Goblins! An UnderEarth Adventure by Royce Buckingham

Title:  Goblins! An UnderEarth Adventure

Author:  Royce Buckingham

Hardcover:  232 pages

Date Published:  2008

Publisher:  G. P. Putnam’s Sons (div of Penguin Young Readers Group)

ISBN:  9780399250026

PJ put on one of his father’s spare POLICE jackets. “C’mon, we’re already here.  Besides, you said it takes an hour round trip to get to the border crossing and back.  Any smugglers would probably still be forty minutes away.”

PJ was reaching to put the car into park when something moved in the darkness.  A patch of shadow shifted against a background of dark trees.  As soon as he noticed it, it was gone.  “What was that?” he said.

“What was what?” Sam said, staring into the forest.  “I can’t see a thing.  It’s pitch-black.”

PJ reached down and flipped the headlight switch.  The sudden light glared on a dark, husky human shape in front of the car.  It waved a club-shaped object and brought it down onto the metal hood of the cruiser.

Wham!

“Smuggler!” Sam yelled.

PJ’s foot was still on the gas pedal.  He jammed it down instinctively, and the car lurched forward.  There was no time for the figure to move.  Thud!  It went down like a bowling pin and disappeared beneath the bumper.

PJ hit the brakes and the police cruiser jerked to a stop.  He took a deep breath and quickly locked the door.

“You hit him!” Sam cried.

“I know,” PJ breathed, staring into the woods.

“He’s under the car!”

“I know!”

“What if he’s a farmer or something?”  Sam said.

“You’re the one who screamed that he was a smuggler.”

“How do I know who he is?”

“It’s your stupid little town!”  PJ snapped.

A low, pained growl rose from beneath the car.

“He’s alive,” PJ said, relieved.  “Let’s get out of here.”

“We can’t leave him,” Sam said.  “There’s no way he can be okay after you smushed him.”

PJ shook his head.  “Dude, I just ran over a guy in a borrowed police car.  My instincts tell me to drive far away and never speak of this again.”

-Goblins! An UnderEarth Adventure by Royce Buckingham, pages 16-17

Goblins! by Royce Buckingham has been some of the most fun 200-some pages of reading I’ve had in a while.  The characters are normal, average teens who are called upon to act in extraordinary ways to save each other and to protect their world from the goblins of the UnderEarth. 

One of the things I like about this book is that there are no 100% evil bad guys in the book, they’re a mix of good and bad.  While PJ would prefer to stay out of things, he chooses to step up and take responsibility for his actions and for Sam, who was left in his care by his father.  Sam wants adventure, and bites off a lot more than he can chew, but nevertheless manages to prove he has a heart of a warrior.  The goblins have silly, descriptive names like “General Eww-Yuk,” “Slurp,” “Slouch,” “Thick,” etc,  enjoy eating humans, fighting, humans as well as each other, are dumber than a bag of hammers, yet they are extremely inquisitive and quick to learn and adapt.

Another thing that I liked about Goblins! is that the writing is simple, the details are just enough to make things easy to picture but not so thick that it bogs you down.  At times it reminds me of The Spiderwick Chronicles, and at other times Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth.

Besides having a highly imaginative setting and great actions scenes, including 7 foot bugs-versus-human battles, it also has a great sense of humor.  It is a book with teenagers as the heroes and main characters, so the surliness and sarcasm of the age often shines through.  For instance:  When Sam is brought before General Eww-yuk by the goblin Bargle

“Have you talked to it?” Eww-yuk asked.

“Yes,” Bargle said.  “It barks the words ‘screw’ and ‘off’ … over and over.”

-Goblins! An UnderEarth Adventure by Royce Buckingham, page 71

I think this book is ideal for the tweenage-early teen years, 9-14, and probably more for boys than girls, though I think Mags will enjoy and laugh at it.  I’d also like to warn that this book does contain the deaths of central characters that readers may get attached to, so if your reader is potentially sensitive to this, then you might want to wait. 

For being one of the most enjoyable, reality-suspending, relaxing books I’ve read in a long time, a book that wasn’t teaching the reader or delivering a message (if it was, I didn’t notice at all), a book that was just like losing 25 years and being on the playground again…  I give Goblins! An UnderEarth Adventure by Royce Buckingham 4 out of 5 stars.  It probably won’t win any awards, but it is pure pleasure.

 

Don’t forget to sign up to win a copy of Goblins! An UnderEarth Adventure in the Great Goblins! Giveaway. Contest ends 11;59 pm, May 31st, with the winner to be announced on Monday, June 1st!

Dune by Frank Herbert

Title:  Dune

Author:  Frank Herbert

Date Published:  January 1977

Publisher:  Berkley Medallion Books

Miscellaneous:  1966 winner of the Hugo Award and was the inagural winner of the Nebula Award in 1965.

His mother was beside him, holding his hands, her face a gray blob peering at him.  “Paul, what’s wrong?”

….”What have you done to me?”  he demanded.

In a burst of clarity, she sensed some of the roots in the question, said:  “I gave birth to you.”

…”Did you know what you were doing when you tranined me?”  he asked.

There’s no more childhood in his voice, she thought.  And she said:  “I hoped the thing any parent hopes – that you’d be … superior, different.”

…”You didn’t want a son!”  he said.  “You wanted a Kwisatz Haderach!  You wanted a male Bene Gesserit!  … Did you ever consult my father in this?”

She spoke gently out of the freshness of her grief:  “Whatever you are, Paul, the heredity is as much your father as me.”

“But not the training,” he said.  “Not the things that awakened… the sleeper…. You wanted the Reverend Mother to hear about my dreams:  You listen in her place now.  I’ve just had a waking dream.  Do you know why?”

“You must calm yourself,” she said.  “If there’s -“

“The spice,” he said.  “It’s in everything here – the air, the soi, the food, the geriatric spice.  It’s like the Truthsayer drug.  It’s a poison!”

She stiffened.

His voice lowered and he repeated:  “A poison – so subtle, so insidious … so irreversible.  It won’t even kill you unless you stop taking it.  We can’t leave Arrakis unless we take part of Arrakis with us.”

The terrifying presence of his voice brooked no dispute.

“You and the spice,” Paul said.  “The spice changes anyone who gets this much of it, but thanks to you, I could bring the change to consciousness.  I don’t get to leave it in the unconscious where its distrubance can be blanked out.  I can see it.”

… She heard madness in his voice, didn’t know what to do…. We’re trapped here, she agreed.

-Dune by Frank Herbert, pages 195-196

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I could seriously cry. I just wrote the full review, clicked “publish” and WordPress ATE IT! AHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

short version.

Dune is really cool. read it.

I give it 5 out of 5.

Boo! WordPress!

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OKay, trying this again. *deep cleansing breath*

Dune by Frank Herbert is the science fiction/fantasy book of all time, with the exception of Tolkien’s work. It enfolds ecology, feudal lords, space travel, mysticism, and combat and creates an amazing world that is both an advancement of humanity, while at the same time the regression of it. I found the place water plays in the everyday life of the Fremen of the desert planet of Arrakis completely fascinating, it is the beginning and the ending of their existance, as well as the very essence and the centerpiece of their dream: Arrakis as an Eden.

Paul Muad’Dib has been trained in the Bene Gesserit ways by his mother, who disobeyed the command to give birth to a daughter, which has given him a hyper-awareness of the world and those around him. When his family is sent to Arrakis as his father, Duke Leto’s new fiefdom, the sudden supersaturation of melange, a cinnomon-y spice that extends life and allows the user to become more spiritually aware, and the shock of the attack from a rival Great House (“noble” family) forces a change in Paul. He is suddenly able to see all time, past present and future, and all their possibilities, and is troubled by the visions of jihad being mounted across the galaxy in his name and under his banner. He is determined to prevent this, while avenging his father’s death and leading the Fremen (native… sort of.. people of Arrakis) to autonomy and control of their planet and the spice found only on Arrakis.

I found Herbert’s imagination amazing. In Dune, Herbert created a future that was virtually unimaginable at the time. He gave the world its own rules and specific history. And he gave them a religion that has a sense of being the eventual mingling of the major religions. The Orange Catholic Bible is a sacred text, many of the names and terms have a Muslim feel, and the Litany Against Fear is positively Zen-like:

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series, Dune Messiah :-)

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Brisingr by Christopher Paolini

Title:  Brisingr

Author:  Christopher Paolini

Hardback:  764 pages

Publish Date:  2008

Publisher:  Alfred A. Knopf  (div. of Random House)

ISBN:  9780375826726

MiscellaneousBrisingr is the third book in the Inheritance Cycle.

By the light from the coals in the oven, Eragon studied Sloan’s hands; the butcher lay a yard or two away, where Eragon had placed him.  Dozens of thin white scars crisscrossed his long, bony fingers, with their oversized knuckles and long fingernails that, while they had been meticulous in Carvahall, were now ragged, torn, and blackened with accumulated filth.  The scars testified to the relatively few mistakes Sloan had made during the decades he had spent wielding knives.  His skin was wrinkled and weathered and bulged with wormlike veins, yet the muscles underneath were hard and lean.

Eragon sat on his haunches and crossed his arms over his knees.  “I can’t just let him go,” he murmured.  If he did, Sloan might track down Roran and Katrinan, a prospect that Eragon considered unacceptable.  Besides, even though he was not going to kill Sloan, he believed the butcher should be punished for his crimes.

… What, however, would constitiute proper punishment?  I refused to become an executioner, thought Eragon, only to make myself an arbiter.  What do I know about law?

-Brisingr by Christopher Paolini, page 75

As we return to Alagaesia in this, the third book in the Inheritance Cycle, we begin the journey of growing up as most of the old leaders, Brom, Ajihad, Hrothgar, and Durza all died in the second book and Eragon, Roran, Nasuada, Orik and Murtagh have all stepped into the positions of leadership their deaths left open.  This concept, that of the younger generation stepping up and carrying the banner, is the continuing theme throughout Brisingr by Christopher Paolini.

To be completely honest, I doubt this book could be a stand alone novel.  There is so much that occurred in the two previous books that has led to the events in this book, and most of those events are not referenced, it is assumed that the reader already knows.  Even though I’d read the first two, and had read them less than a year ago, there were still a couple times where even I failed to remember what previous happening was alluded to.

What’s more, Brisingr seems to be a bloated and under-edited cry of “look at me!  I’m so smart!  I has talents!” from Paolini.  Yes, Eragon (the first book of the series) was an impressive show of skill, partly because if the story and writing, but also because of the fact the author was 15 when he wrote it.  And Eldest was a continuation of that book.  Both were exciting and fascinating, with dragons and elves and the battle of good versus evil.  Both contained sword fights and duels of magicians, and the fight to protect one of the most basic rights people have, to have and be safe in one’s own home.  Disappointingly, though, Brisingr drags on and on, with pages spent on day trips of hunting or flying around, and with Eragon’s whining.  I got so sick of his whining by the end of the book!

It is not entirely bad, though.  There are several things that I loved about this book.  SPOILER ALERT… warn you ahead of time.  I appreciated Eragon’s difficult choice not to kill Sloan, who’s decision to betray the village of Carvahall to the Galbatorix led to the death of many and the ultimate destruction of the village.  He chooses not to be an executioner, yet he also realizes justice demands Sloan’s punishment.  Eragon shows a depth of character and the ability to think on many levels with the punishment he imposes.  He does not abandon Sloan to the desert, being an executioner by proxy, but takes up the responsibility for the man’s life throughout the book.  Another facet of Brisingr I truly loved is Eragon’s true parentage.  I cannot think of a better or more noble resolution to the struggle Eragon goes through after Murtagh revealed to him that they were brothers.  In fact, this little nugget makes me hate the movie version even more, because it was never touched (That movie will have negative stars before the end of this series!).  Also, I have enjoyed watching Roran come into his own as a leader within the Varden, no longer viewed solely as the cousin of the Dragon Rider.

Seriously, Brisingr by Christopher Paolini leaves a lot to be desired, but it’s one of those things that I’m glad I did now that I’m done.  I wanted to finish it because I loved the first two books, and I will buy and read the final book when it comes out.  I give it 3 out of 5 stars.  Maybe they should make a condensed version?  Does Reader’s Digest do fantasy books?

Other reviews of interest for Brisingr:

ImpishIdea Brisingr Review

Ngewo’s Dirty Little Mind Brisingr Review

Material Witness Brisingr Review

In the following video, two teenage guys try to make sense of two popular YA books. Twilight versus Brisingr…. who will win?

The Horse and His Boy by C. S. Lewis


Title:  The Horse and His Boy

Author:  C. S. Lewis

Paperback:  767 pages

Publisher:  HarperCollins

Publish Date:  1998

ISBN:  0066238501

Miscellaneous:  This edition is part of a complete collection in one book copy.   It was chronologically published fifth but is meant to be read third in the series.

He was just going to run for it when suddenly, between him and the desert, a huge animal bounded into view.  As the moon was behind it, it looked quite black, and Shasta did not know what it was, except that it had a very big, shaggy head and went on four legs.  It did not seem to have noticed Shasta, for it suddenly stopped, turned its head towards the desert and let out a roar which re-echoed through the Tombs and seemed to shake the sand under Shasta’s feet.  The cries of the other creatures suddenly stopped and he thought he could hear feet scampering away.  Then the great beast turned to examine Shasta.

“It’s a lion, I know it’s a lion,” thought Shasta.  “I’m done.  I wonder, will it hurt much?  I wish it was over.  I wonder, does anything happen to people after they’re dead?  O-o-oh!  Here it comes!”  And he shut his eyes and his teeth tight.

But instead of teeth and claws he only felt something warm lying down at his feet.  And when he opened his eyes he said, “Why, it’s not nearly as big as I thought!  It’s only half the size.  No, it isn’t even quarter the size.  I do declare it’s only the cat!!  I must have dreamed all that about it being as big as a horse.”

And whether he really had been dreaming or not, what was now lying at his feet, and staring him out of countenance with its big, green, unwinking eyes, was the cat; though certainly one of the largest cats he had ever seen.

-The Horse and His Boy by C. S. Lewis, page 246

The Horse and His Boy, though published fifth, is meant to be read third in the series.  It is an interim book telling a story that takes place within the time of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and features the adults Kings Peter and Edmund and Queens Susan and Lucy.

The book begins, “This is the story of an adventure that happened in Narnia and Calormen and the lands between, in the Golden Age when Peter was High King in Narnia and his brother and his two sisters were King and Queens under him.”  And then opens on a poor fisherman’s hut where a cruel middle-aged bachelor and his foundling son, Shasta,  live.  When a Tarkaan (something like a lord or baron) stops at the house and offers to buy Shasta, the boy is relieved to be leaving the man he’d always thought was his father but had never loved.

However, his relief is short-lived when the Tarkaan’s horse turns out to be one of the talking Horses of Narnia who tells him that he’d be better off lying dead on the roadside than as the slave of the Tarkaan.  Bree, the Horse, tells Shasta he was kidnapped as a Foal and is really a Freeperson of Narnia.  He further tells the boy that he himself is not a Caloremenian, but is a Narnian (or Archenlander) as well.

The two devise a plan of escape, and when the men are sleeping in the house, the Horse and the boy set off for Narnia and the North.  Along the way, they meet up with another Narnian Horse, a mare named Hwin, and a young girl named Aravis, who is a Tarkeena running away from an arranged marriage to a horribly wicked and hideous old man.

As they set out to pass through the capital city, though, the four are stopped by a procession of the Narnian Royals and Shasta is snatched out of crowd by Edmund who mistakes him for the missing Archenland Prince in their company.  This turns out to be a blessing, as Shasta learns of a hidden path that greatly shortens the trek through the desert that lies between Calormen and the lands of the North.

Throughout this book, there is a force leading, guiding, and protecting the four.  Of course, anyone who’s read the previous Narnia book knows this is Aslan, who has been working behind the scenes for the past 10-15 years (Shasta’s age is never given) to ensure that Archenland and Narnia will be safe from the attack of the Calormenian Prince Rabadash.

The Horse and His Boyis also Christian allegory, this time expressing the steadfastness and ever-present nature of Christ, even when we don’t realize he’s there (as Shasta was unaware of the true identity of the cat that protected and comforted him in the Tombs), and even before we know Him or follow Him (as neither Shasta nor Aravis new of Aslan, and in fact served other gods).  You cannot help but love Aslan as he reveals himself, and how he has been watching after them throughout their lives.  It’s very comforting to know He is always with us and caring for us, even when we’re stubbornly going our own way and resisting His hand.

Though I can’t say I liked The Horse and His Boy more that The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, I definitely liked it more than The Magician’s Nephew (though I still love the Creation of Narnia), and thoroughly loved and enjoyed it.  I absolutely give this book 5 out of 5 stars :-D

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The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis

Title: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Author: C. S. Lewis

Paperback: 767 pages

Publisher: Harper Collins

Publish Date: 1998

ISBN: 0066238501

Miscellaneous: This copy is included in a complete collection of The Chronicles of Narnia.

“You have a traitor there, Aslan,” said the Witch. Of course everyone present knew that she meant Edmund. But Edmund had got past thinking about himself after all he’d been through and after the talk he’d had that morning. He just went on looking at Aslan. It didn’t seem to matter what the Witch said.

“Well,” said Aslan. “His offence was not against you.”

“Have you forgotten the Deep Magic?” asked the Witch.

“Let us say I have forgotten it,” answered Aslan gravely. “Tell us of this Deep Magic.”

“Tell you?” said the Witch, her voice growing suddenly shriller. “Tell you what is written on the very Table of Stone which stands beside us? Tell you what is written in letters deep as a spear is long on the fire-stones on the Secret Hill? Tell you what is engraved on the sceptre of the Emperor-beyond-the-Sea? You at least know the Magic which the Emperor put into Narnia at the very beginning. You know that every traitor belongs to me as my lawful prey and that for every treachery I have a right to a kill… And so,” continued the Witch, “that human creature is mine. His life is forfeit to me. His blood is my property.”

“Come and take it then,” said the Bull with the man’s head, in a great bellowing voice.

“Fool,” said the Witch with a savage smile that was almost a snarl, “do you really think your master can rob me of my rights by mere force? He knows the Deep Magic better than that. He knows that unless I have blood as the Law says, all Narnia will be overturned and perish in fire and water.”

“It is very true,” said Aslan. “I do not deny it…. Fall back, all of you… and I will talk to the Witch alone….”

At last they heard Aslan’s voice. “You can all come back,” he said. “I have settled the matter. She has renounced the claim on your brother’s blood…”

The Witch was just turning away with a look of fierce joy on her face when she stopped and said, “But how do I know this promise will be kept?”

“Haa-a-arrh!” roared Aslan, half rising from his throne; and his great mouth opened wider and wider and the roar grew louder and louder, and the Witch, after staring for a moment with her lips wide apart, picked up her skirts and fairly ran for her life.

-The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis, pages 175-176

 

At the very heart of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe lies the message of redemption of the guilty by the substitution of an innocent and willing sacrifice. In all honesty, it is impossible for me to read this book without seeing the parallels to Christianity. As much as I tried to stay away from it in The Magician’s Nephew, I find I am unable to see this book in any other light.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is by far my favorite Narnia book. This has been my fourth time reading it, as well as watching the BBC production and the Disney version of it (also, multiple times each). It was read to me by my mother when I was still in elementary, I’ve read it to my children, and I’ve read it for my own pleasure, and each time the Salvation story: The redemption of the lost and those who have chosen to follow evil, even as they know in their hearts that it IS evil they follow, by Jesus’ offering Himself as payment for the sin of all mankind.

The story itself is a beautiful and emotionally touching story of forgiveness and redemption and the power of love to overcome evil. As Susan and Lucy watch Aslan lay down his life to satisfy the Witch’s claim for Edmund’s blood, their hearts break as they witness his utter humiliation; his main is shorn off and he is trussed up in ropes and muzzled. Even as the battle rages on not far from them, they are compelled to sit with the lifeless body of the mighty lion, the Creator and Protector of Narnia, the true King.

It is the Deeper Magic that goes back before the Witch’s knowledge, “when a willing victim who had committed no trachery was killed in a traitor’s stead,” that breaks the claim of the Law and “Death itself would start working backwards.” The one concept the Witch could never comprehend is that a person without blame would take the place of the guilty, without machinations, but purely out of LOVE.

Obviously, I love this book… I wouldn’t have read it so many times if I didn’t ;-) . As it was the first of the Narnias written, it can stand alone, and is often the only Narnia book people have read. I could read this book once a month… possibly even once a week… and always get something new out of it. For all these reasons, and more, I give The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis 5 out of 5 stars. Even if you’re not a Christian, this book is beyond worth reading. You will be a better person for it :-D .

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The Conquest of Gaul by Julius Caesar

Title:  The Conquest of Gaul
Author: Julius Caesar
Translated: S. A. Handford
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publish Date: 1982
ISBN: 9780140444339

As the situation was critical and no reserves were available, Caesar snatched a shield from a soldier in the rear (he had not his own shield with him), made his way into the front line, addressed each centurion by name, and shouted encouragement to the rest of the troops, ordering them to push forward and open out their ranks, so that they could use their swords more easily. His coming gave them fresh heart and hope: each man wanted to do his best under the eyes of his commander-in-chief, however desperate the peril, and the enemy’s assault was slowed…

-Book II, “The Conquest of the Belgic Tribes, “section 2,
“Piecemeal conquest of the Belgic tribes (57 B.C.),
paragraph 25, lines 6 and 7.

First off, let me preface this review by saying this is not a book I would have ever picked for myself to read. It was a randomly assigned book from Penguin Classics to review. Second, it was not the book originally assigned. The first book had been Fortress Besieged, which I was really excited to get but was unfortunately out of print. And third, I must inform you of the following caveat: I was woefully unable to finish the book. It just was NOT my cuppa.

All that being said, on with the review:

Julius Caesar’s The Conquest of Gaul is basically the battle reports from a general, Caesar, to his boss, the Roman Senate and the people of Rome, detailing the events, names and places of his campaigns in Germany, Gaul and Britiannia. It is not war reportage full of excitement and suspense and suspense, but a simple list of details. For what it is, a historical accounting of the Roman push into northern Europe, it is an excellent, informative book to study. And as you study The Conquest of Gaul, make sure to keep your notepad, pen, highlighters and post-it flags handy so that you can get the most out of it. It would also help to be previously acquainted with the histories of the area and peoples in it before picking this book up as it is dense with names and events that would have been common knowledge for the people of the day, but have lost a lot of meaning in the millenniums that have passed.

For me, the book was intolerably boring, but that’s just a taste thing, however I did learn a great deal. For one thing, Caesar was a brilliant strategist and tactician. He was able to see ways to defeat the enemy that completely amazes me. His confidence in his abilities and that of his men, made him feared and respected by those who attempted to oppose his Rome. Some of the battles were won when the warring tribe was informed Caesar was on his way. They would send envoys of unconditional surrender and a plea of mercy to him before he’d even reached their land. He is, without a doubt, one of the top military minds in history.

Not only was Caesar a brilliant soldier and commander, but he was also a man of dedication and honor. He valued his word and made certain it was upheld. He followed a code of ethics that showed the people of Gaul what a civilized people can be.  Romanization was inevitable under Caesar. Tribes converted from barbarianism and fictionalized feuding to peaceful alliances. It is debated what Caesar’s political motivations were, whether he craved dictatorship or he was truly desirous of Rome’s best interests. I personally believe Caesar was less of the manipulative power-hungry megalomaniac I was taught in school, and more the noble patrician who wanted equality for citizens as opposed to the oligarchic political system of the time. He was the Man of the People who became their beloved Emporer, their first Caesar (as a title and office) of many.

I give Caesar’s The Conquest of Gaul 4 out of 5 stars. It’s informative and a classic, though very dry and it’s strictly text book-style writing bored me to distraction.

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