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Walking to Aldebaran

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This is the first work I’ve read by the Arthur C Clarke winning Adrian Tchaikovsky. It’s a novella told in the first person about a trip to explore a strange alien artefact that has been detected from Earth. A motley bunch of crew members, chosen largely along political lines, has been chosen to explore this strangely behaving ‘thing.’

It’s not too much of a spoiler to say that things don’t go too well. Our protagonist is Gary Rendell, and we meet him in the crypt-like surroundings of the body, seemingly alone, apart from lots of similarly lost alien species.

The tale is laced with dark and dry humour throughout, and you really don’t know where things are going. Indeed, it’s not easy to see exactly what’s going on. The alien world doesn’t seem to conform to any understandable physics.

It’s a fun read, although at times I thought it could get to its point even quicker. I’ll definitely go and try some of his works, probably starting with Children of Time.

Thanks to Solaris and Netgalley for the ARC.
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A short book (more novella than novel) about exploration, the unknown, first contact(s), and horrors lurking in the darkness.

The narrator, Gary Rendell, is an astronaut who got separated from his crew while exploring an odd artefact/construct he has nicknamed “the Crypts”, at the edge of the solar system, and suspected to be a gate to other parts of the galaxy. Gary’s narrative is disturbingly humorous, which in itself was not surprising to me, as a “buffer against madness” attempt at coping. Because the Crypts will eat you alive if you’re not careful, walking from one “biome” to the other, every time wondering if the air will be breathable, or if his body will be able to tolerate a new gravity, or if some other wanderer will decide to make him their dinner. And Gary is definitely not alone in there.

The story is told in chapters alternating present and past: Rendell’s roaming in the Crypts and what led him and the exploration team there. Both worked well for me, and were never too hard to follow or confusing. The science/technology part is not really explored here—it’s assumed that in the not-too-distant future, when the artefact was discovered, humanity is space-savvy enough to send a crew in semi-suspended animation past Neptune. And in itself, the “how” is not the point here, just the method by which the actual point is reached.

There are disturbing little hints here and there, that you don’t necessarily pay attention to at first. Rendell has been in there for days or weeks or months, and somehow you want him to find the exit, while knowing all too well it probably won’t happen, or not like a breeze. There are the names, too: the Frog God, Aldebaran? Brush up on your Lovecraft and you’ll see what I mean. There is a twist as well, and the aforementioned hints may or may not be enough to sense it coming, but once it’s here, you can’t unsee them, so to speak.

I’m just not too happy at the last chapter: I felt something was missing—that perhaps Gary should’ve gotten slightly less screen time here, so that we could also see what happened from the other party’s point of view? I’m not sure exactly, only that it didn’t thrill me as much as the rest of the book.

This said, I definitely recommend this novella.

Bonus: A fairly good soundtrack for this novella would be "The Little Cloud Who Wouldn't And The Rainbow Who Couldn't" by Ugress… Lyrics included.
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I enjoy books by this author and the description had me intrigued, well I enjoyed it I wasn't necessarily a huge fan of the ending partially because it was predictable and it seems Loosely tied up as the end
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Rating: 3.5 stars 

I was intrigued by this story because of its setting: space! I love sci-fi and fantasy books, and I have recently been bingeing on stories in that genre. So when I saw that a boy was all alone on an alien planet in the outer reaches of known space, I didn’t hesitate in requesting the novel. Not to mention it’s relatively short, less than 200 pages, and I do love it when I can fly through the pages of a book.

At first, for whatever reason (maybe the cover?) I assumed that the person lost in space was a young boy. I’m not sure if I thought this novel was part of the YA genre, or if I made these assumptions based on the cover alone (looks to me like a relatively small/young boy floating in space), but when I started the book and realized that the book follows a grown man in his 30s/40s or even older, I was taken aback but not disappointed. I just had to reorient my expectations.

The world Gary inhabits is very fleshed out. Obviously the author has done his due diligence because all the technical lingo (the Kaveney and Mara probes, the astronaut training, the mysterious workings of space itself) was very believable and the explanations in-depth. At times I was a bit confused by what was going on though because I didn’t understand some of the significance of the discovered alien planet and its attributes, although I managed to get the overall gist based on context clues (earthlike planet, obviously altered by sentient beings, portals/wormholes to other places in evidence, etc.).

[Full review on my blog!]
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I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book so I could give an honest review.

Walking to Aldebaran by Adrian Tchaikovsky is a short, science fiction novella that left me often snickering. First, let me point out the title is "Walking to Aldebaran", not, as I first read, "Walking to Alderaan." If you have no idea what Alderaan is then stop reading this review and start watching a little known movie series called Star Wars. 

Gary Rendell achieved something few people do in their lives. He became what he wanted to be when he was growing up, an astronaut. Not just an astronaut who visits the moon but he is selected for an international mission to investigate a strange alien rock. Rendell feels lucky, really, really lucky.  Well, that is until disaster struck and his team became separated. He now wanders around the rock searching for anyone human or even an alien that he could pretend is human.

Adrian Tchaikovsky is a prolific author. His best-known series is the Shadow of the Apt series. His novel "Children of Time", the first from his Children of Time series won the Arthur C. Clarke award. I have seen his books by never got around to reading one. He is now on my "want to read" authors list.

This review was published on Goodreads on 5/16/19. This review will be published on, Smashbomb, Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble on its release date, 5/28/19. When available, the review will be published on and, using Overdrive, will be rated in 9 libraries.
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A space story that is really cleverly written. I liked the writing style and the twist. I just wish it had been a bit longer.

Thank you to Netgalley for my copy.
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It's the first work I read by Adrian Tchaikovsky and I'm wondering why I never read his works before.
It's fun to read, engaging, enthralling and entertaining.
I like the humour, the characters and was fascinated by the plot.
I look forward to reading other works by this author.
Highly recommended!
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
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I honestly wasn't sure what to expect from this, but I was certainly entertained. The main character is starkly realistic and humorous, and being a part of his thought process was really amusing. 

Imagine you're trapped on a weird alien structure with no feasible way out and no other company. That's essentially what happened to Gary Rendall, an astronaut sent with a team to uncover the truths of this mysterious Frog God. Part of me was expecting for this to be like The Martian by Andy Weir, a tale of the miraculous escape against all odds. 

It definitely was not The Martian. Instead, Tchaikovsky delves into the often humorous and ridiculous realities of the human mind, with the albeit unrealistic scenario of a giant alien construct as the setting. But it somehow works, and is both hilarious and slightly unsettling. 

While part of me found it slightly too odd to give 5 stars, it was an interesting introduction to Adrian Tchaikovsky!
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Scientists discover a massive labyrinthine alien artefact floating at the edge of our solar system, drones go into the Crypts and get lost, seem to travel in time and space and then return, and a team of astronauts are sent in to explore. What can possibly go wrong? 

As you might suspect... LOTS.  

This is a masterfully structured and paced sci-fi novella that is at once dark, quirky, gripping and amusing. There's a sense of creeping dread and foreboding one minute, then our hapless hero makes a quip that has you laughing the next.  Oh, and it's filled with creatures that have crawled straight out of Cronenberg or Carpenter-esque body horrors.  

It's hard to say much else without giving spoilers, but if you're looking for some interesting contemporary science fiction, here would be a good place to start. I was a massive fan of Tchaikovsky's 'Children of Time' and was already looking forward to the sequel 'Children of Ruin' which is coming later this year; now I can't wait!
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Walking to Aldebaran by Adrian Tchaikovsky is a novelette, I think, but that was all I could handle, anyway. The first person narrator is stuck wandering a physics-bending alien space artifact out beyond Pluto, alone, while becoming more and more unreliable. It was not pleasant reading, exactly, but was gripping. I was left unsatisfied by the ending, but am not sure what I would have preferred instead. The setting was perfect for generating additional stories, though, so I’m curious if that was part of the intent.
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Honestly incredibly enjoyable. For its short length, I felt we got so much story and feeling out of it. 

1. The prose

Readable and witty. It is quite full of "quirky" one-liners, which needed some getting used to. Some hit their mark, but overall the writing style wasn't entirely my cup of tea. 
Some examples of what you can expect: 

- Now, Doctor Naish, I'm really happy for you, becoming head of the Mission Team and all, and Imma let you finish....
-We were lucky to avoid the good ship "Spacy McFrogface", frankly.
- They never told me that at astronaut school

Some may find it charming. Unfortunately, I couldn't. I do feel certain references will not age well with time. I definitely know my mom never would have picked up on half of the "jokes". 

However, I have to admit the sheer fun and mistery of the book made over-looking the writing style quite easy. 

2. Characters

The story is told from perspective of our main (only?) character. I certainly got the feeling the author was just trying to have some fun with it. Our astronaut is written very much in style of the Martian. 

The struggle, fear, desperation and unstableness of our astronaut felt very real. 

3. The premise

The novella is all about the premise, which is wonderful and inventive. The idea may not be completely unheard of, but it brings a certain flair and edge to it. It weaves quirky human moments and alien interaction wonderfully.
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I absolutely love Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Children of Time and was curious about his other science fiction books. Walking to Aldebaran is the perfect way to sample his writing style -- clocking in at just over 100 pages, it’s a short but effective story of an astronaut lost in space.

This story is both incredibly dark and incredibly funny and showcases what an amazing writer Tchaikovsky is. Although it took me a little while to get fully into the story, I was gripped after about 30 pages or so. Rendell reminds me a little bit of Mark Matney from The Martian -- he uses humour to get through his ordeal and has such a strong and unique voice. However, Rendell is admittedly losing his grip on his sanity has he wanders the cold, dark, physics-defying Crypts. I really loved, if that’s the right word, piecing his story together via flashbacks and the bits and pieces he feeds to us in his current situation.

If you’re looking for a short sci-fi book or want to sample Tchaikovsky’s writing before committing to one of his many books or series, Walking to Aldebaran is a great place to start.
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brief summary
A solitary astronaut reflects as he wanders the labyrinthine passages of a mysterious celestial artefact in this reframing of an ancient saga.

full review
This would have been a 2-star, "okay" piece had it not been for the moment in the last chapter when I finally put all the pieces together and realized that this is, in fact, a re-imagining of a story I first read in high school. ([It's Beowulf. It took me far too long to realize it, but this is Beowulf. Or, possibly, Gardner's Grendel, but I'm choosing to go with Beowulf.) That realization, and the cleverness of Tchaikovsky's narrator in bringing it to my attention, tickled my fancy and so I bumped up my rating. I should have known better than to expect Tchaikovsky to put out a peripatetic piece without something hidden beneath the one-and-done adventures. He's too good at his craft for that.

That said, I came to this volume knowing nothing about it except that it's by Adrian Tchaikovsky, one of my favorite authors. I knew it was science fiction rather than fantasy, and I knew it was short. That's about it. Had I been aware going in that I was looking at a re-telling, I probably would have had a very different reading experience, because I would have been looking for clues to support the idea of it being a re-telling. So I suppose I'm fortunate in that I got to be along for the ride, as it were, instead of playing detective, except that the story is clearly written in such a manner as to invite speculation and encourage readers to put together the pieces as it jumps about chronologically through the protagonist's recollections and narration, and I've never really been a reader who does much speculating as I read.

For such a short piece, Walking to Aldebaran was a fairly slow boil, with even the bug-eyed aliens (none of the aliens were actually bug-eyed, that I recall) being introduced as curiosities rather than astonishing New Things. Some of this is because the narrator has clearly become jaded, and says as much on several occasions, but the writing supports it, with the level of detail varying according to the narrator's interest in the topic, which makes sense and is a nice authorial touch. A side effect of this style, however, is that none of the characters seem especially well-developed and it is not especially engaging to the audience. There are reasons for this which can be surmised from the text, [like the narrator might be making an effort to dehumanize them in his mind, or at least relegate them to blandness, rather than vibrant, unique beings, in order to live with what befalls them, but until the reader has their moment of anagnorisis (a word I learned from this book which did an excellent job priming me for when I'd soon come to such a moment of my own), it is not the most enjoyable narrative voice.

Since I picked up the book on the strength of Tchaikovsky's authorship alone, it's tempting to recommend it to others based solely on that point, but the fact is that he's a talented writer who understands his craft thoroughly, and whether you approach this book with advance warning of its literary forebears or without any expectations at all, know you are in for a quick, clever read.
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Walking to Aldebaran was an entirely odd reading experience, equal parts exciting and exasperating, but I suspect that is exactly what Adrian Tchaikovsky was going for. This is the story of a stranded astronaut, lost and alone in an alien landscape, who is certainly struggling . . . and who may even be going crazy.

The thing is, we feel for Gary. We share his horror, his frustration, his helplessness, and his sense of desperate awe. Normally I would be bothered by the lack of wonder and awe in a story of first contact, but Gary is well beyond that by the time we meet him. He's seen it all, done it all, and is done with it all. After wandering the multidimensional corridors of an alien artifact for so long, running into alien species with whom he has no way to communicate, wondering if any of his fellow astronauts are still alive, he's so very tired.

I thought this was perfectly structured and (almost) perfectly executed. The slow reveal of the backstory - who Gary is, how he got there, what happened to his team, how we learned about the aliens - is all the more effective because we have to wait for it and work or it. While Gary is often exasperating as a narrator and frustrating as a character, I don't know that we can reasonably expect much more of him by this point in his ordeal. It's a dark story, largely hopeless and depressing, but his self-deprecating humor keeps it going. That said, it is a very slow tale, and I spent a lot of time wondering whether it had a point, or whether we'd just end up stuck in some sort of narrative loop.

That brings me to the climax and its twist. I guess we should have seen it coming, and looking back it's clear that Tchaikovsky was always leading up to it, but I still thought it was a nice bit of Twilight Zone horror with which to end the long Walk[ing] to Aldebaran.
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Gary Rendell is living the dream. One of a handpicked international team of astronauts on board the Quixote, he’s been sent out to the very edge of the solar system to investigate a strange, gravity-defying structure known variously as the Artefact or the Frog God, due to the gaping holes in its surface that suggest eyes and a mouth. There’s no doubt that this object has been constructed by intelligent beings, but what is it? Gary and his team are there to find out. But when we meet Gary, some time after their expedition sets out into the Artefact, dream has become nightmare. He’s alone, desperate, driven half-mad by the psychological tricks of this alien labyrinth. As he fumbles his way through the darkness, he becomes aware of something scratching at the edge of his mind; something calling him; luring him. But Gary Rendell is in no mood to be lured. He’s been through hell and back; these endless corridors have changed him, and all he wants is to get home. But, when we’d experienced so much, is it ever possible to go home? There’s certainly a monster in this dark esoteric maze; but is Gary its victim?

I haven’t read Adrian Tchaikovsky before, although I’ve been tempted at various points by both his fantasy and his sci-fi. This novella seemed like a good place to start and I thoroughly enjoyed its mixture of old-school adventure and psychological thriller. If asked to describe it in one phrase, I’d probably say it feels like 2001: A Space Odyssey meets Beowulf. Make of that what you will. Tchaikovsky starts us off with a familiar concept: the doughty international team ready to go where no man has been before, courageously stepping forth into the hallowed passages of some unidentifiable alien thing in order to increase the sum of human knowledge. Tchaikovsky plays with the cliches of the genre. Obviously, in such a situation, there will be monsters lurking in the shadows. The team will gamely push on, and expendable characters will be lost; but our hero will somehow survive in the depths and become clued in to the vast meaning of this extraterrestrial object. All well and good. Except that this theory relies on the fact that the object is somehow there for humans to understand. It relies on us being the intended recipients of its wisdom. It relies on the human brain being able to grasp what it encounters. And, as Gary Rendell is about to find out, that ain’t necessarily so.

Gary Rendell comes from Stevenage and, quite frankly, wouldn’t have signed up if he’d known what the mission would have in store. He’s walked for weeks or months – who knows how long? – in a place where there is no sense of time passing. He passes through pockets of unusual atmospheres or strange gravity. He has encountered alien travellers, like himself, trudging along corridors or, occasionally, lying dead within them. Gary has learned to eat where he can, and to fight back against the strange denizens of the Crypts, as he’s come to call this eternal labyrinth. His mission – or pilgrimage – has honed him in ways he can’t fully understand, but he discovers that he has somehow transcended what it means to be human, in strength and ferocity. He can slay horrific predators with his bare hands, but is still British enough to feel just that little bit awkward:

"I’ve utterly disembowelled it… I am victorious. I am savage. I beat my chest and howl like an animal. After that, listening to the echoes of my whooping bounce back to me from the walls of the Crypt, I have the grace to feel somewhat embarrassed. I am British, after all, and I feel my behaviour may have crossed some subtle line of etiquette Let us never mention this again, Toto."

Toto – that’s us. We are the silent listener inside Gary’s head: his sole companion as he trudges deeper into the Crypts. And we are the witness to the fact that all is not quite right with Gary. As he passes through the Crypts, surviving the creatures which killed his colleagues, fighting against hostile environments, his body forming and reforming in a kind of accelerated evolution, he risks leaving behind all that makes him human. Certainly, there may be monsters in the depths. But what if we’re the monster?

Playful, ironic and yet deeply unsettling, this is a claustrophobic vision of man meeting other intelligent beings, in a way that he can’t control, can’t comprehend and can’t endure. It undermines the human-centred nature of so much science-fiction, but also turns sci-fi into a psychologically-scrambled tale of terror. It’s a quest with an end, an answer, that we almost can’t bear to contemplate. And it’s both clever and compelling. Based on this, I’ll be seeking out the rest of Tchaikovksy’s works very soon.

For the review, please see my blog:
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This is dark and quirky scifi noir as astronaut Garry Rendell finds himself lost in an alien labyrinth. Part of a combined nations space mission to explore an artifact discovered in the Oort cloud beyond Pluto, Rendell, separated from the rest of the exploration team, recounts his wanderings through the never-ending tunnels, and his encounters with fellow wanderers. Although he has maintained his sense of humour, the experience has clearly transformed him. 

Original and imaginative with a twist of horror twist. Recommended for those who like their SF served with a bit of black comedy!
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I got an E-ARC of this book from the publisher, via the good people at Netgalley in an exchange for an honest review. #netgalley #WalkingToAldebaran

Walking to Aldebaran is a brand new scifi/horror novella from Adrian Tchaikovsky, the author of the brilliant Children of Time (which I absolutely loved!). 

Walking to Aldebaran is about the astronaut Gary Rendell who is literally lost in space. In the future a huge artifact is discovered floating about in the Oort cloud on the other side of Pluto and of course, humans being humans, a mission is sent to explore and see if this is something of use to us. The artifact, called the Crypts, turns out to be some kind of astronomically huge maze with endless tunnels and chambers and entrances opening in other solar systems and of course, more or less immediately after Gary and his colleagues enter this thing, everything goes ad undas. 

This novella is sort of the love child of Rendezvous with Rama, Cube and Lexx and very entertaining and I recommend it to anyone who loves their scifi and horror. Gary is a sarcastic and funny guy, although his observations of both the past and the present, gradually become more of rantings as time passes and he is all lost and alone and getting insane in this mindboggling place where nothing is as it seems and physics obey no laws, at least not as we know them. I wonder if this is (possibly) written as a prequel to a full novel and/or series about the mysteries of the Crypts a bit further in the future, I know I would love to read that!
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This is one of the best and most entertaining stories that I have read about first-contact. A bit dark, but really good and highly recommended. 

Thanks to Rebellion and NetGalley for providing a copy of this title for me to review.
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Walking to Aldebaran by Adrian Tchaikovsky is a standalone novella centred around a “big dumb object” in a science fictional sense. I haven’t read any of the author’s novels, but apparently did read his novella in Monstrous Little Voices, which was not very memorable. I think Walking to Aldebaran is a definite improvement on memorability, if nothing else.

My name is Gary Rendell. I’m an astronaut. When they asked me as a kid what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said, “astronaut, please!” I dreamed astronaut, I worked astronaut, I studied astronaut.

I got lucky; when a probe sent out to explore the Oort Cloud found a strange alien rock and an international team of scientists was put together to go and look at it, I made the draw.

I got even luckier. When disaster hit and our team was split up, scattered through the endless cold tunnels, I somehow survived.

Now I’m lost, and alone, and scared, and there’s something horrible in here.

Lucky me.

Lucky, lucky, lucky.

This book starts a little slowly with our first person protagonist walking through crypt-like passages in space. We get a feel for the crypts and the backstory is slowly meted out over the course of the novella. At one point I started to wonder whether there would be much plot to it or whether we would just a description of the space-bending alien artefact from the inside. But then we get some fresh hints about backstory still to come and the plot progresses. By the end, I found myself enjoying the book more than I expected to.

We get a reasonably detailed description of the crypts and the weird physics inside them. We get enough backstory to understand why the astronauts went there and (eventually) why Gary ends up alone. There was a reveal that came right after I thought “wait, was that ?” But another similar thought was not followed up my confirmation either way, since it’s not something Gary could have known and was not in a position to guess. Things like that open the text up for a lot more discussion and speculation than I would have expected, making this all the more satisfying a read.

Overall, Walking to Aldebaran was an interesting read, exploring a nifty alien artefact. Where it shines is towards the end, where the true story is revealed and we see Gary’s journey as a whole. I found myself pleasantly surprised although I wasn’t bored by the first half of the book either. I recommend Walking to Aldebaran to fans of philosophical science fiction or fans of big dumb objects.

4.5 / 5 stars

First published: May 2019, Rebellion
Series: No
Format read: eARC
Source: publisher via NetGalley
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I’ve met aliens, sentient aliens. I’ve seen spaceships. I’ve breathed the venomous air of a planet on the other side of the universe. I’m probably the most travelled human being in the history of human beings travelling, if indeed that category is still the appropriate one with which to conjure me. I just didn’t think there would be so much getting lost and eating corpses. [loc. 64]

Gary Rendell is lost and alone, wandering the lightless passages of an alien artefact known as the Crypts.  He was part of an expedition from Earth, but -- stupidly -- they split up. Now he knows much more about the Crypts than anyone else: but he's not the man he was when the Quixote, with its international crew, landed in one eyesocket of the Crypts (which happen to look remarkably like the face of a giant frog). 

Gary is desperate to rejoin his companions, to find a way out, to find food and light (the novella opens with him finding an alien corpse that provides both of the latter). However, some pretty unpleasant things have happened to him since he lost contact with the others, and perhaps he won't be able to go home after all. 

This was great fun, darkly humorous and poignant and occasionally very disturbing. There's more than a 'whiff of the monstrous', and I quickly learnt not to trust Gary's narrative. Walking to Aldebaran has a Golden Age feel to it, though back then it'd have been a short story: I think novella-length does work, though, for ramping up the tension, the pathos and the universe-building.

I received Walking to Aldebaran from NetGalley in exchange for this honest review.
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