The Gone-Away World

( 47 )

Overview

A hilarious, action-packed look at the apocalypse that combines a touching tale of friendship, a thrilling war story, and an all out kung-fu infusedmission to save the world.Gonzo Lubitch and his best friend have been inseparable since birth. They grew up together, they studiedmartial arts together, they rebelled in college together, and they fought in the Go-Away War together. Now, with the world in shambles and dark nightmarish clouds billowing over the wastelands, they have been tapped for an incredibly ...

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Overview

A hilarious, action-packed look at the apocalypse that combines a touching tale of friendship, a thrilling war story, and an all out kung-fu infusedmission to save the world.Gonzo Lubitch and his best friend have been inseparable since birth. They grew up together, they studiedmartial arts together, they rebelled in college together, and they fought in the Go-Away War together. Now, with the world in shambles and dark nightmarish clouds billowing over the wastelands, they have been tapped for an incredibly perilous mission. But they quickly realize that this assignment is not all it seems, and before it is over they will have encountered everything from mimes, ninjas, and pirates to one ultra-sinister mastermind, whose only goal is world domination. Unlike anything else, The Gone-Away World is a remarkable literary debut that will be remembered and rediscovered for years to come.

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  • The Gone-Away World
    The Gone-Away World  

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A flat-out ferociously good novel.... Reads like a surrealist smashup of Pynchon and Pratchett, Vonnegut and Heller.”—Austin Chronicle“Harkaway delivers plenty of action and surprises.... Likely to be this season’s major conversation-starter.”—San Francisco Chronicle“A gripping, satirical, postapocalyptic war epic populated with mimes, ninjas, bureaucrats, chimera, and gun-toting nerds.”—New YorkMagazine"Very funny and hugely entertaining. . . . And brilliant. Read it."—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel "Bewilders, amazes, entertains. . . . a Catch-22 for the 21st century. . . . a work of extraordinary imagination and charisma. . . genius"—The New York Observer"Leaves the reader gasping for both adjectives and description. It's a powerful and accomplished first novel that weaves elements of romance, mystery, SF/F and — yes — thriller together in a way that leaves no doubt that the master storyteller gene really is something that can be passed along."—January Magazine"Vivid and exciting. Harkaway manages to meld a vision of war more germane to today's world, and take it to its most horrifying, apocalyptic conclusion."—Charleston City Paper
Publishers Weekly

This unclassifiable debut from the son of legendary thriller author John le Carré is simultaneously a cautionary tale about the absurdity of war; a sardonic science fiction romp through Armageddon; a conspiracy-fueled mystery replete with ninjas, mimes and cannibal dogs; and a horrifying glimpse of a Lovecraftian near-future. "Go Away" bombs have erased entire sections of reality from the face of the Earth. A nameless soldier and his heroic best friend witness firsthand the unimaginable aftermath outside the Livable Zone, finding that the world has "unraveled" and is home to an assortment of nightmarish mutations. With the fate of humankind in the balance, the pair become involved in an unlikely and potentially catastrophic love triangle. Readers who prefer linear, conventional plotlines may find Harkaway overly verbose and frustratingly tangential, but those intrigued by works that blur genre boundaries will find this wildly original hybrid a challenging and entertaining entry in the post-apocalyptic canon. (Sept.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Harkaway has created a monster. Although his debut has been compared to the work of Joseph Heller and Kurt Vonnegut, this epic novel shares with them only the elements of war, satire, and irony (and a few references to Vonnegut's line, "And so it goes..."). This story is more concerned with the fantastical and supernatural underpinnings of war in a futuristic, technologically superior world in which there's a new weapon that wipes out enemies by making them "go away." Many bad side effects ensue, and an eclectic team of soldiers-turned-action heroes is hired to fix them. It's a futuristic doomsday tale of sorts, but it's also the story of an average guy, Gonzo, who must save both the world and a part of himself (literally) several times. The first part is a bit confusing without the later context. However, its humorous parts, mostly in the form of tangents and its accounts of sentimentality among manly men, are a lot of fun to read. Prepare for a multifaceted ride, a mixture of Apocalypse Now and Fight Club . Recommended only for larger public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/08.]-Stephen Morrow, Athens, OH

Kirkus Reviews
Fantasy meets apocalypse meets allegory meets bildungsroman in an exuberant, bulging first novel by John le Carre's son. Set in a semi-recognizable world (Cuba is admitted into the United Kingdom), at some undated point in the future, and narrated by a nameless hero with no apparent family but a gift for martial arts and a best friend named Gonzo Lubitsch, Harkaway's debut blends aspects of existing culture (Brazil, Catch-22, The Karate Kid) into the story. In love with names, riffs, stories and language, this is a good-natured, underedited, serio-comic take on war, ecology, capitalism and human nature, loosely gathered around the development of its central character, who is semi-adopted by the Lubitsches, wins a place at university, is captured and threatened for associating with subversives, struggles to find work and eventually joins a special-forces unit, which is how he comes to be fighting in Addeh Katir (a lush, faraway place nonetheless reminiscent of Iraq) when the Go Away Bombs start to fall, decimating the population. They are quickly followed by something worse, something that unleashes monsters from the human imagination. A kind of order is restored via the Jorgmund Pipe, which purifies the air and allows communities to develop and for which our hero and his friends work as a troubleshooting crew. But then Gonzo invades the narrator's marriage and shoots him, leading to a terrible revelation and a new world order. Excessive and garrulous, this is nevertheless something of a tour de force, energized by set pieces, many of them involving fights, and sustained by inexhaustible imagination. Harkaway displays talent with his big, butch, bravura first book, if not yet the abilityto distinguish the wood from the trees. First Printing of 60,000
The Barnes & Noble Review
The Gone-Away World is a narrative cloudburst loaded with mordant dust devils whirling close to Iain M. Banks, a philosophical cumulus reminiscent of Neal Stephenson, and a bold downpour of mimes, gong fu, and other torrential tomfoolery. It is not, despite Nick Harkaway's suggestive nom de plume, a svelte Jazz Age meditation on affluence and perception. But it does tackle these two conditions in a universe close to ours, one that involves Cuba joining the United Kingdom and the All Asian Investment and Progressive Banking Group standing in for the World Bank. Harkaway has written a first novel with an assured and clever voice, riddling his readers with brio and a few unusual thought experiments.

Anagram-friendly character names like Dr. Andromas (Drama Son -- the heir to Snow Crash's Hiro Protagonist?) and Evander Soames (Endeavors Same? A Daemon Serves?) flutter through the book like a wintry gale tormenting a Jumble enthusiast trying to hold a newspaper at a shelterless bus stop. There are abrupt flashbacks, seemingly gratuitous monologues that are later informed by unexpected story developments, and a good deal of madcap energy. Much as the Matrix trilogy popularized Jean Baudrillard's idea of images and symbols transforming reality into a simulation, Harkaway's wild tangents reflect the unusual premise of a world in which holes and blank expanses likewise inform how one exists.

This is a place in which dead letters are referred to as zombie letters. One walk-on character, struggling with his percolable condition, quite literally, "has a hole in the front of his head, but there is very little blood and he is still alive." Likewise, the unnamed narrator informs us of a building's facade following "a blocky in-and-out pattern like a ratchet or the tread of a sneaker" but confesses a page later that "this place had no sense of its own ridiculousness." Through this tricky aperture between thought and absurdity, likewise suggested by the aptly named Project Albumen (contained within this building), Harkaway squeezes in everything but the kitchen sink.

The novel beginswith a dystopic scenario in which the Earth has been circumscribed by the Jorgmund Pipe, delivering a fresh oil known as FOX (no apparent relation to the conservative news network) to the remainder of humanity. It is the aftermath of a war, or rather an un-war, that erupted in a small nation but quickly led to a global-superpower showdown and the use of Go Away Bombs, "vacuum cleaners of information" that prove more devastating than a casual nuclear detonation. Through "demonstrative world-editing," the bombs simply erase everything in the way. Venture too far from the Pipe and you'll find yourself in unreal territory, a wasteland occupied by war victims who are, like the Remade in China Miéville's New Crobuzon novels, "Made [into] people who weren't born, who were just made up or who are split in half so that there's two of them. Or more."

This dire dilemma may account for the narrator's insouciant attitude to violence. We know that the narrator exists to look after a boisterous lunkhead named Gonzo Lubitsch, but the hero's description of a torture room ("I was not expecting single-bulb lighting and iron buckets to pee in") reads like copy from a demented travel brochure. Of an assassin named Moustache, we are informed, "He killed ergonomically, so that later, when he was reporting to his evil moustache boss, he would not have an uncomfortable twinge in his shoulders." But as we get to know our hero further, Harkaway posits the possibility that his existence could be just as tenuous as those who exist away from the pipe, half-formed in the wasteland.

Harkaway also uses his novel to offer a few thoughtful meditations on the Hobbesian social contract. When the narrator needs a job, he is told by prospective employer Crispin Hoare that there is an annex attached to his public record. Crispin introduces Jon Agar's concept of the Government Machine, the complication of British civil service founded upon a mechanized state of expertise. Harkaway uses this moment to reintroduce perception into the quagmire: "A lot of rather ordinary people will get repeatedly investigated with increasing severity until the Government Machine either finds enemies or someone very high up indeed personally turns the tide." This complication also serves as an intriguing postmodern conceit. For if the hero cannot enter into a proper quid pro quo with the government that is expected to protect him, how then can his identity be corralled within the ever-shifting world presented within the narrative?

Harkaway stacks his sentences with copious clauses and plentiful modifiers, as if his narrator's very existence will dissipate if he stops spinning his tale. Sometimes, the narrator describes details in a bawdy manner suggesting a man rambling on in a tavern. An office is described as "vapid, flashy, with a desk made for after-hours sex" and a piping machine is portrayed as "the love child of a bulldozer and a shopping mall." Sometimes, the narrator ventures further into over-the-top swagger: "The experience of being shot in the gut at close range is pretty much as advertised."

Harkaway's prose fleshes out this porous landscape with pockmarked imagery. A side character is given "the look which snowmen acquire the day after their construction, of being partly dissolved and cavernous." Underneath a circus tent, "a murmur of approbation filters out through the canvas backdrop." While Harkaway doesn't go as far as Alfred Bester in using word diagrams to depict a textual environment caving in on the character, these descriptive indicators nevertheless present a grand irony: a vast, verdant forest of words shading little more than blankness.

However, when a major plot twist occurs, something unusual happens in the last hundred pages. The narrator's cheery bulleted lists begin to disappear, as if Harkaway himself has run out of narrative ammunition. Alas, so too does the piss-and-vinegar in Harkaway's zippy piston engine. The hero lacks the luster and bravado established in the early pages, and the novel begins to paddle away from its enticing stream of ideas and humor.

But if we can pardon Neal Stephenson for Snow Crash's abrupt ending, we can likewise forgive Harkaway. The Gone-Away World offers a natural synthesis between the cyberpunk novels of the '90s and the roomy ruminations of contemporary British novelists like David Mitchell. It is a cathartic kick-start from a very promising talent. --Edward Champion

Edward Champion is a Brooklyn-based writer. His work has appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education, The Los Angeles Times, and other distinguished and disreputable publications. He runs the cultural web site http://www.edrants.com.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307389077
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/11/2009
  • Series: Vintage Contemporaries Series
  • Pages: 592
  • Sales rank: 322,229
  • Product dimensions: 5.24 (w) x 8.04 (h) x 1.02 (d)

Meet the Author

Nick Harkaway was born in Cornwall in 1972. He studied philosophy, sociology, and politics at Clare College, Cambridge, and then worked in the film industry. The Gone-Away World is his first novel. He lives in London with his wife.

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Read an Excerpt

The Gone-Away World

The lights went out in the Nameless Bar just after nine. I was bent over the pool table with one hand in the bald patch behind the D, which Flynn the Barman claimed was beer, but which was the same size and shape as Mrs. Flynn the Barman's arse: nigh on a yard in the beam and formed like the cross-section of a cooking apple. The fluorescent over the table blinked out, then came back, and the glass-fronted fridge gave a low, lurching hum. The wiring buzzed--and then it was dark. A faint sheen of static danced on the TV on its shelf, and the green exit lamp sputtered by the door.

I dropped my weight into the imprint of Mrs. Flynn the Barman's hams and played the shot anyway. The white ball whispered across the felt, came off two cushions, and clipped the eight cleanly into a side pocket. Doff, doff, tchk . . . glonk. It was perfect. On the other hand, I'd been aiming for the six. I'd given the game to Jim Hepsobah, and any time now when the power came back and everything was normal in the Nameless Bar, I'd pass the cue to my hero pal Gonzo, and Jim would beat him too.

Any time now.

Except that the lights stayed out, and the hollow glimmer of the TV set faded away. There was a small, quiet moment, the kind you just have time to notice, which makes you feel sad for no good reason. Then Flynn went out back, swearing like billy-o--and if your man Billy-O ever met Flynn, if ever there was a cuss-off, a high noon kinduva thing with foul language, I know where my money'd be.

Flynn hooked up the generator, which God help us was pig-powered. There was the sound of four large, foul-smelling desert swine being yoked to a capstan, a noise pretty much like a minor cavalry war, and then Flynn let loose some of his most abominable profanity at the nearest porker. It looked as if it wanted to vomit and bolted. The others perforce followed it in a slow but steady progression about the capstan, and then pig number one came back around, saw Flynn ready with another dose and tried to stop. Lashed to the crosspiece and bundled along by its three fellows, it found it couldn't, so it gathered its flabcovered self and charged past him at piggy top speed, and the whole cycle accelerated until, with a malodorous, oinking crunch, the generator kicked in, and the television lit up with the bad news.

Or rather, it didn't light up. The picture was so dim that it seemed the set was broken. Then there were fireworks and cries of alarm and fear, very quiet but getting louder, and we realised Sally Culpepper was just now turning on the sound. The image shook and veered, and urgent men went past shouting get back, get clear, and ohshitlookatthatfuckerjesus, which they didn't even bother to bleep. In the middle distance, it looked as if maybe a figure was rolling on the ground. Something had gone absolutely, horribly awry in the world, and naturally some arsehole was present with a camera making himself 10k an hour hazard pay when he could have been rolling up his arsehole sleeves and saving a life or two. I knew a guy in the Go Away War who did just that, dumped the network's prized Digi VII in a latrine trench and hauled six civilians and a sergeant from a burning medical truck. Got the Queen's Honour back home and a P45 from his boss. He's in an institution now, is Micah Monroe, and every day two guys from the Veterans' Hospital come by and take him for a walk and make sure the medal's polished on its little stand by his bed. They're sweet old geezers, Harry and Hoyle, and they've got medals of their own and they figure it's the least they can do for a man who lost his mind to giving a damn. Harry's kid was in the medical truck, you see. One of...

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 47 )
Rating Distribution

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(27)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 47 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 9, 2009

    this is mad max meets jitterbug perfume. this is the most fun the apocalypse has ever been.

    with sentences that are unapologetically incomprehensible, and a plot that is if possible more so, this should be a frustrating read. but indeed, from the first few pages harkaway paints a world so frenetic, edgy, and impossible that the reader can't help but be drawn in. while the book's ultimate motive is, as with the best science fiction, to make a point about politics and human nature and culture and their intersection - and it has no little success here - it continues at the same time to be an engrossing and entertaining read. it is a story about the apocalypse, but not the one we were expecting; it's a story about growing up in the world, and how to be an adult in it; it's a story about... well... all the stuff stories are supposed to be about. and it's told in a style that is reminiscent of vonnegut, or kesey, or HST (it's no coincidence that one of the main characters is named gonzo!), one that keeps you rolling through a mad max universe for the sheer surprise of what will happen next. from pancakes as the clear solution to the decimation of the world, to a martial arts master who invents a secret so he can have one to not tell people who want to know the Inner Teachings, to the indescribably awful image of a professor's flaking scalp, this is writing as vivid as it is ungainly, and as ass-backwards as it is self-conscious and deliberate. read it, read it, read it!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2010

    Original & Fun

    This is probably one of the more original stories I have read in a long time with great twists and turns. I became quite attached to the main character and was routing for him the entire time. The author's writing style does take some getting used to and I will admit I agree with other reviewers that his flashbacks can ramble and get quite tedious. I too skimmed through some pages to get back to the main story line. However, the original story and the author's dry and sarcastic humor made me an instant fan. I look forward to more from the author.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 22, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A Refreshing Brilliant Book

    Nick Harkaway has really done a work here for his first novel. He has a very unique writing style that vaguely resembles Douglas Adams with a sarcastic Kurt Vonnegut thrown in there. The rhythm of the book takes a little getting use to but once you do you will enjoy every word of it.

    The characters and plot of this book are masterful and the book is wrapped up in a nice clean way.

    To the reviewer, Very Confusing... perhaps if you hadn't "skimmed through many pages just to finish", the book might have been a little less confusing.

    I'd recommend this novel to anyone, it is fun, adventurous. wacky and quiet outlandish at times but a work of art non the less.

    Keep your eyes out for Nick's next book, I know I am.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 8, 2009

    An incredible first novel

    The Gone-Away World is the best piece of speculative fiction I've read in years. Brilliantly conceived and finely crafted, it presents an internally consistent alternate (I hope!) reality, populates it with four-dimensional characters, and doesn't let up until the last page. Harkaway must have a truly twisted (and I mean that in the best possible sense) imagination to be able to create such an original world situation, while still keeping everything eminently believable, even compelling.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 12, 2011

    One of the best books I've ever read.

    I truly believe in time, this will sit on a shelf next to the likes of Catch 22 and Slaugherhouse 5.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2008

    engaging satirical science fiction cautionary tale

    For a rare time the government¿s claims re the Go Away Bomb is not obfuscated with the usual disinformation and misinformation. The assertion that the weapon was not of mass destruction just capable of erasing nasty reality elements made people euphoric with the no damage to property concept. However, the reality modification proved in reality a bit more convoluted as Einstein was right about relativity. Soon after the release of the Go Away Bomb, people¿s nightmarish thoughts started to turn into real monsters of the under the bed variety. The Jorgamund Pipe is built like a belt around the world that releases FOX, an elixir to counteract the Go Away Bomb effect at least for the few kilometers nearby. When a fire threatens the pipe and consequently the shrunk world, Gonzo Lubitsch, his best friend, and their HazMat emergency team go to put out the blaze and repair the damage. They know they enter a world of horrific chaos, but as Gonzo¿s pragmatic best friend says that is the norm for his pal going back to childhood under the tutelage of a Kung Fu guru, his military time building a bomb of not mass destruction and seeing its collateral damage shrinking the globe to a small Livable Zone. --- With nods to Vonnegut and Pratchett, THE GONE AWAY WORLD is an engaging satirical science fiction cautionary tale that takes a strong anti-war stand based on the justifications proving reality is relative. Those who believe will insure the facts fit their thesis those who do not likewise (Cheney and Anti Cheney Effects). The story line is non linear as the unnamed best friend narrates by providing readers with Gonzo¿s biography. This is for the most part entertaining and relevant even with a final monster twist but also at times at least to the reality envisioned by this reviewer feels as if a sidebar hijacked the plot temporarily. Still cerebral sci fi fans with plenty of time will want to read Nick Harkaway¿s thrilling thriller. --- Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2014

    Goldenstar

    Goldenstar ran and ran until he was far off any clans territory, he wouldn't have known where he was even if weren't nearly out of is mind with terror. He convinced Lilywolf was somehow with Shadowstar and although he could hardly understand why or how, he couldn't risk falling deeper into her trap and end up being hurt more than he could take. The famished tom tripped over a gnarled root and fell into a muddy pit, most likely an old twoleg pit abandoned by the recent rainfall. Stuck and without the stregnth to move, the golden tom lay motionless as his body slowly sunk further and further into the pit. Eventually, whatever the twoleg pit was made out of finally broke from his extra weight, and Goldenstar along with a pool of mud went slidding down the hill and emptied into a ravine. Yowling, Goldenstar went falling again and hit the rock ground with a bone shattering thud. Now Goldenstar really couldn't move, and the mud caked tom could only look up at the stars above him as blackness tbegan to enclose his vision. Soon he was lying in the steep ravine unconscious, blood leaking from his mouth as his punctured lungs quickly stopped working... ~Goldenstarw

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 31, 2014

    Sgtbrice

    Best crazy book ever

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2014

    Good

    It's good

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2012

    Loved this book

    If you like science fiction, fantasy or alternate reality stories, The Gone Away World is for you. If you like good story telling, this book is for you. I laughed out loud, I cried, was horrified and amazed. I think Rick Harkway is one of the best storytellers I've discovered lately. I will definitely be reading his other works and looking forward to new releases.

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  • Posted December 12, 2011

    One of my top 5 favorites.

    This book has everything-action, adventure, romance, ninjas...

    It's like sci-fi meets kung-fu meets post-apocalypse meets war/military meets....everything else. It's hilarious in some parts and horribly sad in others.

    I can't even begin to describe why this book is fantastic except for that it just is.

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  • Posted September 20, 2011

    Genius

    I discovered this little gem a couple years ago and have recommended it ever since. It is as if Nick Harkaway tapped into the dreams of my chuldhood, wove them into an epic and threaded in philosophy and mind blowing action. If you have come across this, read it. My only questio is when will he write more.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2009

    Very confusing

    This book rambled and digressed so much that I confess I skimmed through many pages just to finish. It was a tiring and tense read. The concept is very creative but would be better as a sci-fi movie.

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted April 20, 2012

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    Posted June 14, 2010

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    Posted January 17, 2012

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    Posted November 30, 2008

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    Posted April 1, 2012

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    Posted November 28, 2011

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    Posted November 27, 2008

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