Duma Key – Stephen King

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Duma Key is the 2008 psychological horror by Stephen King. Although I have read a number of King’s short stories, Duma Key is only the second novel of King’s I have read. And again, King was proven that his work is worth the hype that surrounds his back catalogue. The novel centres around Edgar Freemantle, a self-made millionaire, who survives a horrific accident at work. The severity of the accident leaves him with an amputated arm, speech, visual and memory problems and causes him to have terrible mood swings. Following his accident, Edgar moves to a small island in hope an extended vacation will help in his recovery. This island is Duma Key.

I usually get put off by long books, as I find that a novel has to work hard to keep my attention for a long period. Duma Key was around 611 pages and I was a little bit apprehensive as to whether I would successfully complete the novel before boredom stroked. However, I was pleasantly surprised that King was able to keep me interested and engaged throughout the entire novel. Which, I am happy to say, has made me far more open minded when it comes to other books that may be of a longer length.

Duma Key reminded me of King’s short story ‘Obits’. This was due to the way that Edgar was able to make things happen through his paintings. Similarly, in ‘Obits’ the main character was able to kill people by writing up their obituaries. I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Obits’ therefore I was more than happy to read an extended piece of work that had a similar concept. This was because the novel was able to explore the concept in more depth, and we saw Edgar using his new found ‘abilities’ in a variety of ways. This I found to be so much more interesting as we were not just seeing deaths. We were seeing also things like the erasing of a brain tumour, which for me, was far more intriguing of a concept.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed Duma Key, I do feel as though the ending was slightly anticlimactic. I simply felt that there was something missing from the ending chapters of the novel. So, upon finishing the novel I was disappointed. And there’s nothing worse than investing so much time into a novel to only be left disappointed at the end.  I do however realise that I am such a harsh critique when it comes to the end of a story. I am rarely satisfied with a story’ ending, usually because I have already realised where the author is taking me. To King’s credit though I did not guess where he was taking the story of Duma Key, so the ending was a little bit of a surprise.

Although this was the case, I would still recommend Stephen King’s novel, Duma Key. If anything, it is an interesting concept and will truly have you thinking about life. And if you’re somebody who may be put off by King’s work due to his famous psychological/horror approach to his stories, be assured this one will not give you too much of a fright. I believe it is one of his tamer works, though i’m no King expert…so don’t hold me to that.

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The Martian – Andy Weir

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The Martian is the 2011 science fiction novel by Andy Weir. The story centres around the astronaut Mark Watney, a botanist and an engineer, who with five others travelled to Mars for the mission called Ares III. On the sixth day of the team’s mission however disaster strikes, and the team are forced to make a quick exit from Mars. The twist of this story though is that Mark, who is impaled by an antenna is flung out of sight by extreme winds, as a result he is presumed dead and gets left behind. I say presumed, because it quickly becomes apparent that Mark does not die, he survives, though is stranded on Mars. The novel explores Mark’s isolation on Mars, and the fight for his survival and return to Earth.

If you don’t live under a rock you will be aware that Weir’s novel was adapted into a film starring Matt Damon in 2015. I watched this film prior to reading The Martian. Usually I try to do the opposite, as I find my motivation to read a book hinders when I already know what happens from a film. I was excited to find though, that this order of film then book, did not hinder my reading experience at all! I found myself just as intrigued and swept away with the plot as I would have been had I not seen the film adaptation first. – which I feel is a real testament to Weir’s writing.

First things first, you may be thinking that because The Martian is about space, botany, and engineering, that it is not a book for you. And, I must admit I had similar feelings. Having read sciency novels in the past that included a lot of scientific terms, I was a bit sceptical. This is because I feel that in these types of novels all the language goes over my head, and I simply do not connect with the story or the characters because I do not understand. However, I found that although Weir does include science talk, it is not something that dominates the novel, and the stuff that is there is very accessible. So, if the idea of science talk is the only thing putting you off about reading this book then you have little to worry about.

What I loved most about The Martian is Weir’s character Mark. The novel is by large written through diary logs kept by this character, so we really get a feel for him as a person. The logs are used to reflect of what Mark has been doing throughout the day, and what he plans to do as he continues his mission to survive. Though, they are not as serious and technical as you may imagine. The logs are humorous, thoughtful, and determined accounts which demonstrate the character perfectly. Mark is certainly a character who strives to see the positive in situations, and doesn’t let setbacks stop him. Alongside that though he is an extraordinarily smart and logical thinking individual, if only we were all more like him.

When I began reading The Martian though I did worry that the novel would be one dimensional and would focus entirely on what was happening on Mars. However, after a few chapters, I was happy to see the inclusion of what was happening on Earth, and then further on what was happening on the spaceship that held the rest of the mission teammates. So, throughout the novel we are presented with a very rounded story, which was effective in building up the tension. It was also interesting to see three very different settings, we had Mars, the space stations on Earth and a space shift travelling through space between Mars and Earth. It is not often you get to discover settings that are so different yet so similar at the same time.

Whether you go on to enjoy The Martian or not, what is unarguably brilliant about this story is how everybody rallied around and wanted to help this one man. It truly demonstrates the best in humanity by showing how people come together when somebody is in trouble. Suffice to say, I would highly recommend Weir’s novel. It is a humorous, engaging, and thought-provoking story that is too brilliantly written. I struggle to find faults with Weir’s work on this novel, though if you feel differently, I would love to hear your thoughts.

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The Road – Cormac McCarthy

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The Road is a post-apocalyptic 2006 novel by Cormac McCarthy. The story focuses upon a father and son who are travelling through a burnt out America, with their sights set on reaching the coast. The duo have nothing but the clothes on their back, a pistol with limited bullets and a small supply of food to keep them going along their journey. The novel sees the pair scavenging through the derelict, burned out towns and cities whilst trying to avoid running into ‘bad guys’ who stalk the roads.

In The Road we are presented with a truly disturbing and terrifying scenario. There are few people left in the world, and some of those left are savage beyond belief. We are not explicitly told what happened to cause such a brutal world, though I believe this leaves for a much more haunting story as so many scenarios could have led to the ultimate downfall of humanity. In all the savagery that we witness though, it is clear that this is a book that acutely portrays the best and the worst of mankind. From the unbreakable, trusting and loving relationship of the father and son to the ‘bad guys’ who we witness keeping prisoners for their cannibalistic needs. With this McCarthy offers us a magnitude of characters that portray how far humans can be pushed.

I finished The Road in two sittings, but if I had had the chance I am certain I would have finished the novel in one go. McCarthy writes with no chapters and allows his novel to flow with the progression of the father and sons travels. So, you find yourself turning page after page with no thought of having a break. Usually, I am all for chapters, and cannot comprehend a novel that does not use them. However, I felt this style was extremely effective for this novel and I truly felt that I was a participant in the journey across America. Not only that though McCarthy’s language and imagery creates some fantastic scenes, so it is difficult not to picture yourself alongside this family.

McCarthy created characters and a novel in The Road that kept you routing for a positive outcome. So much so, that it is so easy to forget that such a terrible situation has already been thrust upon the father and son. Like most, the ending of a novel is something I always battle with. I rarely find that the finishing pages of a novel end in a good or satisfactory way. On the one hand, with McCarthy’s novel, I feel exactly this way. I feel that McCarthy has left so much unsaid, and left me wanting so much more from this world and his characters. However, on the other hand, the journey has been completed, the goal has been met, and in the end we are given a positive outcome. So, it is difficult to argue that The Road ends on a bit of a flat line.

The Road is a novel unlike any others that I have read, and I am a little annoyed at myself for letting McCarthy’s novel sit on my bookshelf for as long as I did. So, I would recommend it to you all without a doubt. Although if you’re currently looking for a light read, something to relax by the pool with on holiday, maybe try something a bit lighter than McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic novel.

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The One – John Marrs

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John Marrs 2017 novel The One is a story about finding your perfect match. In Marr’s world there has been a development in the world of love which can genetically match you with your perfect match. The novel follows the lives of six individuals who have applied to find their match. Each character takes us on a journey of the positives and negatives of the idea of a perfect match.

I think a novel like The One is very current in where we currently are in the dating world. From apps and websites, to unique dating events like being matched through a scent, it’s safe to say that the dating world has progressed majorly. And, with science continuously moving forward, it’s not difficult to imagine a world whereby we could be matched with a significant other through our DNA. It seems like an easy solution, right? Avoiding any time wasters, eliminating the anxiety of meeting new people, saying goodbye to potential heartbreak because you are not actually suited and you get all this for just a small fee. However, if you’ve ever thought something like this would be a good idea, Marrs novel will surely prove you wrong – or at least question your views. This is because she fantastically emphasises that you never know what somebody is really like, and what is really going on behind closed doors. Therefore this ‘perfect match’ could be exactly what your genetics requires, but they could be the opposite of what your morals and mind wants. – which you will see evidence in this novel.

When I found Marrs novel The One online, I was immediately drawn in by its concept. So, I was very excited to get my claws into this novel. However, it is not just the idea that I loved, the structure and style is something I really enjoyed too. Each chapter focused on a different character, but also some of these characters could be paired off as couples. For example the chapter’s focusing on Amy and Christopher, demonstrate the two sides of a matched couple. This enabled a more rounded picture regarding the matches, as we were seeing both sides of the match, and their feelings and thought processes towards it. It was interesting to read the two sides as one would try to keep a secret from the other, and we are able to witness first hand these secrets ruining the matches.

I found Marrs novel to be a real page turner, but I think this was solely because I enjoyed reading about some character’s stories more than others, so I wanted to get to their chapters quickly. That being said though, I did find the novel to be an easy read, each story flowed well, and the jumping between each character was pretty smooth. So, even though I was drawn to some characters more than others I did not struggle to get into all of the separate stories. The only thing that I would mention about this style of writing, whereby Marr focused on different characters in different chapters, was that at times I found myself having to go back and double check who I was reading about. Because there is so much going on in The One, I found that when you start reading the novel it can be a little complicated to keep up, though with perseverance you get the hang of it!

I would a hundred percent recommend this book, read it if you like a suspense novel, read it if you like the concept of having a genetic match, or read it if you like a quick read. Because if you like any of those things you are sure to get on well with Marrs The One

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Hidden Figures – Magot Lee Shetterly

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Hidden Figures is the novel by Margot Lee Shetterly, based on the true story of the women behind the space programs in the mid twentieth century. The novel focuses upon the efforts of America to get a man into orbit around the earth, as well as the mission to get the first man on to the moon. Shetterly uses this novel to tell us this previously untold story of a group of black women who were behind much of the maths and calculations that made these missions happen.

Hidden Figures is a true but untold story, so it is difficult to dislike, as it is so unique. It was great to read about how these women fought both racial and gender struggles in order to do the job that they were doing. And what was also fascinating was reading about how some of these women were thought of as being ‘computers’. At a time when we are surrounding with technology it’s hard to imagine a time when computers and calculators did not exist to carry out our work and mathematics. But the reality is, of course there was a time like this. And at this time it was people with ridiculous maths skills that would be in charge of making these calculations – often they were calculations that would mean life or death.

So, from the perspective of Hidden Figures being a big eye opener and a reality check for somebody who takes technology and pretty much life for granted, Shetterly’s novel is a great read. However, for me, I simply felt there were too many scientific and mathematical references. I felt because I am not somebody from that world and I don’t have a real grasp on space and maths, that I struggled to keep track and follow everything that was happening. Obviously for a book that is telling the story of these women in the space program it would be impossible to not include the science and maths, as that is the story. However, unfortunately for me, I did struggle with the novel a little bit.

I feel that Shetterly did a great job in bringing this story to the forefront of many minds, and it was great to learn that a program such as NASA, which most would associate with white males, actually had so many strong and powerful black females at its core. So, I would recommend this book for anybody who is after a book with something a bit different happening and something whereby you can learn from. However, if you’re like me and get a bit bogged down with terminology and references that you don’t necessarily understand, I would not recommend that you read Hidden Figures. Simple because I feel, like myself, you might find reading this book a bit more of a chore than a pleasure. That being said though, in 2016 Hidden Figures was adapted into a film. This I found to be so much more accessible, and allowed me to come to grips with the story so much more. So, although I am not here to recommend films, this is one I would recommend.

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Fight Club – Chuck Palahniuk

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Fight Club is the 1996 novel by Chuck Palahniuk. The novel focuses upon an unnamed protagonist who sets up a ‘secret’ club allowing men to fight one another. You’ve surely heard the number one rule about fight club in your lifetime, ‘The first rule about fight club is you don’t talk about fight club’, well this is the origins of that reference. And, I apologise in advance for breaking this crucial rule.

I first read this book as part of my university course, on a module that explored the representations of masculinity in fiction. So, I’m finding it slightly hard to look at this novel without the discussions we had at university niggling away at me. For me, Palahniuk’s Fight Club is all that masculinity is. It demonstrates that archetypal need to prove ones masculinity continuously. I mean it is a novel about the creation of a fight club, a fight club that allows men to escape their everyday and act in violent ways, ways that society views as masculine. So, understandably it is painfully hard not to talk about this novel without referencing the portrayal of the masculine figure.

I felt that Palahniuk’s novel was too much of a blanket statement. By this I mean that the novel only portrayed males as being this architype of masculinity. I don’t recall hearing of a male character that knew about the club turn their nose up to it. Instead we were given male after male who felt they needed to be involved, and ultimately prove how masculine they were. Maybe this was the point though, that within every male there is that man who is struggling with their identity and struggling to accept their masculinity. Either way I felt it would have been more interesting to include somebody who did not bow down to these pressures, somebody who could see the club for what it was; a performance. Therefore, for me, although this novel attempts to portray masculinity it does not do a rounded job, as in reality not all men are like this.

That being said though, I did enjoy the way that Palahniuk wrote this novel. It is only a short novel of around 210 pages, yet he included such a brilliant plot twist that books of twice the length are unable to achieve. We know throughout the novel that the unnamed protagonist is an insomniac and that he has a friend Tyler who he talks about a lot. In fact, it was Tyler who the protagonist sets up the fight club with. Yet, what I was not expecting was the shocking twist of events towards the end of the novel. Which, if you read Fight Club yourself, you will find flips the plot and puts into question the events of the entire novel.

I think it’s safe to say that everybody knows of the movie adaptation of Fight Club. I, myself, have not actually seen it – and no I don’t live under a rock. So, I cannot compare the novel with the film in anyway. Though, after reading Palahniuk’s novel I will definitely be adding Fight Club to my list of ‘movies to watch’, as I am very intrigued as to how this novel has been adapted for the screen.

Palahniuk’s novel has a lot of violence and aggressive imagery in it, so if that is something that you don’t like reading, then obviously this book is not for you. However, I would recommend this book if you are interested in stereotypical masculine behaviours. Though, like I previous said, don’t be expecting a rounded evenly weighted argument of masculinity, as you will not get it.

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The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde

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The Picture of Dorian Gray is one of Oscar Wilde’s only novels. It is a gothic novel which follows the character of Dorian Gray and his demise after he sells his soul to the devil for beauty. Written in 1890, this novel is an interesting read as it was used as evidence during Wilde’s trial for gross indecency and relations with another man. At the time it was claimed that Wilde’s work emulated his own feelings in regards to homosexuality. Wilde even went on to add a prologue, which argues against the idea that his novel demonstrates his homosexual feelings. He argued that art can be created for the sake of it, that often there are no deep meanings behind art; it is just there to be enjoyed.

Believe it or not, previous to my introduction to The Picture of Dorian Gray I have not had much experience with Wilde and his work. I personally struggle to connect with literature which is regarded as being ‘classic’. This may be because I have been continuously made to study them, and thus have found myself not enjoying them. However when I came across Wilde’s book I was pleasantly intrigued. I love a good gothic novel anyway, but the concept of selling ones soul for the sake of beauty was truly intriguing. I mean, I’m sure we all know somebody that would seriously consider this to stay young and beautiful forever, right?

The Picture of Dorian Gray is only a short novel, so I found myself getting through it quite quickly. This is helped by how well written and fluid Wilde’s work is. The speed that I got through it even had me questioning how it could be a 19th century novel. Though, that’s because of my personal experience with novels from this time period.

What I liked most about The Picture of Dorian Gray though was the character of Dorian himself. I loved how over such a short novel we saw such a progression in his character. The novel is set out over the course of many years, and in this time Dorian goes from a very well respected young man to a soulless murderous villain. And for me, this was exciting to read, to discover how far somebody can fall when they have made the decisions that Dorian had made. It was interesting to read how his decisions over this time were haunting him both mentally and physically. Wilde certainly has you questioning some of the decisions you go on to make after reading this novel.

I lack any negative comments regarding this book, though this may be because of how happy I am to have found a ‘classic’ that I love. I definitely think this Wilde’s novel is worth a read, whether you like the classics or not. It is a novel that leaves you reflecting on numerous themes, such as beauty, youth and greed. And, any novel that keeps you thinking and reflecting on what has been discussed is definitely a book worth reading.

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Teacher’s Pet – Hayley McGregor

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Teacher’s Pet is the very true story of Hayley Mcgregor. Hayley was groomed and abused by her teacher in school, from the age of 12. It took Hayley twenty years though to realise what she went through was wrong. This is Hayley’s side of the story, as to what she experienced all those years ago, how she came to report those experiences to the police and what happened during the legal process.

It’s difficult to judge a book like Teacher’s Pet, this is for two reasons: 1. it is not a story from the imagination, you cannot really judge how the story progressed and how it ends, because it is a real life story, one that cannot and should not be manipulated for effect. 2. The writing and style just simply does not matter, yes if it is illegible it will be a struggle, but this book is not about how well it is written. It is simply a book trying to tell somebody’s side of the story and to spread a message.

That being said though, I found McGregor’s book to be a very good read. I’m not sure whether it was ghost written or not, though I’m not entirely sure that even matters. What I really liked though was the first few pages of the book, where McGregor gives a brief outline of what her story is about, and explains why she is telling her story. In this section of Teacher’s Pet the punishment of her abuser is divulged. Some might see this as a mistake, as the reader’s incentive to read on and see what became of the abuser is diminished. However, I found this to be the opposite, I was even more inclined to read on to discover Hayley’s own story. And, despite having the ending handed to me in the opening pages, I found that I read on and on finishing the book in a day.

You can’t help but have total admiration for Hayley after you have read this book. To have gone what she has gone through, from the abuse, to rocky relationships, to severe depression, and then to the realisation of what had really been happening to her. It really is remarkable how she is still fighting. Hayley did not need to write this book, she did not need to have her name publically known, but the fact she did is so important. Teacher’s Pet is allowing Hayley to spread her message and to reach those that may not realise what they too have been through or what they are currently going through. Teacher / Child relationships – I’m sure it is a topic we are all familiar with in one way of another. But, it is not a topic that I often see being severely frowned upon, and this book itself is testament on why both adults and children need to educate themselves on handling these types of situations.

So, if you are thinking about reading a true story next, or simply interested in how teacher/student relationships occur, as I was, I would highly recommend Teacher’s Pet. Although Hayley discusses sexual encounters in this book, I would not say it is too explicit. Therefore, I would encourage young adults and teenagers to read it, if only to open your eyes to the consequences and the trauma that can occur in these situations.

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A Poem for Every Night of the Year – Ed. Allie Esiri

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So I know this blog is called find my fiction and it mainly focusses on novels, but I just wanted to share this book I had purchased quite recently. It is very simplistically called A Poem for Every Night of the Year and is edited by Allie Esiri. The book is exactly as the title suggests, it is a book full of 365 poems for you to devour each night before bed.

Now, I am not somebody who loves poetry, and I always dreaded studying it at school, college and even university. However, when I came across this book I just could not resist it. Mainly because it is just a beautifully decorated book, but also because I loved the idea of a book which could possibly open my eyes to the apparently great world of poetry. What is great about this selection of poems is the range of poets that are incorporated, from more classics such as T.S Elliott to some more modern and contemporary poets such as Tony Mitton. Allowing for a great range of poetry for you to discover, meaning there’s definitely something for everybody.

I came across this book on Amazon, and when I was reading the descriptions and the reviews I got the impression this book was more for children. I would strongly disagree with this view, and say that this book is for everybody. Some poems are silly and accessible for children, but some poems are far more complex than they may be able to grasp. So, I would say that this book definitely should not just be marketed for children. Though I agree it is a good tool to use to get children into poetry and all its forms.

Whether you are a child or an adult reading this book I feel you would appreciate, like I do, the short descriptions that Esiri includes prior to each poem. These descriptions give us a short insight into the mind of the poet, their inspiration or even some context. This I feel makes the reading experience far more enjoyable, because if you’re like me and a real poetry novice, the descriptions help to make more sense of the poetry in front of you.

If you have not already guessed, I would highly recommend A Poem for Every Day of the Week. Whether you are a poetry enthusiast or a bit a novice, you will find something in these pages that really sparks your imagination. – Though with 365 poems, I believe this will happen numerous times.

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Everything Everything – Nicola Yoon

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Everything Everything is the 2015 debut novel by Nicola Yoon. It has recently come back into the ‘limelight’ due to the soon to be released film adaptation. The novel tells the story of a young girl, Maddy, and her budding relationship with the boy next door, Olly. The twist with this first love story is that Maddy suffers from Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID), an illness which means she is allergic to everything and is unable to leave the house.

I do not know a lot about SIDC, so I cannot comment on its portrayal in this novel. However, I thought the story itself provided an interesting and thought provoking read. Everything Everything is simply an exploration of the lengths we will go to, and the risks we take, for love. One of my favourite aspects of the novel was this progression in Maddy. Somebody, who at the beginning of the novel simply accepted her situation, locked in the confines of her house. Yet, by the end of the novel we see how she has progressed into a life loving, adventure seeking woman with a thirst for life. Maddy was certainly a character that I routed for throughout the novel, one that I felt very much invested in. This, I must add, is a reaction to a character I have not had in a while. So, thank you Nicola.

I found Everything Everything to be a very quick read. Alongside a fantastic story, which leaves you wanting more, it has a very unique style and layout. The chapters of the novel are often very short, with some ‘chapters’ only last a few lines. So, if you’re somebody who is conscious about paper wastage, maybe this book is not for you. Yoon’s husband, David Yoon also provided the novel with many great illustrations, which you will see throughout the novel. With the illustrations and the often extremely short chapters it is understandably why you may finish this, as I did, in one sitting.

I found this style that Yoon used to be very refreshing, and a very accessible way to write a book, as you are not bogged down by pages and pages of complicated writing. This I feel makes Everything Everything a perfect read for young adults. And with the novel focusing on young and first love I feel this book will appeal even more for young adult readers!

The only problem I found with Everything Everything is that the ending and its twist was very predictable. This appears to be happening very often to me, that I am finding myself disappointed as I have already worked out the plot. Maybe I will have to stop expecting unpredictability, or maybe I’m just not reading the right novels. Either way, I was a little disappointed that the story was so easily guessed. On a positive note though, because I had routed for Maddy’s character and for her journey so much, I was equally pleased with how Yoon closed the novel. So maybe shocking, unpredictable, wow factors are not everything?

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