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Worlds Without End Blog

The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin Posted at 1:04 PM by Beth Besse


The City of Mirrors

Note: This review contains spoilers.

The year was 2010. The vampire fiction genre was still trying to recover from the horror that was the “Twilight Saga.” In among these sparkly vampires came The Passage by Justin Cronin. The vampires in this novel had more in common with “Nosferatu” than with either Edward Cullen or Count Dracula. The Passage was followed in time by The Twelve, and now six years after we the reader were introduced to Amy and her intrepid band of vampire hunters, this series comes to a shattering conclusion with The City of Mirrors.

I knew this novel was going to be a challenge from the start. Justin Cronin is not the easiest author to read. His tendency to play fast and loose with the flow of time can be a challenge to read. Chapters do not flow in a chronological order, jumping from before the viral outbreak, to 20 years after the events in the second book, The Twelve, and then forward 1,000 years after the outbreak. But because his world building and character development are surpassed by none, this reader at least is willing to wade through the chronological ping pong. Because I care about the characters and the gloriously detailed world these characters inhabit.

Mr. Cronin must thoroughly enjoy playing fast and loose with his reader’s emotions. All the major heroes in the story have tragic and heartbreaking back stories. In The City of Mirrors the reader is reintroduced to Timothy Fanning, patient zero of the outbreak. The author does a wonderful job of showing us how broken Mr. Fanning was before he was infected. I even started to feel sorry for him.  [And then he killed his former student.]  All of a sudden, due to one action by Fanning most of the sympathy I had for him was yanked from me like the proverbial rug. Mr. Cronin goes on to further twist that sympathy to its breaking point with every action Fanning/Zero performs in the entire second half of the book.

Justin Cronin

Justin Cronin

As in the second novel in the series, there is a strong element of religion, or at least some kind of omnipotent presence guiding the actions of the characters. This should not dissuade the non-religious reader from this book. Left Behind this ain’t. In fact, I would go so far as to say any evangelical who reads this book is going to be steaming mad by the ending. Even your basic Christian may find issue with the complete lack of devine retribution.  [Fanning dying and being able to spend eternity in his happiest memories.] 

The irony of this novel is that Justin Cronin tried his damnedest to give this a happy ending, and in general he succeeded. Because for him the afterlife appears to be for everyone.  [Living in the memory that is happiest for the person.]  Humanity survives and flourishes, the heroes both living and dead are rewarded in the best way they can be, and the vampire virus is beaten back.

But because this is Justin Cronin, the one character who deserved peace and happiness is denied this reward. The final moments of this novel are perhaps some of the most bittersweet pages I have ever read. When the final chapter was finished I set the book down and wept. I’ll be honest, Mr. Cronin may have a hard time topping this series with his next book.

6 out of 5 stars (seriously, this book deserves more than 5 stars)

She Who Watches by Anthony Pryor Posted at 7:47 PM by Beth Besse


She Who WatchesSome books are just a fail with me.  In general, I hesitate to give a book a low review just because I did not enjoy it, I mean 80% of a review is in the reader’s perspective.  We have all reread a book we once loved and on a second read couldn’t help but wonder what kind of crack we were smoking to have enjoyed the book so much the first time, and visa-versa.  But in the case of She Who Watches, by Anthony Pryor I really do not feel much guilt for this review.

The characters were one dimensional.  The female characters were particularly offensive to me.  There were only two female leads, the first Trish, is apparently the group pump.  Her main and only characteristic is sleeping with all the members of the group, well most of them anyways.  She is possessed by the demon before she gets through all of them.  Her one main scene in the book is the obligatory sex scene with the main character.  I’m not sure why the author felt he needed to cut and paste a scene from Fifty Shades of Grey into his book, but he did.  Trish boils down to little more than a trampoline for the main character.

Anthony Pryor

Anthony Pryor

The other female lead Kay, was mousy and weak.  When she steps up to fight the demon, the main character is surprised, even though in the previous two paragraphs the author goes into details about how one of the male main characters, and even the dog have become more powerful and more committed to destroying the demon after having an experience of seeing a goddess.  My only thought while reading this description was, why would he be shocked that she was moved, he wasn’t surprised when the rest of the group was moved and motivated by meeting a goddess!

The rest of the characters were equally one dimensional.  I felt no vested interest in their wellbeing and by the end of the book was counting how many pages I had left before I could read something else.

But because of who I am, I am going to leave this review on a positive note.  At least the author didn’t kill the dog.

I would like to thank Permuted Press, for providing this book for an honest review.

HEX – Thomas Olde Heuvelt Posted at 9:13 AM by Beth Besse


HexHorror books come in two basic types, there is the “grab-you-by-your-throat” and the “slow burn.” Done well, both novels can be terrifying, and if a novel is able to give the reader both in the same book, that author should be dubbed a master of their field. Well I say hat’s off to “Master” Thomas Olde Heuvelt for the American debut of his novel HEX. I was hooked by this glorious piece of work from the very start. I finished it in 4 days, and probably would have finished it sooner if pesky things like work, food, and sleep had not gotten in my way!

This novel brings to mind Stephen King. Not so much in writing style but in his ability to strip away the picturesque façade of Small-Town “America.” Black Springs is a typical Up-State New York town. If you read the book jacket you go into this novel knowing that the town is hiding a secret from the rest of the world. Katherine, The Black Rock Witch, has been haunting the village for over 300 years. She appears randomly anywhere in the town, and when I say anywhere I mean in the townspeople’s living room while enjoying a movie, or in their bedroom while making love. The residents of the town have learned to cope with her appearances. There is an entire quasi-military organization called “HEX” to deal with her, and deal with her they do.

HEX grabbed my attention for the very beginning. The best way to describe this novel is like frying food. I know, bear with me. When a cook first puts the oil on the heat, there really is not much to see. I mean, they know the oil is heating up, but there is no real action. Then the cook will start to see the occasional bubble lift to the surface or a wisp of smoke, but add the food and all that energy and force that has been hiding below the surface flares up in a riot of bubbles and foam. The reader knows there is a terrible problem forming in Black Springs, heck the characters know it also, but like the reader, they are powerless to stop it.

What drew me to this story was the dichotomy of small town life and modern technology. HEX had established a high-speed internet service for the entire town and all residents were issued a smartphone so they could have access to an app, documenting the location of the witch. The entire town is complicit in keeping the secret of the witch from the larger world. Because this novel is set in present day, the reader is able to watch the members of the community, and HEX specifically, deal with the possibility of the witch’s discovery through technology.

Thomas Olde Heuvelt

Thomas Olde Heuvelt

Why is it so important to keep this witch secret? Because the curse is more than the witch. People who are born in the town and people who move into the town can never leave. If they try to leave, even for an extended vacation, they become suicidal until they return to the town. At some point in the history of the town, the elders managed to sew-up the witches’ eyes and mouth, and bind her hands in chains. This was because listening to her causes the residents to also become suicidal. The couple of times residents tried to remove the bindings, there were deaths in the town.

In the end it is technology and misunderstandings that is the downfall of this community. As a reader, I spent most of this novel alternating between horror and sadness for the residents of Black Springs, all the residents, the living and the dead.

Now this is a translation of the 2013 Dutch original, and the author chose to “Americanize” it as opposed to a direct translation. This version of the novel is set in an American village. I don’t speak Dutch, so I have no way of telling how close this comes to the original, but this was a version of the novel written by the author himself, so I am going to go out on a limb and say that the spirit of the original is going to be included in this translation.

The English translation of this novel is being released on April 26, 2016. Run — do not walk — to get this book. I promise you will not be sorry.

Thank you, Tor Books, for providing this book for an honest review.

Vendetta by Gail Z. Martin Posted at 8:50 PM by Beth Besse


VendettaVendetta is Gail Z. Martin’s follow-up to Deadly Curiosities.  Written December of 2015 and published by Solaris, it is the second book in the “Deadly Curiosities” urban fantasy series set in modern day Charleston, South Carolina.  This series just keeps getting better.  Many of the complaints I had when reading the first novel, which I loved, have been rectified in this second book in this new promising series.

The ghosts in Charleston are getting very riled up, manifesting in more and more violent manners, and it is up to Cassidy Kincaide and gang to figure out why and solve the problem before someone gets hurt.  In addition, people are disappearing across the city while walking down stairs.  That’s right they just disappear mid-stride.

As in the first book, Vendetta is filled with action.  Starting from page one, there are ghostly battles filling every one of its 459 pages.  Cassidy is getting more proficient in controlling her powers and this makes for tighter plotting throughout this novel.  I did not have to wonder if the reader was going to be treated to yet another “Cassidy collapse” each time she walks into a new room.

Charleston the city is definitely more of a character in this second novel, specifically the “Angel Oak” on Johns Island.  I looked this up and it is a real tree.  The author is doing a fine job of making me curious to learn more about Charleston.  This had been one of my gripes about the last book, I thought Ms. Martin should have written more about the city itself, and I think she vastly improved upon this with this second book.

Gail Z. Martin

Gail Z. Martin

I was also relieved to see that the characters were making fewer nonsensical moves in this book, or they were still making them but admitted that they were bad ideas.  I’m OK with making dumb moves when the characters feel they have no choice, and acknowledge that the move is not the smart one.  In this case, because time was becoming an issue and the evil at work in Charleston was so powerful Cassidy and friends needed to pull out all the big guns including Sorren, who had a much larger part in this book than the last.

So my new complaint about this book, and it is a small one, is that the true nature of Cassidy and Sorren’s shop, Trifles and Folly, is supposed to be a secret, but by the time this book ends it is apparent that it is the worst kept secret in the history of secret keeping!  Everyone who has ever been introduced in either of the books apparently already knew all about it.

I’m giving Vendetta 4 enthusiastic stars.  There is so much potential in this series.  I hope the author introduces a multi-book plot in the next one, to keep the series from becoming too formulaic.   Maybe more about “The Family” and “The Alliance” the two secret organizations only briefly mentioned in the books so far.

Note:  This novel was given to the reviewer by the publisher for a fair and honest review.

Deadly Curiosities by Gail Z. Martin Posted at 8:48 PM by Beth Besse


Deadly Curiosities Deadly Curiosities by Gail Z. Martin is the first novel in the series by the same name. This is a modern day urban fantasy set in Charleston, North Carolina. Trifles & Folly is an antique shop that has been in Cassidy Kincaide’s family for generations. This shop is a front to cover Cassidy and her business partner, Sorren’s other occupation, finding cursed and haunted object and destroying or neutralizing them. For all you fans of cult TV series, if this premise sounds familiar, well you are probably thinking of the 1987 to 1990 series, Friday the 13th:  The Series. But don’t get too worried, there are plenty of differences. Oh, did I mention that Cassidy can psychically “feel” an object’s history and Sorren is a vampire?

Although I am not a fan of fantasy novels in general, I do enjoy urban fantasies if they can catch my attention — and this one did, right away. For one thing Charleston is a wonderful and unique setting for the novels. One would expect a novel with haunted houses and vampires to be set in New Orleans, or in a more urban setting like New York or Chicago. I do wish the city had been more of a focal point. I think that Ms. Martin missed an opportunity, by not making the city more of a character.

As far as this story goes, the back of the novel is a bit misleading. Although it sounds like the novel is going to be about Cassidy and Sorren solving mysteries and fighting evil, the truth is Sorren is hardly in the novel at all. Most of the time Cassidy is “fighting the evil” with her assistant and friend Teag, and at times his boyfriend Andrew.

I would like to talk about what there is not in Deadly Curiosities. There is no sex in this book, not even passionate kissing, or possessed make out sessions. And for this I am eternally happy. There are also no erotic blood sucking scenes, at one point Teag allows Sorren to take a sip from him, but it is quite possibly the least erotic vampire scene in the history of the written word. There is also almost no blood in this novel which, given the fact that a demon is stalking the streets of Charleston flaying and dismembering homeless men, is a pretty impressive feat. As a side note, this is quite a difference from the last book I read:  The Women by Jack Ketchum. This novel is more like anti-splatterpunk.

Gail Z. Martin

Gail Z. Martin

There were some things that annoyed me about this story and some of the characters’ actions make absolutely no sense. Cassidy is able to see and experience psychically what the people who have owned objects experienced. She has had this skill her entire life, but she seems to have little or no control over her skill, talent, I don’t know what you want to call it. Now Teag and Cassidy have been having a really tough time with objects going all darkly evil and attacking them, so why oh why after they were attacked at the B&B and then again at the shop, and then again at the historical society, why in all that was holy and good would they proceed to go to a museum. Now this is a museum that was already established as a place where Cassidy has had trouble in the past, even before the big evil starts its terror campaign in Charleston. It made no sense!

For all the things this novel lacks, what it does not lack is a sense of entertainment. Deadly Curiosities is probably not going to win any awards, but it was a good distraction from some of the “heavy” sci-fi I have in my plate.  I am going to recommend this novel as a perfect “beach read.” At 456 pages, it is a little longer than the normal summer read, but it reads fast and would be well worth it.  (This novel was given to the reviewer by the publisher for a fair and honest review.)

4 of 5 stars

Unholy Night by Seth Grahame-Smith Posted at 6:40 PM by Beth Besse


Unholy NightPretty much anyone who has not been hiding under a rock knows at least the basic story of the birth of Jesus. But for those who have been rock hiding here it is:

Mary was a teenage girl engaged to Joseph, a carpenter. An angel came to Mary and told her that even though she was a virgin and a good Jewish girl, the angel was going to impregnate her with the spirit of God, you know, literally.

Well Joseph still married her even though she was “damaged goods” because Joseph also had a little visit from God. When Mary was “great with child” Rome, which Judea was under the rule of, called for a census to be taken. All males and their families were required to travel to the city of their birth and register. Joseph packed up his VERY pregnant wife (AMA I’m guessing) and traveled from Nazareth to his home town of Bethlehem. When he got there, every inn and tavern was full because of the census. An innkeeper felt sorry for the young couple and allowed them to stay in his barn. And Mary gave birth to Jesus there. Three wise men “from the east” are drawn to the stable by the “Christmas star.” They recognize Jesus as their King and give him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

This is the story most people are spoon fed every Christmas. Only people who actually study the bible or have a truly brutal religious leader know that this is only half the story.

After Jesus was born Herod, the King of Judea, learns from his mages that the “Real King” has been born and his leadership is in jeopardy. To protect his rule, he ordered all male children born in and around Bethlehem 2 years and younger killed. This is called the “Slaughter of the Innocent.” Joseph is warned by an angel to get Jesus into Egypt and keep him there until Herod is no longer in power.

The entire story of Jesus’ birth and escape into Egypt is less than one page in the bible. But in Unholy Night, Seth Grahame-Smith manages to expand the story into 300 pages. I picked up this audiobook as some light Christmas reading. I mean we are talking about the author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and How to Survive a Horror Movie. I figured I was in for a little tongue in cheek humor at Christianity’s expense. Although I am a Christian, I’m ok with poking a bit at the faith.

Seth Grahame-Smith

Seth Grahame-Smith

Imagine my utter shock when I realized Mr. Smith wrote this book straight. This is the story of the birth of Jesus from the point of view of the Three Wise Men, specifically Balthazar. Almost nothing is known about these three men, except for what I have listed above. This allowed Mr. Smith to weave a gripping tale about these men, who were actually three criminals who met in a Roman jail and were together by chance.

I have to say, that I loved this book, after I got over the shocks contained in it. This story is violent. I mean “Passion of the Christ,” “Reservoir Dogs” violent. If this story is ever made into a movie, I hope Quentin Tarantino directs it. But the thing is, the bible is full of violence and because Seth Grahame-Smith wrote a story that does not try to change what is to many Christians one of the most sacred stories in the bible, it works for me.

This is not a Christmas story per say, Balthazar and the other wise men do not become true Christians at the end of the book, although Balthazar is fundamentally and forever changed by his contact with the Christ Child. He does find a sense of peace and grows as a person by the end of the novel, and in this it is a glorious story of redemption in the grand tradition of Dickens’ immortal A Christmas Carol. All and all, I have to say that I was blown away by this book. I did not expect something so moving from this author.

For all the Christian readers, have a “Tender Tennessee Christmas” and to everyone have a happy and glorious New Year filled with great food, great friends and great books!!

1897: Aliens! Vampires! Zombies! by Sean Michael Welch Posted at 12:37 PM by Beth Besse


1897Is there anything better in this world than good zombie novel. With the dramatization of Max Brook’s amazing novel World War Z, and AMC’s mega hit “The Walking Dead,” itself a dramatization of Robert Kirkman’s amazing graphic novels, zombies have become “hip” again. Many authors have jumped on the band wagon with greater or lesser success. 1897: Aliens! Vampires! Zombies! is author Sean Michael Welch’s contribution to the genre.

The year is 1897 and aliens while observing the Earth, accidentally unleash a zombie plague on the northern hemisphere. Now these are not completely “inhumane” aliens, when they realize their mistake, they do their best to correct their error, this involves the help of revived figures from history and several 1897 contemporaries.

Zombie novels come in three general types. The first, are the true horror stories, these are the run, scream, bleed, run novels examples include “The Dead World” series by Joe McKinney, and of course World War Z by Max Brooks. When they are well written, zombie books of this type are a true horror story. They win awards and are touted as proof that the genre is more than mindless junk for the masses.

The second type is the zombie as the misunderstood monster. This is a relatively new route for this genre. Examples of this are Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion and The Girl with All the Gifts by Mike Carey. Zombies in these novels are blessed (or cursed) with human emotions and motivations.

Mr. Welch’s novel falls firmly in the third category, zombie comedy. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith is a prime example of this type of novel. These novels should be read with tongue firmly placed in cheek, and when well written are probably the most entertaining of the books in the zombie genre.

No one wants to feel like they are being made fun of, especially readers of a genre, such as the zombie genre, who do not get much respect even among other genre readers. Authors who write zombie comedy have to thread a very slim needle, making sure the reader feels they are in on the joke and not part of it. Go too far one way or the other and an author risks alienating their reader. 1897 threads that needle with flair and finesse.

When I first started reading this novel, my mind instantly went to Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams. This novel contains that kind of humor, smart and funny with just a hint of snark that all really good humor contains. Add in late 19th century manors of speech and dress and you have the making of a funny novel. But like Pratchett and Adams, the humor is dispersed with telling and serious moments.

After finishing this novel I felt my ribs were sore from laughing, but I was also a bit sad. I truly love zombie fiction in all its many forms. Zombie fiction can be a platform to express social issues in a way that can be easily accepted by the masses. I want good zombie fiction, although I have read and enjoyed my share of zombie books of questionable skill. When comedic zombie novels, even good ones like 1897, are released I worry about the genre being taken “seriously.” Let me be completely frank about that last statement. I know the difference between what is fiction and what is true. Climate change is a real concern; zombies are a fun diversion. I just want there to be well written diversions.

As for the story itself, Mr. Welch fills the novel with every science fiction, and fantasy character under the sun. Besides the aliens, vampires, zombies in the title, there are elves, robots, flying horses. About half way through the novel I asked myself well “where are the werewolves,” and the next page had them (sort of). In the hands of a less talented writer, this could have been an overly busy novel, but Mr. Welch was able to give the reader that wink and nod needed. The story ends in a cliff hanger, and this reader for one is looking forward to reading the next installment of the rousing comedic novel. (This book was given to this reviewer by the publisher, Permuted Press, for an honest review.)

3.5 of 5 stars

RYO Review: The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett Posted at 7:05 PM by Beth Besse


The Amazing Maurice and his Educated RodentsRYO_headerTerry Pratchett‘s The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents is the 28th book in his stand alone series of novels set in the magical realm of Discworld, it is only the 4th novel I have read but Discworld already feels like a safe and familiar home to me. It is funny that this is the first “Discworld” novel written for a YA audience because I have always felt that there was something incredibly sweet about the “Discworld”. That is not to say that there is not evil and maliciousness to be found in Discworld. Any land that has its own “Guild of Assassins” is not all lollipops and butterflies to be sure; there is just something, “nice” for lack of a better word about the entire world.

In this installment we see a reimagining of the “Pied Piper” story as only Terry Pritchett can tell it. The main theme of this novel is that things are not always as they seem. And this theme runs heavily through the entire novel. None of the characters are who they appear to be. Not the animals that talk, not the “Stupid-Looking Boy” Keith, not even the “Rat Problem” that is the cause of all the hardships in the town of “Bad Blintz”.

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When Beth Besse (Badseedgirl) is not preparing for the coming zombie apocalypse, or having long, and often bitter arguments with her sister over whether “Night of The Comet” is actually a zombie movie (well of course it is, it even says it in the movie description), she can be found curled up somewhere in her Tennessee home reading SF and Horror of questionable quality. Her guilty pleasure reading almost always involves urban fantasies or Southern Fried Vampires. Her Goal is to be able to someday boast that she has read every title in at least one WWEnd book list. (And finally convince her sister that “Night of the Comet” is a Zombie movie)

RYO Review: Abarat by Clive Barker Posted at 8:55 AM by Beth Besse


AbaratRYO_headerI have found that there are certain things one can expect when reading a Clive Barker novel. Mr. Barker is not only an author, but an artist as well and he brings this artistic eye to his writings. His descriptions of scenes and characters are designed to create an artists’ picture in the readers mind. I have found this to be especially true in his Young Adult novel Abarat: The First Book Of Hours. Mr. Barker’s best skill is the visuals his writings create. He is able to breathe life into the creatures of The Abarat with this skill.

The heroine of our story is Candy Quackenbush, a young woman growing up in the Minnesota town of Chickentown. After getting in trouble for a project she did for a hated teacher, Candy feels compelled to run away from school. She finds herself in the middle of the prairie. There she meets the amazing John Mischief and his seven brothers, eight brothers on one body, and Mendelson Shape, an evil creature chasing John and his brothers. In the events that follow Candy calls forth the magical “Sea of Izabella” And thus begins Candy’s adventures in Abarat.

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When Beth Besse (Badseedgirl) is not preparing for the coming zombie apocalypse, or having long, and often bitter arguments with her sister over whether “Night of The Comet” is actually a zombie movie (well of course it is, it even says it in the movie description), she can be found curled up somewhere in her Tennessee home reading SF and Horror of questionable quality. Her guilty pleasure reading almost always involves urban fantasies or Southern Fried Vampires. Her Goal is to be able to someday boast that she has read every title in at least one WWEnd book list. (And finally convince her sister that “Night of the Comet” is a Zombie movie)

WoGF Review: The Giver by Lois Lowry Posted at 5:09 PM by Beth Besse


WWEnd Women of Genre Fiction Reading ChallengeWhen Beth Besse (Badseedgirl) is not preparing for the coming zombie apocalypse, or having long, and often bitter arguments with her sister over whether “Night of The Comet” is actually a zombie movie (well of course it is, it even says it in the movie description), she can be found curled up somewhere in her Tennessee home reading SF and Horror of questionable quality. Her guilty pleasure reading almost always involves urban fantasies or Southern Fried Vampires. Her Goal is to be able to someday boast that she has read every title in at least one WWEnd book list. (And finally convince her sister that “Night of the Comet” is a Zombie movie)

The GiverA society where there is no hunger, where everyone is employed and happy in their job, no real illness. It sounds too good to be true, and as The Giver by Lois Lowry shows once again, that nothing comes without a price.

The story revolves around Jonas, a 12 year old boy who lives in what appears to be an idyllic community. Births are strictly regulated to 50 children a year, each family is allowed to have 2 children, one female and one male. All children born during the year celebrate their birthday on the same day. At age 12 all birthdays stop and the child is considered an adult and assigned a job. Jonas is assigned the job of “Receiver of Memories”. This person holds the collective memories of all the past receivers. He was given the memories in a form of mental transfer and taught how to use them by the current Receiver, known in the novel as “The Giver”.

The more memories he receives, the more Jonas realizes what society has given up in its quest to achieve “sameness”. Jonas’ faith in the system he was raised with is shaken to the core in one tragic viewing. The Giver realizes that things in the community are not right, but has felt powerless to change it. Together with Jonas, he devises a plan to help Jonas escape the community and in doing so: release all the memories Jonas has collected over the year from the Giver, and thus showing the people of the community what they have given up. Unfortunately events occur and Jonas is forced to flee without the benefits of the plan when a small child his family is fostering is endangered.

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