Tag Archives: review

Review – Hell Bent For Leather by Josh Unruh (E-book)

leather I recently reviewed Josh Unruh’s book “Werewolves of Mass Destruction” on the blog. He was tickled by my honest review and sent me a copy of Hell Bent For Leather to review as well. So, in the spirit of full disclosure, I did recieve this e-book for free.

Chet Leather is the best cowboy West Texas has ever seen. He also has the Sight beyond sight, able to See to the heart of things. That means he Sees ghosts, demons, and the difference between honesty and lies.

That’s how he knows Dan Reed, his best friend, told the truth about selling his soul to the Devil. But Dan had died and the Devil come to collect before Chet knew anything about the pact. Now it’s up to a cowboy that sees ghosts and a washed-up old priest to save Dan’s soul.

But it’s going to take a confrontation with a bandito who can’t be killed, a battle with a hundred vengeful souls, riding against demonic cattle rustlers, and, finally, a chat with the Devil himself.

Chet’s out to make enemies of the Damned, and when he’s done, it’ll be Hell Bent for Leather.

The Goods – Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m a sucker for supernatural stuff, especially though not limited to the Christian mythos, and Westerns. This should be the perfect blending of the two. And you know what? It is! It’s obvious from the title that Josh loves a good pun and there are a few of those in the book. By and large though, it’s a serious piece of Wild West Fantasy, though. I could easily see this being adapted into a comic book or other visual format, because Josh is very gifted at painting a solid picture with his descriptions. That’s especially true when we get to meet the denizens of hell. There’s one seen where he describes a demon and you don’t want to eat when he does. This isn’t a horror book, though. It’s less Hellraiser and more Hellboy. There’s darkness, but there’s plenty of action and slightly over the top magic/mysticism.

One of my criticisms of “Werewolves” was that it was light on the character development. This story proves that that wasn’t a shortcoming of Josh’s. I suspect, as I said in that review, that it’s a matter of having the room. Here, Chet and the other characters, even the Devil, are more nuanced and fully fleshed out.

It had me flipping pages as fast as I could to see what happened next. The pacing was great and the scenes between action beats were well done.

The Bads – I really can’t come up with any huge criticisms. Or any little, nit-picky ones. That’s not to say this book is perfect. No book is. But I had nary a single bone to pick with Josh’s story.

I give this story five silver bullets out of five.

Josh’s Site
Josh’s Twitter

Review – Werewolves of Mass Destruction by Joshua Unruh (E-book)

werewolves Every once in a while I’ll see someone post about an indie author I’ve never heard of before. I was on Google plus a couple of days ago and just happened to see a share about a book called Werewolves of Mass Destruction by Joshua Unruh. The title, the price point, and that cover sold me in an instant. Did it live up to my expectations? Read on!

Verity Sooth, blogger of the bizarre, has a knack for finding weirdness and getting into trouble. So when she teams up with Ajax Stewart, Engineer of the Impossible, it can only be to battle an ageless Nazi Necromancer and his nihilistic cult.

But can even these two heroes thwart a beastly act of terror that may well end human life on Earth? And if they do, will Verity hit the story’s deadline?

Gripping Tales of the Impossible: Werewolves of Mass Destruction is the first in what will hopefully be many stories about Ajax Stewart, Engineer of the Impossible and Verity Sooth, Blogger of the Bizarre.

Approximately 15,000 words

The Goods – Werewolves? Check! Nazi mad science? Double check!! A muscular hero with amazing tech a la Doc Savage? TRIPLE CHECK!!! A smart ass and tough as hell female partner? QUADRUPLE CHECK!!!! This book had everything that a pulp fan like me could ask for. The writing was tight. The characters and situations were more than a little ridiculous. The action was pretty much non-stop. It had zombie-esque monsters strapped to jets with giant canons!!!!! There really isn’t any more to say.

The Bads – Really this is all YMMV stuff. I didn’t find any of this to be problematic for my enjoyment of the book (save for perhaps one thing. First of all, this is short. As the description says, it hits at about fifteen thousand words. That’s approximately thirty pages. So don’t go in expecting a novel. Second, there is a “damsel in distress”. I know that this is going to bother some of you. There were a couple of instances where she seemed a little too passive for my taste. To be fair, she does really try and in some cases she succeeds in self rescue. She also gets a few licks in, but she is more of a chronicler. The hero is also fairly old school. Apparently Ajax was a boyhood hero a la Tom Swift, and he’d gone off the radar somewhat.

I really wanted more depth from the two main characters. This feels like a setup for exactly that and I hope that in future adventures we’ll get it. I will indeed be picking up the next book when it becomes available. As I indicated with all of the exclamation points, it hit every button I had for this kind of thing and where it sputtered in a few places I am able to forgive. I give this four out of five “POW”s.

Josh’s Site
Josh’s Twitter

Review – The Diary of Jill Woodbine by Jay Smith (E-book/Podcast)

jill_woodbine One of the things I love about listening to so many podcasts is that I discover some of the most amazing authors that you’ve never heard of. One such author is Jay Smith. Today I’m reviewing the podcast/ebook.

Synopsis: Jill Woodbine is a young college student who finds herself in the middle of a mass exodus as the walking dead pour out of our decimated cities in search of fresh meat. Her flight takes her to a house and garden warehouse store (HG World) which has been converted into a temporary shelter for refugees.

As that temporary situation grows into something that feels permanent, Jill begins to investigate her surroundings, its leaders, and its growing culture of denial and power struggles. What she finds may uncover some dark secrets leading back to the start of the zombie apocalypse.

Along the way, Jill chronicles the heroism and cruelty of her fellow survivors and explores her obsession with the beautiful and mysterious “Red Molly”.

Production: This is a straight read. There is some good bumper music, but no effects or additional production values. The audio quality is very clean.

Grade: B

Cast: If you’re going to do an audio book and you don’t have the talent for reading, then please, please, please hire Veronica Giguere. You can find her at http://voicesbyveronica.com. She’s an author and an audio producer as well. She voices all of the characters and provides the narration and is one of those voice actors who remains in my top ten. She developed strong, consistent voices for each character, and while the red skinned lady in the picture steals the show, the rest of her performances are stellar.

Grade: A+

Story: Every once in a while I think I’m over zombies. This, as it turns out, is often only because some writers forget that the best zombie stories actually have very little to do with the rotters and everything to do with the humans running and or hiding from them. Jay has not made that mistake.

The characters and situations in this book resonate with me, even though it’s been a couple of years since I listened to the podcast. Many of the scenes and the overall story have the same emotional punch for me that World War Z (the book/audio book) did. That’s about the highest praise I think anyone can offer for a book in this genre. That’s in no small part due to Veronica’s involvement in the audio. But even she can’t make a bad story into an A+ story.

This is done in first person. That irritate’s some people. Given the format (which follows the format of one of my other favorite zombie stories, Ruby Departed), it makes perfect sense and works for me. This is really the only thing that I could see as a potential for Your Mileage May Vary.

Grade: A+

Verdict: Gee, in case you can’t figure it out, my verdict is “Go get the darn book!”. If e-books aren’t your thing then go listen to the podcast (but buy the book anyway and gift it to someone who will appreciate it!!!)

Grade: A


Review – Streets of Payne by Jeff Brackett (Audiobook)

Streets-of-Payne-800-Cover-reveal-and-Promotional I got to know Mr. Brackett through a writers group on Facebook. He gave me a copy of the Audible book for review.

Synopsis: Humanity is in the eye of the beholder. But for street-smart detective Amber Payne, it’s the eyes that aren’t human. Cybernetic implants replaced the organics she lost in the line of duty, and their appearance often causes Amber to doubt her self-worth. Rookie detective Kevin Glass is her partner. And though he may be new, Kevin’s unparalleled skill as an elite cyber-surfer makes him an invaluable asset. When Alta Corp contracts the two of them to solve a case of high stakes data theft, they will need every bit of skill, experience, and determination to succeed. For the more they investigate, the more it becomes evident that this case is much more than it appears, and its resolution may forever alter the world in which they live.

Production: This book was narrated by Joy Nash. She’s an excellent narrator and really made the story that much better. She performed each character, though her performances weren’t over the top. She used just enough characterization to aid in keeping them straight.

Grade: B+

Story: I love cyberpunk. I played both Cyberpunk and Shadowrun in college and am a big fan of the genre in film and text. I really looked forward to experiencing this story. Jeff certainly didn’t disappoint. He developed his own world, but used all of the tropes that make Cyberpunk what it is. On it’s own, there’s nothing special about the plot. It’s well developed and moves along at a good pace. Where the writing really shines is the characters.

For me a story is all about the characters. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, well developed, interesting characters can make an alright story excellent. And they can flatten an otherwise enjoyable tale. Here it’s definitely a case of the former. The protagonists are an interesting mix of personalities. Amber Payne is a tough female lead who is able to show vulnerability and still kick some ass. Her partner Kevin, a hacker extraordinaire, is also well developed and there are a few secondary characters that I enjoyed quite a bit as well. When bad things happen, and very bad things do happen, I care about what’s going on and when the story comes to a close I was sad to be unable to read book two. Because there isn’t one. Yet.

There’s a boat load of action in this story, and no small amount of mystery. In a book of this length (357 pages in the print edition), he keeps both going. There are a number of plot lines besides the main mystery, and he brings it all to a satisfying conclusion. One surprising scene involved combat in cyberspace and it was just as riveting an action scene as any of the physical battles.

It’s not a perfect story. The bad guys haunt the background and aren’t as well fleshed out as I would have liked. There are also a few nitpicks I have on the tech side of things. None of that makes this a deal killer.

Grade: B+

Verdict: If you’re a fan of cyberpunk (think Blade Runner, The Matrix, Akira) then this is definitely worth checking out. If you like fast paced action featuring a great female lead, but SF isn’t your thing, I still think it’s a risk worth taking.

Grade: B+

Jeff’s Blog
Amazon E-book
Audible book

Review – The Black by Paul E. Cooley (E-book)

Black_paperback_for-print-sml1 My friend Paul Cooley has a new book out. Unlike his previous books, this one is not self published. It’s put out by Severed Press, a fine purveyor of books like Jake Bible’s Z-Burbia series. I’ve been watching his process and it’s very interesting. He wrote the book this year and it actually got published THIS YEAR. I’ve more to say about that, but it needs to be a separate post. On to the review!

Under 30,000 feet of water, the exploration rig Leaguer has discovered an oil field larger than Saudi Arabia, with oil so sweet and pure, nations would go to war for the rights to it. But as the team starts drilling exploration well after exploration well in their race to claim the sweet crude, a deep rumbling beneath the ocean floor shakes them all to their core. Something has been living in the oil and it’s about to give birth to the greatest threat humanity has ever seen.

“The Black” is a techno/horror-thriller that puts the horror and action of movies such as Leviathan and The Thing right into readers’ hands. Ocean exploration will never be the same.”

The Goods – This is a book that is both like and unlike Paul’s previous books. Why is this a good thing? It shows his breadth and depth as a writer. This book proves that he can do a fairly straight forward monster tale (which this is) and bring his own flavor to it. It’s more “marketable” than his other works. Not to say that it’s better or worse, it’s just a bit more accessible than alt history/horror or Muppet VIOLENCE. His writing here is also a little tighter than usual, which is a requirement more of the genre. If he has continued success with this series and other books with Severed, it will hopefully bring more folks into the fold who will discover his edgier books. That’s a win-win.

The Black takes a few chapters to get warmed up to the level of action and violence a book like this needs, but it’s never boring. The characters are well fleshed out, especially for a book in this genre, and the monster is spooky without us knowing a damned thing about it. Once it does get going it doesn’t let up. There’s not a wasted bit of prose anywhere in here.

The Bads – Yeah, there aren’t any. I really can’t find a single damned thing I would change about this book. Except maybe to put my name on the cover.

Go buy this thing! It gets five and a half out of five tentacles from me. Yeah I can do that. It’s non-Euclidean or something.

Paul’s Site
Paul’s Twitter

Review – The 33: Pramantha by JC Hutchins (Audiobook)

I’ve long been a fan of I reviewed the first part of this story early this year. I just finished listening to it and I’m here to tell you how it held up. This is not a podcast. JC is charging for it.

Synopsis: After cutting a deal with a mysterious recruiter, Addison Creel is thrust into a world he barely understands. He’s been called to join The 33 — a group of thirty-three misfits tasked with protecting humanity from ruthless criminals, malicious technologies, black magicians and hostile supernatural beings.

Addison’s first day on the job brims with brainbenders: teleportation, sorcery, nanotech. But that’s easy compared to his first mission: Investigating a rash of violent, shocking suicides at a high-tech, high-profile commune in Washington.

Will Addison’s unusual gift — and the gifts of other The 33 members Bliss, Azael, Mad_Ana and John Swords III — be enough to thwart the twisted epidemic before it spreads?

Production: The production on this is straight forward. There aren’t a lot of bells and whistles here, but the sound quality is good.

Grade: B+

Cast:  JC is a quality narrator and brings a unique voice to each character that he portrays. This dramatic reading displays those talents.

Grade: A

Story: As I said in the original review, this story opens with a bang. The pace never lets up. If there’s one thing Hutch is phenomenal at, it’s crafting a story that take you for a wild ride. And when I say “craft” that’s not hyperbole. I know Hutch and he’s the kind of writer that agonizes over every detail. That shows. It does mean that he’s not released as frequently as he would like, but Pramantha is a finished product. So you don’t have to wait if you get this now.

The best thing about this story, in a story that seems full of “best things” for my money is the character development. Each of the characters is very unique, and they all possess a depth that’s almost shocking in a thriller. It would be tempting for me as a writer to take a few short cuts or to sacrifice some development for sheer streamlining, but he doesn’t do that.

The other thing that this story is chock-full of are face splitting grin moments. Whether it’s a call out to a bit of pop culture or a bit of inventive dialog, I found myself smiling and nodding along.

The finale certainly lives up to all of this buildup. There’s a TON of gore, violence, action, and adult language so this one’s not for the kids. But if any of that appeals to you then buckle up and take this ride. I guarantee you won’t be sorry.

Grade: A+

Verdict: I am as off the hook pleased about this story taken as a whole as I was by the first episode. I not only recommend that you go pick this up, I beg you to. It’s purely selfish of me. I want him to keep on writing in this universe. Whether/how quickly that happens is entirely reliant on sales. He’s putting a massive effort into this and naturally to pay the bills if it doesn’t pay off then he’ll move on to other projects.

He’s started releasing the second “adventure” in the first “season”. He’s taking a TV approach to this and these are his terms for them. He also released an interim story which was free to his newsletter subscribers (subscribe to his newsletter) and cheap to everyone else. You might want to pick that up first since it’s a prequel of sorts to Pramntha. Regardless of listening order it’s just as good, though a bit lower key.

The four ebooks that make up Pramantha will cost you $7.96. The audio books will cost you $11.96. Or you can get a set including both for $15.96. The audio clocks in at approximately seven and a half hours. It was imminently satisfying. I got the bundle and it cost me a little less as a subscriber (you should subscribe to his newsletter). I also recommend buying it directly from him. Support your local indie!

Grade: A

Buy direct from JC’s site.
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Review – Space Casey Season Two (Podcast)

space-casey Space Casey Season Two is an audio comedy/space opera and is the sequel (as the title implies) of Space Casey. This isn’t an audio book, rather it’s a full voice cast audio production and was written by the inestimable Christiana Ellis.

Synopsis: n this follow-up to the award-winning comedy-science-fiction-audio-drama: “Space Casey”, Casey the intergalactic con-artist continues her thrilling tale of adventure, fraud, and time travel!

Ed. Note – This is not the best synopsis. Let me try.

Space Casey Season Two is the tale, told by Casey in her own defense on the witness stand, of the galaxy’s best con-artist who has stolen a time machine and in the process breaks nearly every rule of time travel three times.

Production:  The sound quality, music, and sound effects are very solid. Some of the manipulation used to make alien voices can be a little grating, but those voices are rare.

Grade: A-

Cast: If you’re a fan of podcasting you will here a LOT of familiar voices. Outside of Casey herself, voiced by Christiana, my favorite was probably Nathan Lowell as Benjamin Franklin or possibly Billy Flynn as the Defense Attorney. They all did stand up jobs.

Grade: A+

Story: This story deals a lot with time travel and you don’t get a much more untrustworthy narrator than Casey. If there are any holes in it the author has asked us as the audience to point them out. I was far too busy laughing to really worry about that.

Grade: A

Verdict: There aren’t many podcasts I’ve given A’s across the board. You need to listen to this and if you haven’t you need to listen to the first one.

Grade: A

Podcast Link
Christiana’s Site

Review – Anti-Bio (Ebook)

antibio Jake Bible puts out a book and I buy and review it. That’s pretty much how this game works. Considering he’s putting out a book a month this year I’ll have a lot of reading to do.

They have failed.
All that’s left are the Strains- bacteria so strong they have brought the world to its knees.
But humanity has fought on, carving out pockets of civilization in a wasteland known as the Sicklands, creating the super high-tech Clean Nation cities.
And from the cities GenSOF has been born- Genetic Special Forces Operations. An elite military branch of the government that enlists men and women with specific genetic anomalies that allow them to be hosts to bacteria that even the Strains cannot defeat. Under the watchful eye of Control, GenSOF protects the Clean Nation cities from the ever encroaching Strains and the diseased inhabitants of the Sicklands.
But now Control has other plans for GenSOF, and possibly the Clean Nation cities themselves, and it is up to the operators of GenSOF Zebra Squad, and their cloned Canine Units known as bug hounds, to find out what those plans are.
Or die trying.

As I said in the intro, Jake’s putting out a bunch of books this year. On the one hand, as a fan and as a writer, I was worried that given the ramped up production schedule the quality would suffer. On the other hand I was all “WOOHOO! MORE BOOKS!!”. Well it turns out *DRAMATIC PAUSE* I needn’t have worried. Jake is returning to fertile ground that he knows well; a blighted no man’s land, a post apocalypse, and para-military ass kickers. The good thing is, to me, this doesn’t feel like more of the same.

The Goods – The characters in this book are deeper than some of the ones in past books. I can see that Jake is spending a lot more time with his characters and thinking through them. He’s created deep characters in the past, but in this book there’s more of them. Fewer two-dimensional characters is a good thing, most definitely. The plot is also very enjoyable. There’s a lot that the main characters don’t know and just when they think they’ve figured something out the world gets a little more screwed up. They have help along the way, but even this help isn’t always reliable or available. The whole thing moves along briskly and when I saw that it was almost three hundred pages I was a bit surprised.

The Bads – I first few chapters of this book were awesome. Then it hit a few dead spots for me as they trundled through the Sicklands. Things got… weird. Even by Jake Bible’s standards. This may not be a problem for anyone else but me, but when the tone of the book changed, about the time they met the GenWrecks, it stumbled. It didn’t fall, but it took a few chapters for me to get back into the swing of things. When the group got to its destination the whole book picked right back up again. There are also a few typos that the copy editor missed. I’m seeing more and more of these pop up and not just in the Indie books I read. There’s not a lot of bad to be found here. I had to look.

Overall – This was a fun read. I like the “land mines” he laid for book two. He says this looks to be a two to three book series. If he takes his time I could see it going four. The concepts, especially the bug hounds and how he handles AIs, are a lot of fun, and I’d be interested to see more of what life in the Clean Cities is like for the general population. Hopefully we’ll get a little more of that.

I give this book four out of five Cooties.

Jake’s Site
Jake’s Twitter
Available at Amazon

Review – Mega (Ebook)

Fans of the blog will know that I’ve long been a fan of Jake Bible. In the spirit of full disclosure, I also count myself as his friend. So let’s get on with the review.

There is something in the deep. Something large. Something hungry. Something prehistoric.
And Team Grendel must find it, fight it, and kill it.
Kinsey Thorne, the first female US Navy SEAL candidate has hit rock bottom. Having washed out of the Navy, she turned to every drink and drug she could get her hands on. Until her father and cousins, all ex-Navy SEALS themselves, offer her a way back into the life: as part of a private, elite combat Team being put together to find and hunt down an impossible monster in the Indian Ocean. Kinsey has a second chance, but can she live through it?

I love, love, love giant sharks. The thing I love even more than that are stories that put a rag tag bunch against nearly unbeatable odds. This book is a bit light on the first, but it hits the second nail on the head. There are giant sea critters, make no mistake, but most of that action takes place later in the book. The focus is largely on the interpersonal relationships and some epic military action. I was a little disappointed that the book, billed as a “Deep Sea Thriller” with a picture of a giant shark on the front, didn’t give the beasts more page time.

With that gripe out of the way, I enjoyed the hell out of this book. There’s a lot of humor of the dark variety on display, as any of Jake’s readers will be hoping for. There’s also some excellent character development. Kinsey, the character mentioned in the blurb, undergoes a very realistic transformation. I enjoyed watching that and getting to know the other members of Team Grendel, the pirate killing, hunters of giant sharks. (If a book that features pirate killing, giant shark hunters doesn’t make you put this on your list, this isn’t the book for you probably.)

The pace moves rapidly. Much of the first half of the book is set up, but it’s entertaining set up. You need to meet these people and get to know them and it’s as much fun as the rest. For all of the fun, this is a gritty book, filled to the gunwales with gore, coarse language, and extreme amounts of gunfire. If that appeals to you then check it out!

I give this book four dorsal fins out of five.

Jake’s Site
Jake’s Twitter
Amazon Kindle Link

Review – The 33 by JC Hutchins (Audiobook)

I’ve long been a fan of JC Hutchins’ work. For those not in the know, his book trilogy 7th Son was a fan favorite in the early days of podcast fiction. Since then, JC has built a career in freelance writing and transmedia story telling. He’s been talking about a project called The 33 for years and he’s finally decided to release it in a serial audio and e-book format.

This is not a podcast. JC is charging for it and I’m not reviewing the full run, since it’s not complete yet. But I believe in this project, and I want to let you know if it’s lived up the the standard that he’s set.

Synopsis: The 33 is J.C. Hutchins’ latest fiction project, released as monthly ebooks and digital audiobooks. The 33’s adventures are told in multi-part and one-shot short stories. Season 1 will contain 12 episodes.

Your safe First World existence isn’t safe at all. Our planet is a war zone, besieged by secret attacks from ruthless criminals, malicious technologies and hostile supernatural beings.

Standing between us and certain extinction is an unlikely league of saviors: THE 33 — thirty-three men and women blessed with unusual abilities, and even stranger personalities.

John Swords III leads the misfit crew. It ain’t easy. His lieutenants Bliss and Knack want to either kiss or kill each other. Other operatives are defiant, dysfunctional or downright deranged. The enemy is relentless and organized, poised to jumpstart the apocalypse. And Mr. Ins, The 33’s mysterious benefactor, exerts his absolute will over the group, pursuing an agenda all his own.

But one thing is certain — The 33 aren’t good guys. They leave damnation and salvation to the experts. Their mission: Maintain the status quo. Ensure the survival of the human race. Hold the line.

Part A-Team, part X-Files (with a dash of Hellboy and Global Frequency added for apocalyptic spice), The 33 is a high-stakes genre mash of action, sci-fi and supernatural thriller.

Production: The production on this is straight forward. There aren’t a lot of bells and whistles here, but the sound quality is good.

Grade: B+

Cast:  JC is a quality narrator and brings a unique voice to each character that he portrays. This dramatic reading displays those talents.

Grade: A

Story: This story opens with a bang (six bangs actually). Much like 7th Son, he sets the hooks into his readers right out of the blocks and never slows down. The characters are memorable and all bring the typical Hutch flavor to the party. He does an excellent job of establishing the universe he’s playing in, one fairly analogous to ours, and avoids pesky exposition that would slow the plot. Even where he has to do a little bit of it, he manages to do so in a way that kept me riveted. As I said, this isn’t a finished story yet, so it leaves you hanging at the end.

Grade: A+

Verdict: In case it’s not obvious, this is a stellar piece of work. It feels a little odd reviewing an unfinished product, but much like a TV show, Hutch has made it clear that if there’s not an audience for this then it won’t continue. I really, really want this to succeed. As much as I agree with the tagline “The World Needs The 33”, I will say even more loudly that the world needs more fiction by JC Hutchins. I personally want to know what happens next. So I highly recommend that you check this out. For purely selfish reasons.

As I mentioned, this is a product you’re going to have to put down some money on. How much? The e-book for this first part is $1.99 from the major e-book retailers. The audio is available only from Hutch’s site for $2.99. You can get both of them for $3.99 or if you sign up for his newsletter there might still be a discount available. This series is in four parts and that means you’ll pay about $8 for the book or $12 for the audio. I personally think that’s worth it, provided that the quality stays at this level. I have no doubt that will be the case.

Grade: A

Buy direct from JC’s site.
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