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TOS
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"dirty wars"

basically a vast, incredbly well-researched examination of the war on terror, along with the accompanying vileness and incompetence
The Bards of Bone Plain (2010) by Patricia McKillip.

While reading "Bards of Bone Plain" I kept on thinking: "Haven't I read this before in 'Kingfisher'?"

Perhaps this is a consequence for having read "Kingfisher" just months before, but there are lots of parallels:

The art form in "Bards" is bardic arts (so singing and instrument playing) instead of culinary arts (which admittedly plays a relatively minor role) in "Kingfisher".

The separation between when "magic" was more prevalent was over a millennium in "Bards" instead of the generation-and-a-half in "Kingfisher".

The level of technology in "Bards" is approximately 1900 America where steam-powered cars are playthings of royalty and the wealthy instead of that of roughly current-day America (though without any overt computers other than cell phones) in "Kingfisher".

The peaceful kingdoms in both books are amalgams of previously multiple kingdoms, though in "Bards" it was an invading force from an otherwise undescribed elsewhere while in "Kingfisher" it was one of the kingdoms becoming dominant by conquering others or via marriage. While there are common familial stresses between members of the royal families in both books, there is practically no conniving of family members to become next in line for the throne.

There is even the parallel of the search for runic magic in "Bards" which is similar to the quest for a religious artifact in "Kingfisher".

So while "Bards" was a pleasant read and I will continue to look for other McKillip books, I will be hoping for SOMETHING else other than relatively minor variations upon a theme.
Underground Airlines (2016) by Ben Winters.

Set in present-day America, basically everything is about the same with one major exception: during his train ride going to his ONLY inauguration (to be held on March 4th as it was until the 1933 passage of the 20th Amendment which changed it to the present January 20th) on his birthday President-elect Abraham Lincoln was shot by an assassin in Indianapolis. An aggrieved nation came together and President Hannibal Hamlin was able to sign a number of constitutional amendments which kept the Union together by allowing for slavery to continue including one amendment which forbade any future national legislation which could outlaw slavery. This was based on an actual historic proposal: the Crittenden Compromise of 1860 which in our reality never got beyond the proposal stage in Congress though in this world are known collectively as the "Crittenden Amendments".

Now slavery remains "only" in the Hard Four: Carolina (which for unexplained reasons formed into a single state from the former North and South), Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Over time the state legislatures of the other slave states overturned slavery, though in Georgia--the most recent changeover that happened during the 1980's--there is a "Red Line" within the state that roughly follows US 80 where ANY black found south of that line who isn't confined to menial labor WILL find himself in a heap of trouble. Everywhere else in the US blacks are constantly accosted, asked to present their papers showing that they are free blacks or freed slaves. There is a DIFFERENT problem with Texas: let's just say that the civil war that LBJ had to deal with was NOT in Southeast Asia.

Naturally there is an update to the Underground Railroad: the titled Underground Airlines. There are "pilots" (guides) and "baggage handlers" (people who arrange for counterfeit papers and such) who help slaves eventually to cross the Canadian border, usually bound for "Little America", the black community just south of and across the St. Lawrence River from Montreal.

To counteract such "terrorism", the US Marshals are in charge of tracking down runaway slaves. As a group they have been given special national immunity which prevents any do-gooder legislator from enacting any local laws to interfere with this duty.

But sometimes those US Marshals are too high profile to allow them to do some covert work, which is where "Vincent"--our protagonist--comes in. I've put his name in quotes because he is a chameleon who changes facilely to fit whatever role the US Marshals contracts him for. A former runaway himself, in his late teens he got "drafted" (AKA kidnapped) by the US Marshals and trained to wheedle himself into local Underground Airlines branches to locate runaways. The irony is not lost on himself and Vincent can recall his other 209 cases with painful detail.

At the start of this 210th case, Vincent is troubled: there are many details in the paperwork that he got from his handler in the US Marshals that are missing. Being a computer nerd Vincent digs around for at least why they are missing which leads him to...um, complications.

"Underground Airlines" is a fascinating book but in the way that a terrible traffic accident grabs your attention. It is not without one unfortunate flaw which substantially broke my suspension of disbelief.

Like I said: Vincent is a computer nerd, but during his training period with the US Marshals he was taken aside for a few hours during which he was anesthetized. Upon awakening he was told by his trainers that something was implanted under his skin which could tell his watchers where he is constantly.

Early in his career Vincent decided that he had enough and decided to run. Instead of getting off of his train in Idaho, he remains on it by paying his own way to Portland, Oregon. At the train station there, Vincent immediately spots a pair of men whom he identifies as US Marshals who obviously have spotted HIM, so Vincent just turned around and bought another ticket back to Idaho and fulfilled his job there. No one--including his handler--ever mentioned this incident.

Now MAYBE such a set of events could be enough of trick to convince a lot of people (especially those of a conspiratorial mindset), but remember: Vincent is a computer nerd. He would KNOW that the technology to do such tracking simply does not exist. Not only would it be impossible for any sort of GPS tracking signal to penetrate his flesh to any degree, but to be sending such a signal would be VERY power intensive, absolutely requiring battery replacements every few days if not EVERY day. That such a system would still be working after about a dozen years since that implantation makes it even more implausible.

Still, I can recommend "Underground Airlines" even ignoring this considerable problem of the tracking system which is crucial to the last third of the book. Saying that I was "entertained" is not quite the right word...maybe horrified by the picture that Winters described.
Just finished Tom Clancy's Op-Center: Balance of Power

First Tom Clancy book I actually read. Meh. Disappointing.

From now on I'll stick to the good stuff, Tom Clancy in Movies and video games.
maurvir Perfectly balanced - mostly
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Read his older stuff. By the time he was writing the Op-Center books, he was winging it on his reputation (and allegedly using ghostwriters)
dv
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maurvir posted:
Read his older stuff. By the time he was writing the Op-Center books, he was winging it on his reputation (and allegedly using ghostwriters)

...allegedly? Don't most of them explicitly say, "Tom Clancy with so-and-so"?
maurvir Perfectly balanced - mostly
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dv posted:
maurvir posted:
Read his older stuff. By the time he was writing the Op-Center books, he was winging it on his reputation (and allegedly using ghostwriters)

...allegedly? Don't most of them explicitly say, "Tom Clancy with so-and-so"?


I don't really recall. The first Op-center book I attempted to read was so bad I never finished it.
dv posted:
maurvir posted:
Read his older stuff. By the time he was writing the Op-Center books, he was winging it on his reputation (and allegedly using ghostwriters)

...allegedly? Don't most of them explicitly say, "Tom Clancy with so-and-so"?


yeah, this one says "with so and so"
maurvir posted:
Read his older stuff.


maybe I will
dv
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Finished Unfamliar Fishes.

Was pretty interesting.
maurvir posted:
Read his older stuff. By the time he was writing the Op-Center books, he was winging it on his reputation (and allegedly using ghostwriters)

AND his rep with editors has gotten to the point where the publishers just simply put out whatever has Clancy's name with an author's credit with practically no editor input other than correcting typos.

And "his"--in quotes because of co-writers (NOT ghost writers)--books still sell well.

I would change maurvir's suggestion: ONLY read his earliest stuff.

While "The Hunt for Red October" does lack ANY character development and contains only peripheral female characters like Jack Ryan's wife (who does become a more substantial character in later Jack Ryan novels, but then this was written in 1984 so no female sailors/officers in combat situations back then in the US Navy), the novel is still a pretty good read.

Read "Red October" then--if you liked that--"Patriot Games" then "Clear and Present Danger" then stop with "The Sum of All Fears" which is where I stopped partly because in "Sum" Clancy really could have used a good editor to take out around 25% of that novel.
dv
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DEyncourt posted:
maurvir posted:
Read his older stuff. By the time he was writing the Op-Center books, he was winging it on his reputation (and allegedly using ghostwriters)

AND his rep with editors has gotten to the point where the publishers just simply put out whatever has Clancy's name with an author's credit with practically no editor input other than correcting typos.

And "his"--in quotes because of co-writers (NOT ghost writers)--books still sell well.

I would change maurvir's suggestion: ONLY read his earliest stuff.

While "The Hunt for Red October" does lack ANY character development and contains only peripheral female characters like Jack Ryan's wife (who does become a more substantial character in later Jack Ryan novels, but then this was written in 1984 so no female sailors/officers in combat situations back then in the US Navy), the novel is still a pretty good read.

Read "Red October" then--if you liked that--"Patriot Games" then "Clear and Present Danger" then stop with "The Sum of All Fears" which is where I stopped partly because in "Sum" Clancy really could have used a good editor to take out around 25% of that novel.


tvtropes has a page about this, although it looks like they took down all the examples.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/M ... romEditors

Two words: David Weber.
maurvir Perfectly balanced - mostly
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Agreed on "Sum of All Fears". That could have been easily cut by 25% or more.
user Stupid cockwomble
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I understand his latest novel is scratched in satin.
maurvir posted:
Agreed on "Sum of All Fears". That could have been easily cut by 25% or more.

To a somewhat lesser degree the same could be said for ALL of Clancy's Jack Ryan novels that I listed.

It should be noted that Gates McFadden (Dr. Beverly Crusher on ST:TNG) actually had a speaking role in the movie of "Red October" as Caroline Ryan. This was her full role in that movie.
arkayn Aaarrrggghhhh
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My favorite was "Without Remorse"
TOS
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i liked red storm rising
DEyncourt posted:


Read "Red October" then--if you liked that--"Patriot Games" then "Clear and Present Danger" then stop with "The Sum of All Fears" which is where I stopped partly because in "Sum" Clancy really could have used a good editor to take out around 25% of that novel.


But... I watched those movies... and I love Red October, as a movie.
mmaverick my steady systematic decline
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dv posted:
DEyncourt posted:
maurvir posted:
Read his older stuff. By the time he was writing the Op-Center books, he was winging it on his reputation (and allegedly using ghostwriters)

AND his rep with editors has gotten to the point where the publishers just simply put out whatever has Clancy's name with an author's credit with practically no editor input other than correcting typos.

And "his"--in quotes because of co-writers (NOT ghost writers)--books still sell well.

I would change maurvir's suggestion: ONLY read his earliest stuff.

While "The Hunt for Red October" does lack ANY character development and contains only peripheral female characters like Jack Ryan's wife (who does become a more substantial character in later Jack Ryan novels, but then this was written in 1984 so no female sailors/officers in combat situations back then in the US Navy), the novel is still a pretty good read.

Read "Red October" then--if you liked that--"Patriot Games" then "Clear and Present Danger" then stop with "The Sum of All Fears" which is where I stopped partly because in "Sum" Clancy really could have used a good editor to take out around 25% of that novel.


tvtropes has a page about this, although it looks like they took down all the examples.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/M ... romEditors

Two words: David Weber.


Anger
ukimalefu posted:
DEyncourt posted:


Read "Red October" then--if you liked that--"Patriot Games" then "Clear and Present Danger" then stop with "The Sum of All Fears" which is where I stopped partly because in "Sum" Clancy really could have used a good editor to take out around 25% of that novel.


But... I watched those movies... and I love Red October, as a movie.

Given that the movie versions of novels are ALWAYS significantly excised editions of the novels they are based upon, the movie of "Red October" was reasonably faithful to the novel. If you liked the movie "Red October" then chances are you will like the novel "Red October" as well. It was a fairly compelling read.

I had read the novels well before each of their movies, but while I liked the movie for "Red October" I was MUCH less enamored with the movie for "Patriot Games" such that I haven't bothered to watch the last two movies (but the last two books also were less appealing to me).
user Stupid cockwomble
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Patriot Games was good but they did change significant points of the novel.
DukeofNuke FREE RADICAL
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TOS posted:
i liked red storm rising

me too
TOS
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DukeofNuke posted:
TOS posted:
i liked red storm rising

me too


take iceland!
DukeofNuke FREE RADICAL
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I was surprised he predicted the stealth fighter
dv
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DukeofNuke posted:
I was surprised he predicted the stealth fighter


He wasn't the only one. Skipping F-18 to F-20 made the rumor mill go nuts, and the existence of stealth technology was an open secret.

Same time as the book came out:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/like/3221122388 ... noapp=true
Microprose also made an F-19 Stealth Fighter flight sim game, that got reworked and rerelease as an F117 game later on.

I bought F-19 with an Ad Lib sound card and DAMN it sounded amazing for the time.
maurvir Perfectly balanced - mostly
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Although not a fighter jet, I used to play the demo simulator for the Comanche. They let you fly until you ran out of gas or got shot down. That sounded awesome with my Gravis Ultrasound. :)
TOS
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DukeofNuke posted:
I was surprised he predicted the stealth fighter


stealth planes were rumoured for years before they were made public
dv
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The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat.
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TOS posted:
DukeofNuke posted:
I was surprised he predicted the stealth fighter


stealth planes were rumoured for years before they were made public


you mean ...

Image
Move along...nothing at all curious about a person in an apparent sitting position traveling at air speeds across the sky.

Personally even as a child I've never understood the logic of Wonder Woman requiring an invisible jet. After all, other DC superheroes who didn't have inherent flying of some form like Batman didn't have to conceal his aircraft. If anything such became part of his brand: "LOOK! Batman is here to save the day in his Bat-plane!"

Perhaps I missed that part of her origin story which explained this.
dv
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DEyncourt posted:
Perhaps I missed that part of her origin story which explained this.


Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invisible_plane

Quote:
Created by William Moulton Marston as another allegory for his Wonder Woman comics, the invisible plane represented the "invisible" feminine compliance that allowed women of the Depression Era to enter and survive in the hostile male dominated work place with less resistance from that hostility. To demonstrate this, it was allegorized that the Invisible Plane would be undetected while moving quietly at super sonic speeds so that it would not be shot down by the guns of Man's World. The idea was avoidance of conflict rather than meeting hostility head on.


Makes sense to me.
arkayn Aaarrrggghhhh
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dv posted:
DEyncourt posted:
Perhaps I missed that part of her origin story which explained this.


Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invisible_plane

Quote:
Created by William Moulton Marston as another allegory for his Wonder Woman comics, the invisible plane represented the "invisible" feminine compliance that allowed women of the Depression Era to enter and survive in the hostile male dominated work place with less resistance from that hostility. To demonstrate this, it was allegorized that the Invisible Plane would be undetected while moving quietly at super sonic speeds so that it would not be shot down by the guns of Man's World. The idea was avoidance of conflict rather than meeting hostility head on.


Makes sense to me.


And now she does not need the plane at all as they gave her the ability to fly.
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dv posted:
DEyncourt posted:
Perhaps I missed that part of her origin story which explained this.


Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invisible_plane

Quote:
Created by William Moulton Marston as another allegory for his Wonder Woman comics, the invisible plane represented the "invisible" feminine compliance that allowed women of the Depression Era to enter and survive in the hostile male dominated work place with less resistance from that hostility. To demonstrate this, it was allegorized that the Invisible Plane would be undetected while moving quietly at super sonic speeds so that it would not be shot down by the guns of Man's World. The idea was avoidance of conflict rather than meeting hostility head on.


Makes sense to me.

:facepalm: :derp: :roll:

it was invisible, so the Nazi's couldn't shoot it down. Duh ...
DukeofNuke FREE RADICAL
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How about the bit where WW's creator, William Moulton Marston, was into B&D ...
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Image
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maurvir Perfectly balanced - mostly
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Ah yes, I think I first ran into those on superdickery.com, before it had its meltdown.

If you can believe their assertions, Wonder Woman was a bisexual, BDSM-loving, female super hero in an era where none of those things were considered acceptable by the public at large. It had to be slipped in, much like the invisible jet, beneath the radar's of America's parents.

Either that, or the writer just had some weird kinks he felt he could work out by writing comics. :shrug:
TOS
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she's also now a un ambassador or something
The Atrocity Archives and The Jennifer Morgue by Charles Stross.

These are the first two books of the Laundry Files.

I know, I know: didn't I write about the LAST (so far) 3 books of this series starting here then here then here? Well, odd thing: somehow I missed The Jennifer Morgue along the way. I got introduced to Stross rather late in his writing of this series and while I did start with The Atrocity Archives I had never seen "Jennifer" on the bookshelves of my local Barnes & Noble and had to special order it. PLUS there is something about having "Jennifer" in the title that made me not track it even though I had come across many lists and web pages showing all of the books of the series. In any case I am re-reading the series from the start.

"Atrocity" is actually an anthology of 3 novelettes showing the early "field" career of Bob Howard, computer hacker. In the world of the Laundry basically the Lovecraftian mythos is real though massaged through the idea of a multiverse made up of branes which hold alternate universes. While first developed using higher mathematics of the Victorian Age, it reached a local height during WWII as both the Allied and Axis forces attempted to exploit the Powers that were available while not fully recognizing that those Powers had agendas which may not be fully compatible with humanity since some of them would enjoy consuming souls with metaphorical ketchup. The Laundry is a special unit within the British civil service first developed during WWI that had been in charge of first trying to develop those Powers and--when it became obvious that many of them could be considerably malignant--post-WWII has been controlling access to them which became much more difficult with the development of computers which was how Bob drew the interest of the Laundry. He was a hacker who had come across some interesting code while dumpster diving which--had he been able to fully exploit it--probably would have flattened everything within a mile of his home in Wolverton on top of releasing a gibbering horror looking to feed on souls. Given the choice of living with a lobotomy as his ONLY alternative, Bob elected to join the Laundry and had been serving as its network administrator and all-around computer troubleshooter. It had been about a year since joining and he has gotten VERY bored and frustrated with doing that PLUS having to manuever around the various predations of the Personnel department including <horrors!> taking various REQUIRED personnel training classes when he is given the opportunity of becoming a field operative.

In the first novelette we are also introduced to Dr. Dominique "Mo" O'Brien, a British national who had been trapped in the US for the past few years because of her esoteric math background which had drawn the interest of the US Department of Defense. She has also drawn interest of the Laundry partly through her complaints to the British consulate asking its assistance to get her back home to the UK. One of Bob's first field operations is to travel to Santa Cruz to contact "Dr. O'Brien" and complications ensue which includes Bob's unsucessful attempt to save Mo from an ancient evil that was first brought to the Earth by the WWII Nazis (though note: while he wasn't directly involved Mo was rescued partly through his actions).

The central novelette is titled "The Atrocity Archives". This is the name of the collection of Nazi--quite literal--arcana kept in a hidden library under a WWII museum in Amsterdam, and Bob and Mo--who, of course, had little choice but to join the Laundry upon her return to the UK--are directed by the Laundry to go there to attempt to identify the pattern they saw in Santa Cruz (though not without significant ulterior motives of the Laundry).

The third novelette has Bob--without Mo--investigating a seemingly innocuous incident: the appearance of a "concrete cow" (in the US we would call this a "concrete traffic barrier") near Milton Keynes. This is "Concrete Jungle" as linked in my review for "The Rhesus Factor" above (that first "here" above). Of the three stories I felt this one was the weakest.

At the end there is a short essay on the relationship between spy novels, horror stories and science fiction by Stross.

-----

The Jennifer Morgue is the first Laundry novel (though it is technically an anthology as it also has the short story "Pimpf", another of the online published stories listed in my review for "The Rhesus Factor"). Technically to keep this in Stross' terms it should be written as JENNIFER MORGUE as he puts all Laundry code names into all caps. In this there is the introduction of BLUE HADES, the code name for the mostly underwater power that controls all of the Earth under about 3000 feet below sea level. As it is pointed out to Bob: nuclear weapons have limited use underwater. While the shock wave generated by such would create local devastation, on the other hand BLUE HADES has control of several underwater volcanic cones which they could simultaneously cause to erupt which would simply destroy most of life dependent on the atmosphere, so humanity's leaders must be content to squabble over the SURFACE riches of the Earth.

The novel begins with a preface with the "real" story behind the Hughes Glomar Explorer and its attempt to recover the Soviet submarine K-129 and why that attempt actually had failed despite the news reports (in reality it was partially successful in that part of that submarine was recovered...or did it???). The rest of the novel starts about 2 years following the end of "Atrocity". There are an eccentric billionaire and his use of a "James Bond geas" which alters Bob into the role of that super agent (or so most everyone in the know believes).

I think here Stross had something of a problem in his description of the climax of the story in that it isn't as clear and fully descriptive as I have been used to in his later Laundry books. A minor problem, to be sure, and worth the trouble to get passed for the inherent humor that Stross uses as he employs various "Bondian" mostly movie themes and describes Bob's attempts to ignore/surmount/use them to his benefit.
If I have encouraged you to read Charles Stross' "The Laundry Files", do note that he has posted this short story from that universe. Also be warned that in internal chronology it follows AFTER The Nightmare Files and thus is something of a spoiler if you haven't read the entire series so far.
Empire Games by Charles Stross (2017).

Well, I was wrong here: Stross has returned to his Merchant Princes worlds which I reviewed here.

While there are scenes which take place in the interrim, most of the action in Empire Games is set in 2020, mostly in the US though a considerably different one from what we might expect considering the end of the first series which was set in 2003. This is a wildly paranoid America (yeah, yeah, which differs from our reality HOW? Believe me: a much worse security state) which is nonetheless profiting wildly by exploiting resources from parallel worlds such that gasoline is again under a buck a gallon. There ARE problems even here....

Well, I cannot go much further without revealing details that might spoil the fun of reading this novel which I consumed in basically two sittings. You should be warned that this is the first novel of a proposed 3-novel series so you will have to wait until Stross completes the other two (or more) books. And Empire Games is such a continuation that one must read the Merchant Princes hexology/trilogy (depending on which version you get--see third link above) before reading this novel.

One of the things that I like about Stross' writing is that he likes to take small details--sometimes seemingly important, sometimes not--from the previous books and have them pay out later in weird and wonderful and often (blackly) humorous ways. Again, I've tried to write about such but it would spoil your fun of discovery.

In any case: read the Merchant Princes if you haven't done so yet. If you have, then without hesitation get and read Empire Games.
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