrogance of youth is not limited to humans alone.


Just earlier, on deck, we chatted briefly with your daywalker Mikelos Connor, who assures us you have no flaws whatsoever, although as your partner perhaps he’s somewhat biased! Apart from obvious your affection for you partner and your children, what do you consider to be your greatest weaknesses?


The price of functional immortality is learning how to change with the times. But no matter how willing you are to make that change, it still beats against years, decades, even centuries of habit. While I did retire from active mercenary work, this current contract being a rare exception, I certainly fell into the previous roles we spoke of kicking and screaming. I was perhaps the last person in Limani, at the time, to realize that I’d been acting as the Master of the City for years before formally accepting the title.


It’s former Governor Zhuanxu Xian, a weredragn and your former lover, who has summoned his Lady Moon to Jiang Yi Yue, ostensibly to protect the heir to his bloodline from an outside terrorist faction. How do you imagine it will feel to see your former lover again after almost 200 years?


It doesn’t surprise me that journalists would be able to dig up that particular bit of scandal. Victory spends some time looking out the cabin porthole. I’m sorry, this is a difficult topic for me. Even though I just said that I don’t change easily, people do change over time. Perhaps if our love affair had been able to take a more natural course, I’d feel differently. But what we had was a long time ago, and we both had other responsibilities, just as we do now. Seeing him will be nice, but I know the man I loved is long gone, just as the woman he loved is no longer who he might see in his memory.


What are your initial impressions of the other members of the British expedition, who you’ve met during the course of this sea voyage: the seasoned diplomat Lord Benjamin Reynolds, the young Earl Robert Wallace, and the earl’s friend, Sir Guy Olivier? And what are your thoughts on the weredragon, Tan?


I haven’t had much interaction with the British since they closed their borders to vampires a few decades ago, though I regularly interact with the werewolves of Limani. Dinner with Reynolds and the two young men our first night of the voyage was eye-opening, but not in a bad way. More of a “The more things change, they more they stay the same” way. Since then, I’ve had some lovely conversations with Lord Reynolds over drinks, and Earl Wallace and his traveling companion invited me to fence with them the other night. Didn’t seem to mind in the slightest that they were vastly outmatched, which speaks volumes in itself.


Tan was assigned to be Mikelos’ escort on this voyage, and he has done an excellent job making sure that we’re comfortable and have everything we need. He’s also a musician, and has been teaching Mikelos to play a Qin instrument, possibly for the sake of everyone’s ears onboard. I hope we will continue to see more of him once we reach Jiang Yi Yue.


In your view, what are the chances of a trade accord between the Qin and British? I mean, there was that whole business of the Last War, wasn’t there?


I think the time is long past for such an attempt to be made, though I understand that these sorts of things take a new generation of leaders to pursue. The war was a tragedy—wars always are, despite they were how I made my living for a long time—and I hope that a beneficial economic arrangement can be made on all sides. And now you’re hearing my political side coming out! On a personal note, I suppose you can say I have a vested interest in wanting a trade accord to work out, because it might mean more access to Qin goods in Limani. There are definitely some varieties of tea I miss.


The Princess Zhuanxu Zhinu, a daughter of Governor Xian’s weredragon bloodline and distantly related to the Emperor, is expected to marry into one of the four mainland dragon families. This practice seems rather strict, almost barbaric, in this modern era. What do you make of the tradition?


It all boils down to genetics, doesn’t it? I’m sure it seems outrageous to you that not one, but two werewolves were sent on this diplomatic mission, but that’s because the wolves have a much easier time breeding true. I bet you didn’t know that there are female werewolves, did you? Victory waits politely until my assistant’s gasp of shock passes. You might think it’s out-dated, but if Lady Zhinu has been identified as a carrier for the weredragon traits, she’ll need to marry carefully in order to assure the continuation of her family line. There’s a cost to the privilege of nobility, after all.


Courtly manners or political etiquette: which do you deem trickier?


Neither, please. But if I had to choose, definitely political etiquette. At least in politics you can occasionally say what you really mean.


Blood: fresh or chilled?


That sounds a bit like asking someone how they take their steak when they’re ordering, doesn’t it? I appreciate the offer, but I assure you that my dietary needs are being seen to on this voyage. When Victory smiles this time, she displays a set of sharp fangs.


[Jumps up and backs away quickly]. Um, it seems that last question might had been a tad impertinent. My sincere apologies, Master Victory. If you’ll excuse us, perhaps it’s best if we retire to our quarters for the rest of the voyage. We wish you the very best for your latest contract, your partner’s success at the concert, and the diplomatic mission. [Flees the cabin].


About the book:


As her children begin lives of their own, Victory struggles with the loneliness of an empty nest. Just when the city of Limani could not seem smaller, an old friend requests that she come out of retirement for one final mercenary contract—to bodyguard his granddaughter, a princess of the Qin Empire.


For the first time in a century, the Qin and British Empires are reopening diplomatic relations. Alongside the British delegation, Victory and her daywalker Mikelos arrive in the Qin colony city of Jiang Yi Yue. As the Qin weredragons and British werewolves take careful steps toward a lasting peace between their people, a connection between the Qin princess and a British nobleman throw everyone’s plans in disarray.


Meanwhile, a third faction stalks the city under the cover of darkness.


This is not a typical romance. It’s a good thing Victory is not a typical vampire.


Buy links:

Barnes & Noble:
From the publisher:


Gribble photo colorAbout the author:


By day, J. L. Gribble is a professional medical editor. By night, she does freelance fiction editing in all genres, along with reading, playing video games, and occasionally even writing. She is currently working on the Steel Empires series for Dog Star Books, the science-fiction/adventure imprint of Raw Dog Screaming Press. Previously, she was an editor for the Far Worlds anthology.


Gribble studied English at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. She received her Master’s degree in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, where her debut novel Steel Victory was her thesis for the program.


She lives in Ellicott City, Maryland, with her husband and three vocal Siamese cats. Find her online (, on Facebook (, and on Twitter and Instagram (@hannaedits).


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Cons, Awards & Interviews

IMG_2210Queens Birthday Weekend 2017 saw me and the family making a road trip to Taupo, so I could attend LexiCon, New Zealand’s SFF Natcon which I had had a part in bringing about. Despite some fairly heavy personal goings-on, I managed to have a fun, productive time at the Con, helping keep things ticking over, catching up with old friends, making new ones, too many good people to even try and start naming here for fear of forgetting someone, and all that good stuff.

Sunday night also saw the SJV Awards, and I’m stoked to have jointly won another pointy trophy for Best Collected Work for At The Edge. Our humble little antho also took the SJVs for Best Professional Artwork for the cover art, and Best Short Story, for AJ Fitzwater’s stunning apocalyptic tale of disintegrating identity, Splintr. My partner in darkness, Lee Murray, also took away the Best Novel category for her sphenodon-horror Into the Mist, as well as recognition for all her hard work in the form of the SJV for Services to Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror. Congrats Lee, AJ, and all the other winners, including Octavia Cade who won the SJV for Best Novella which I was also in the running for. Couldn’t hope to lose to a nicer person.

IMG_2272Hot on the heels of what felt like a sweep of the Awards, the AHWA’s Greg Chapman hunted us down for an interview, which we were more than willing to provide. Because we do like getting ourselves some interview-type attention, us writers. You can read that over on the AHWA site.

But that’s not all my weekend was about. Over the month leading up to this, my paternal grandmother had been in a state of serious decline in her health, and we had been making the trek from Wellington to Hamilton to spend some time with her for the previous weekends, as well as slipping in some time during and after LexiCon. We drove home on Tuesday, and got word on Wednesday morning that she had passed away in the night. After a weekend of amazing positivity and inspiration, I was already on a good wave for making positive changes and getting things done, and while the passing of a loved one always has the potential to break one’s spirit, my Nana shuffling off her coil has served to remind me that life is short, utterly finite. This on the back of my mother recently having medical issues which saw me travelling to Australia to spend time with her and support her, and a growing sense over the past twelve months or more that I’ve been slightly overwhelmed by life, work and everything. Driving back and forth up and down our beautiful country, shimmering in its autumn glory, also gave me lots of time to actually sit and talk with my better half, something we don’t seem to get much opportunity to do in this frantic world we live in.

And it all comes crashing down home, how we only have so much time on this earth with the ones we love, and how we should always be striving for the things that make us want to be alive; the things that make us glow with passion. I haven’t been doing that a lot over the past couple of years, despite what it looks like. Many things have been getting me down and it sometimes takes a kick in the guts to get me to admit to that. So I’ll be making a few changes in the coming months. Without being financially irresponsible, I’ll be turning my attention to applying even more of my “spare time” (yes, I say that with a sad little cough and a laugh that verges on tears) to writing projects with a sound business model behind them. A determination to keep driving this thing I’ve got going on with words on the page and whip it until I can stand on its back like some demented beastmaster, thrashing sentences to do my bidding.

So yeah, some things will be changing. Because change is thrilling, and beats the snot out of slowly suffocating on the blood of your own paralysis.

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2017 SJV Finalists Announced

smBack-v5The Sir Julius Vogel Award Finalists for 2017 have been announced, and it’s a fantastic line-up of top quality people and works.

I’m excited to see my partner in darkness, Lee Murray, is in the running for Best Novel with her Taine McKenna adventure, Into the Mist, and also to see her many contributions to the writing and fan community recognised with her being up for the Services to Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror category. Lee pours a huge amount of time and effort into promoting Kiwi speculative fiction and supporting writers and writing organisations. Congratulations and best of luck, Lee!

For my part, I’m excited to have two novellas competing in this category, a format which is becoming increasingly popular and harder-contested with changes in the publishing world. My two finalist works are Spindle, a dark SF story published in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, and the Australian Shadows Paul Haines Long Fiction Award-winning Tipuna Tapu.

Also, At The Edge (Paper Road Press, 2016), co-edited with Lee Murray, is up for Best Collected Work, and several of the stories from the anthology are also up for Best Short Story. Congratulations to AJ Fitzwater, Eileen Mueller, Alicia Ponder and Michelle Child for their contributions!

So, fingers crossed, and best of luck to all the finalists!

To vote in the SJVs, you need to either be a member of SFFANZ, or a paid member of LexiCon, this year’s Science Fiction and Fantasy National Convention. Eligible voters will be able to download a voters pack including the majority of the finalist works.


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Children of the Tide on Tales to Terrify

TTT-15-COVER2-500x647My story Children of the Tide, which won the 2013 Melbourne Zombie Con Short Story Competition and was originally published on the Midnight Echo website, has found a new home on the Tales to Terrify podcast, episode 272.

The story has been wonderfully narrated by Matt Dovey. Matt is a writer of fantasy & science-fiction, a Golden Pen winner for WotF32 and was shortlisted for the James White Award 2016. He is very tall and very English and is probably drinking a cup of tea right now.

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Tipuna Tapu wins the Paul Haines Award for Long Fiction

Tipuna Tapu artIn 2015, I was invited to write an adventure story for the anthology And Then…The Great Big Book of Awesome Adventure Stories. The publisher was keen to have a New Zealand story in this Australian collection, and I was stoked to be asked. I’d had a story idea batting around for a while, but I knew the scope of it was too long for a short story, and I wasn’t ready to commit to a new novel at that time (I was working on the first draft of what would become Hounds of the Underworld with Lee Murray at the time). So when the brief came through for a novella length tale, I knew that this was the right time to wrestle with the monsters trying to get loose in this tale. Get them out of my head and safely onto the page.

Well, that story got written, got called Tipuna Tapu, it got accepted and published, and then it made it onto the shortlist for the Australian Shadows Awards in the Paul Haines Award for Long Fiction category. And today, one day shy of my 40th birthday, it won that award.

Colour me in shades of stunned mullet. I poured a lot into this story, as I do with all my stories, but this one, as it delved into some pretty dark areas, got extra special attention. I never sat down to write it thinking about awards. I just wanted a well-paced adventure story, with some depth and maybe a little bit of taking a knife to the thin veneer of our humanity and peeling it back, looking at what lies beneath, how our fears keep the flesh clinging to our bones. How our cultures might define who we are, but when those cultures clash, we might find fire and violence, or we might find… something more. Something cold that tastes like drowning, or something bright, warm, and terrifying.

Anyway, it’s an honour to be recognised for this award. I love the works of Paul Haines, which if you haven’t checked out I would strongly recommend if you like your fiction dark and seething and scored with bloody lines of raw humanity. He was also a kiwi writer, so I’m excited to have won this award for New Zealand.

You can find And Then… Volume 1 here.

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New Diane Awerbuck Narration live at Tales to Terrify

diane_awerbuckOver the past couple of years, I’ve been quite privileged to be the first port of call for narrations on the Tales to Terrify podcast that require an Antipodean voice, which has meant that just recently I’ve been reading stories by one of my new favourite authors, South African writer Diane Awerbuck. Awerbuck has a dark, understated style that draws out the horror just below the surface of our reality, from a uniquely South African perspective. I’ve really enjoyed reading and narrating her work, the first of which is now live at the podcast, with another due to drop in a few weeks.

You can listen to my reading of Duiweltjie (Day-vil-kay), free as always, on Tales to Terrify.

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