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Science fiction books about time travel

SammyFSammyF Registered User regular
edited October 2010 in Help / Advice Forum
Hello H/A,

I'm looking for recommendations for good books centering around the topic of traveling through time. Specifically, I'd like one that uses the modern age as its frame of reference and which justifies the ability of time-travel through some scientific explanation. (By which I mean to say that I'm not interested in a book about an elven wizard who uses magic to transport a knight, two dwarves and a gnome back in time to fight a dragon who ate a village of hobbits last week; neither am I interested in Star Trek fan fiction where adult Wesley Crusher slingshots a shuttlecraft around a red dwarf star's corona so that he can travel back to when he was in Star Fleet Academy so that he can warn his past self that the cute little co-ed sophomore living on his floor is a dirty little liar when she claims she's on birth control -- even if I do love Will Wheaton).

Any other suggestions are welcome* however! Thanks in advance guys!

*Except Time Traveler's Wife.

SammyF on
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    valiancevaliance Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    My favorite short sci-fi story about time travel: All You Zombies by Robert Heinlein
    link to full text: http://ieng9.ucsd.edu/~mfedder/zombies.html

    valiance on
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    WassermeloneWassermelone Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Century Rain by Alastair Reynolds goes between a future with a ruined earth and alternate history 1950s France. Its good! Not his best book, but closish? to what you are looking for.

    Wassermelone on
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    Reverend_ChaosReverend_Chaos Suit Up! Spokane WARegistered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Technically, Enders Game uses time travel, but not the way that you would expect, and if you read it expecting time travel, you would be disappointed. They use time travel to make a character live longer, but putting him on a ship traveling at near the speed of light - which makes time slow down for everyone on the ship which is a theoretical possibility. So, not what I would consider "True Time Travel" although it would be "Factual Time Travel" as you can only go forward.

    I will keep an eye on this thread because I really want to read some good time travel stories.

    The only novel that I can think of is the classic novella The Time Machine by H. G. Wells

    Reverend_Chaos on
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    TofystedethTofystedeth Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Hmm, there's Millenium by John Varley, which is pretty good.
    About half the action takes place in the roughly now era, though the time traveling originates from the far future, so I'm not sure if that fits your frame of reference criteria, depending on directionality.

    Tofystedeth on
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    ceresceres When the last moon is cast over the last star of morning And the future has past without even a last desperate warningRegistered User, Moderator mod
    edited October 2010
    I came in to suggest The Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons, and then I saw your "modern age" thing and was sad.

    But seriously, you should read those anyway if you enjoy sci fi + time travel + just about anything else.

    Not a book, but my husband has been trying to get me to watch Primer for about three years, and I just haven't sat down to it. I think he was under the impression that it was a much older movie than it actually is, but that's probably because according to wikipedia it had an extremely low budget. I thought it was based on a book but I appear to be wrong. It is apparently the sort of movie you need to watch twice.

    Anyway, if I think of anything that was actually what you asked for I'll let you know, but the movie is apparently very good and might kill some time.

    ceres on
    And it seems like all is dying, and would leave the world to mourn
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    NeurotikaNeurotika Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    valiance wrote: »
    My favorite short sci-fi story about time travel: All You Zombies by Robert Heinlein
    link to full text: http://ieng9.ucsd.edu/~mfedder/zombies.html

    Holy shit...

    Neurotika on
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    ZombiemamboZombiemambo Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    ceres wrote: »
    I came in to suggest The Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons, and then I saw your "modern age" thing and was sad.

    But seriously, you should read those anyway if you enjoy sci fi + time travel + just about anything else.

    Not a book, but my husband has been trying to get me to watch Primer for about three years, and I just haven't sat down to it. I think he was under the impression that it was a much older movie than it actually is, but that's probably because according to wikipedia it had an extremely low budget. I thought it was based on a book but I appear to be wrong. It is apparently the sort of movie you need to watch twice.

    Anyway, if I think of anything that was actually what you asked for I'll let you know, but the movie is apparently very good and might kill some time.

    Twice is an understatement. Prime is so complicated I honestly don't think anyone would be able to figure it out on their own.

    Zombiemambo on
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    CabezoneCabezone Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    The Orion series by Ben Bova. I have no idea if they're any good, I recall enjoying them as a teenager.

    Cabezone on
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    valiancevaliance Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    ForceVoid wrote: »
    valiance wrote: »
    My favorite short sci-fi story about time travel: All You Zombies by Robert Heinlein
    link to full text: http://ieng9.ucsd.edu/~mfedder/zombies.html

    Holy shit...

    I don't want to give anything away but this is the correct response. Read. This. Story.

    and Primer was a great movie also highly recommended by me :^:

    valiance on
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    TofystedethTofystedeth Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    valiance wrote: »
    ForceVoid wrote: »
    valiance wrote: »
    My favorite short sci-fi story about time travel: All You Zombies by Robert Heinlein
    link to full text: http://ieng9.ucsd.edu/~mfedder/zombies.html

    Holy shit...

    I don't want to give anything away but this is the correct response. Read. This. Story.

    and Primer was a great movie also highly recommended by me :^:

    Scratching your head enough to draw blood is also appropriate.

    Tofystedeth on
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    hatedinamericahatedinamerica Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    ceres wrote: »
    I came in to suggest The Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons, and then I saw your "modern age" thing and was sad.

    But seriously, you should read those anyway if you enjoy sci fi + time travel + just about anything else.

    Not a book, but my husband has been trying to get me to watch Primer for about three years, and I just haven't sat down to it. I think he was under the impression that it was a much older movie than it actually is, but that's probably because according to wikipedia it had an extremely low budget. I thought it was based on a book but I appear to be wrong. It is apparently the sort of movie you need to watch twice.

    Anyway, if I think of anything that was actually what you asked for I'll let you know, but the movie is apparently very good and might kill some time.


    Listen to this lady. She knows what's up.

    The Hyperion books (though not modern, so not exactly what you're after) are excellent, and Primer is one of my favorite movies.

    There is also this little book I read in highschool called Einstein's Dreams and it's not actually about time travel per se, but about various alternate realities where time itself functions differently on a fundamental level. It's pretty interesting.

    That's the best I can do, sorry!

    hatedinamerica on
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    ceresceres When the last moon is cast over the last star of morning And the future has past without even a last desperate warningRegistered User, Moderator mod
    edited October 2010
    ForceVoid wrote: »
    valiance wrote: »
    My favorite short sci-fi story about time travel: All You Zombies by Robert Heinlein
    link to full text: http://ieng9.ucsd.edu/~mfedder/zombies.html

    Holy shit...

    I... ow. But cool. But ow.

    ceres on
    And it seems like all is dying, and would leave the world to mourn
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    President RexPresident Rex Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Timeline by Michael Chrichton from 1999 starts out with a modern frame of reference and the group travels back to the 14th century. It attempts to plausibly explain the journey with scientific theories or theorized possibilities (like the 'waveicle' properties of light, quantum computers, and the theory of the multiverse.



    If you don't mind juvenile sci-fi, the book Danger Quotient (which doesn't even appear to be on Wikipedia) is about an 18 year old travelling back in time to find out why survivors of a nuclear war aren't living as long as predicted (in a 12 Monkeys sort of fashion, I suppose).

    President Rex on
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    HevachHevach Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    It was a pretty cheesy book overall (it's written to sound more like it was written around the turn of the century than in the 90's), but Stephen Baxter did write a spiritual (edit: apparently official according to Lykouragh's link) sequel to HG Wells' Time Machine. It wasn't too bad, lot of light "real" science tossed in. It's good all the way up until the last chapter, which tries to force a mind blowing paradox into the whole story. That chapter just falls flat, skip it and pretend the book ended on a high note.

    Hevach on
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    LykouraghLykouragh Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Other time travel recommendations:

    The "Door into Summer" and "By His Bootstraps", also Heinlein.

    "The End of Eternity", Asimov

    The Time Patrol series, Poul Anderson

    This is a hesitating recommendation, but "Pastwatch" by Orson Scott Card. It's great as long as you aren't aware of why he wrote the story or what he's trying to say.

    This list is extremely incomplete, but http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_time_travel_science_fiction

    Lykouragh on
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    TomantaTomanta Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Timeline by Michael Crichton should fit the bill (modern day, uses quantum physics to travel back to medieval). Fun adventure book... but avoid the movie.

    EDIT: Bah, beat'd. Stupid job taking my attention away.

    Tomanta on
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    ArrathArrath Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Tomanta wrote: »
    Timeline by Michael Crichton should fit the bill (modern day, uses quantum physics to travel back to medieval). Fun adventure book... but avoid the movie.

    EDIT: Bah, beat'd. Stupid job taking my attention away.

    And the video game.

    OT, I have a short story compilation book that is rather good, traveling through time, time and dimensions, etc. I believe its called Time Wars, I'll go check my bookshelf to be sure.

    Arrath on
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    LykouraghLykouragh Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Really, you guys liked Timeline?

    I read for 40 pages and then threw it across the room.

    Lykouragh on
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    NotYouNotYou Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    accidental time machine
    the forever war (relativity is sorta like time travel. amazing book)

    NotYou on
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    MachismoMachismo Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    ceres wrote: »
    ForceVoid wrote: »
    valiance wrote: »
    My favorite short sci-fi story about time travel: All You Zombies by Robert Heinlein
    link to full text: http://ieng9.ucsd.edu/~mfedder/zombies.html

    Holy shit...

    I... ow. But cool. But ow.

    I guessed what was happening when the song came on.

    What the hell happened in 1972?

    Machismo on
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    Bionic MonkeyBionic Monkey Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited October 2010
    Hevach wrote: »
    It was a pretty cheesy book overall (it's written to sound more like it was written around the turn of the century than in the 90's), but Stephen Baxter did write a spiritual (edit: apparently official according to Lykouragh's link) sequel to HG Wells' Time Machine. It wasn't too bad, lot of light "real" science tossed in. It's good all the way up until the last chapter, which tries to force a mind blowing paradox into the whole story. That chapter just falls flat, skip it and pretend the book ended on a high note.

    I was just going to recommend this. The story introduced me to Stephen Baxter, since I was already a fan of Wells' classic. It basically takes The Time Machine as the starting point of a grander story taking the traveler off into distant times past and future, utilizing modern (at the time) theories about time travel.

    Bionic Monkey on
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    Bionic MonkeyBionic Monkey Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited October 2010
    Lykouragh wrote: »
    Really, you guys liked Timeline?

    I read for 40 pages and then threw it across the room.

    Timeline was the last truly good Crichton novel.

    Bionic Monkey on
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    LykouraghLykouragh Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Machismo wrote: »
    ceres wrote: »
    ForceVoid wrote: »
    valiance wrote: »
    My favorite short sci-fi story about time travel: All You Zombies by Robert Heinlein
    link to full text: http://ieng9.ucsd.edu/~mfedder/zombies.html

    Holy shit...

    I... ow. But cool. But ow.

    I guessed what was happening when the song came on.

    What the hell happened in 1972?

    Nothing, the story was written before that and Heinlein was feeling pessimistic.

    (I assume you're talking about the "forced labor" line.)

    Lykouragh on
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    FightTestFightTest Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    How dare anyone mention a Stephen Baxter book in this thread and not have it be Manifold: Time?

    That, along with Manifold: Space, are his two best books. The two of them are certainly in my top 5 sci-fi books of all time. His later books are kind of weak in comparison.

    FightTest on
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    ZedarZedar Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    If we're talking about Baxter, I'll recommend Timelike Infinity, which has some fun time travel shenanigans going on. I also greatly enjoys Philip K Dick's Doctor Futurity.

    Zedar on
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    Bionic MonkeyBionic Monkey Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited October 2010
    FightTest wrote: »
    How dare anyone mention a Stephen Baxter book in this thread and not have it be Manifold: Time?

    That, along with Manifold: Space, are his two best books. The two of them are certainly in my top 5 sci-fi books of all time. His later books are kind of weak in comparison.

    God, I've read that entire trilogy, and yet can't remember a damn thing about them. Even reading the plot summaries on Wiki, I'm coming up blank.

    Bionic Monkey on
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    joraxjorax Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    ceres wrote: »
    I came in to suggest The Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons, and then I saw your "modern age" thing and was sad.

    But seriously, you should read those anyway if you enjoy sci fi + time travel + just about anything else.

    Came to make the same recommendation, and also balked at your modern age comment...

    jorax on
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    FandyienFandyien But Otto, what about us? Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    The Forever War is a fantastic allegory and great hard science fiction about time dilation. It's probably one of my favorite novels ever.

    Joe Haldeman is a fabulous writer.

    Fandyien on
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    President RexPresident Rex Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Lykouragh wrote: »
    Really, you guys liked Timeline?

    I read for 40 pages and then threw it across the room.

    The worst part of the first 40 pages is - aside from providing a frame for where the story starts - it doesn't really go anywhere. If you're not interested in history too much the portion until they actually arrive at the ITC offices may be a bit slow as well, since it basically handles historical background and the geography of the book's location as well as physics that ventures into science fiction to actually make the time travel plausible.

    Once they actually go back in time (or however you want to explain Chrichton's use of a multiverse where they're not actually time travelling) the book is inarguably better.

    President Rex on
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    kaliyamakaliyama Left to find less-moderated fora Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Why do you care about the framing of the time travel story?

    kaliyama on
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    President RexPresident Rex Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    I don't - that's why the beginning is sort of blah.
    Ostensibly it provides a frame of reference for the transcription errors that David and Gordon discuss with regard to why the team can't come back unshielded. It also brings up the 'ceramic wafer' call button for the machines. But both of those are explained when they actually become relevant to the story later on. The architecutral layout of the monastery that Traub brings back is even overshadowed by Kramer's misspoken mention of undiscovered features at the site (to actually get Johnson back in time in the first place).

    Traub's death basically disintegrates after the book shifts to the team in the modern day. Everything it brings up never needs to be referenced later in the story. You could start with Johnson and the team working in France and excise everything that came before and only lose an irrelevant history of Doniger's made up company.

    President Rex on
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    FallingmanFallingman Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    ForceVoid wrote: »
    valiance wrote: »
    My favorite short sci-fi story about time travel: All You Zombies by Robert Heinlein
    link to full text: http://ieng9.ucsd.edu/~mfedder/zombies.html

    Holy shit...

    Whajah?

    Fallingman on
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    OhioOhio Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Fallingman wrote: »
    ForceVoid wrote: »
    valiance wrote: »
    My favorite short sci-fi story about time travel: All You Zombies by Robert Heinlein
    link to full text: http://ieng9.ucsd.edu/~mfedder/zombies.html

    Holy shit...

    Whajah?

    Yeah I made the mistake of only giving this story about 90% of my complete attention, and of course by the end I was saying "Wait....what?"

    Ohio on
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    SammyFSammyF Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    kaliyama wrote: »
    Why do you care about the framing of the time travel story?

    Good question! I'm trying to review philosophies and theories about time travel as expressed by multiple authors in the science fiction genre, and it's easiest to focus on the similarities and differences between multiple authors' theories when time-travel itself is the only theory or paradigm of ideas for which they require the reader's suspension of disbelief. A tongue in cheek example: the narrative of Back to the Future requires the audience to believe (a) that a crazy but harmless scientist in his garage turned one of the biggest commercial automotive failures of the American 20th Century into a time machine, and (b) that because of the continuity of time, the actions of a time traveler can alter the future in complex (but theoretically predictable) ways.

    But what if we add a third premise? (c) The car really is just a car, but Doc Brown is actually an archmage! While in abstract that would seem like it could only make the story more bitchin', it also requires an extra leap of imagination on the part of the audience -- not only does time-travel exist, but so does magic. But adding in the possibility of magic would also allow for magical explanations and solutions for the trials of Marty McFly. Likewise, if it were to turn out that Doc Brown himself really were from a future where a bunch of unimaginable technologies even more advanced than time-travel existed, it can potentially create the same problem, since any technology sufficiently advanced is indistinguishable from magic.

    Hence my initially-limited selection. I probably will read Hyperion Cantos at some point just because it's been so-strongly recommended.

    So anyway this thread is fantastic and you all are fantastic and everything is fantastic. Thanks for the recommendations, everyone, and thanks in advance for any more which might be forthcoming.

    SammyF on
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    ceresceres When the last moon is cast over the last star of morning And the future has past without even a last desperate warningRegistered User, Moderator mod
    edited October 2010
    Just so you know, I doubt many love The Hyperion Cantos more than me, but it took me 50-60 pages to get into. There are many stories in the book, told from many points of view, and it was actually the second one that really grabbed me. So if you're not hooked on page one, give it a chance to get going.

    ceres on
    And it seems like all is dying, and would leave the world to mourn
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    LykouraghLykouragh Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Also, they aren't universally loved. I didn't like them.

    I didn't hate them, either, mind you. They felt kind of like Gordon Dickson's scifi, or the worse Orson Scott Card- very character focused, but with characters that I don't particularly like, in a setting that just doesn't hit me where it matters.

    Lykouragh on
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    NotYouNotYou Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Lykouragh wrote: »
    Also, they aren't universally loved. I didn't like them.

    I didn't hate them, either, mind you. They felt kind of like Gordon Dickson's scifi, or the worse Orson Scott Card- very character focused, but with characters that I don't particularly like, in a setting that just doesn't hit me where it matters.

    likewise, i thought it was boring

    NotYou on
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    LibrarianLibrarian The face of liberal fascism Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    I think "The Doomsday Book" by Connie Willis and "Behold the Man" by Michael Moorcock might be just what you are looking for.

    I haven't read the former yet, but it is on my shelf and waiting and I read the Moorcock book ages ago and enjoyed it.

    Shamelessly stolen from Wikipedia:

    About the Doomsday Book:
    Willis imagines a near future (first introduced in her 1982 story Fire Watch) in which historians conduct field work by traveling into the past as observers. The research is conducted at the University of Oxford in England in the mid-21st century.

    In theory, history resists time travel which would cause the past to be altered by preventing visits to certain places or times. Typically the machine used for time travel will refuse to function, rendering the trip impossible. In other cases "slippage", a shift in the exact time target, occurs. The time-traveler arrives at the nearest place-and-time suitable for preventing a paradox; variance can be anything from 5 minutes to 5 years. Some periods theoretically accessible can also be deemed too dangerous for the historians by the authorities controlling time travel.

    Kivrin Engle, a young historian specializing in medieval history, persuades her reluctant instructor, Professor James Dunworthy, and the authorities running the project to send her to England in the early 14th century. This period had previously been thought too dangerous for historians, particularly an inexperienced young woman. She will be the first historian to visit the period, and is confident that she is well prepared for what she will encounter.

    And Behold the Man:
    The title derives from the Gospel of John, Chapter 19, Verse 5: "Then Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them Behold the Man."

    In the novel, Moorcock weaves an existentialist tale about Karl Glogauer, a man who travels from the year 1970 in a time machine to 28 A.D., where he hopes to meet the historical Jesus of Nazareth.

    Librarian on
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    GenlyAiGenlyAi Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    I passed out about 50 pages into Doomsday Book because the writing and characterization were intolerable. But people seem to like it.

    I'll throw in a recommendation for Bones of the Earth, by Michael Swanwick. It's about paleontologists given the ability to time travel by a mysterious group (aliens, I think). That might void your criterion, but he doesn't emphasize it much, and the book does have some interesting stuff to say about "philosophies and theories" of time travel. It's a pretty good book, especially if you're a scientist. Not his best work, but worth a read.

    GenlyAi on
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    MurphyMurphy Registered User regular
    edited October 2010
    Just curious, but why is The Time Traveler's Wife not an option? Have you already read it? Or do you already know the explanation contained therein regarding the reason for time travel (genetic condition)? Mostly just curious, because though the movie sucked, it's a pretty fantastic book.

    Murphy on
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