Percy Jackson and Harry Potter

This weekend, the first Percy Jackson book-to-film adaption was released. It’s directed by Chris Columbus, who was at the helm of the first two Potter films. As with every other fantasy fiction series, it’s being compared with Harry Potter and also charged with stealing directly from it.

Nevertheless, a few trusted friends have told me the books are good, so I think I’ll pick up the first book today, give it a read, and get some thoughts up here at The Hog’s Head.

55 thoughts on “Percy Jackson and Harry Potter

  1. Travis,

    My daughter and I are reading the series and I think that you will enjoy them. It’s fun how the author talks about the Greek gods and personify them.

    Plus it is encouraging my daughter to learn more about Greek mythology.

    Jim

  2. I was chatting with a friend on Facebook last night who had just seen the movie. He thought it was terrible. Said that everything Columbus did right in Sorceror’s Stone, he didn’t do in this movie.

    But he did love the book series. His wife made the suggestion that if one hadn’t read the books, one might see the movie first, and then read the books & then the movie might be enjoyed for itself rather than a failure compared to the books.

    Which presents me with a dilemma: I wouldn’t be able to see the movie anytime this week but I do have The Lightning Thief sitting on my bookshelf.

  3. My initial take from the movie trailer (not having seen the full movie) is that the movie adaptation strays from the book is some significant ways. I could see that as a source of discord for those of us who want movie adaptations to stick strictly to the books they’re based on. Or perhaps the movie just stinks?

    The Slate article you linked made some interesting comparisons between the Harry Potter/Percy Jackson series. Some are fairly accurate, some are a matter of interpretation, and some are just plain wrong. (One observation in particular made me question whether the author of the article read The Lightning Thief or just gathered opinion from secondary sources) We could probably debate derivative works for eternity and never really establish anything useful. (I thought the Hunger Games borrow a quite a bit from several works, included The Running Man. Does it really matter?)

    In any case, I really enjoyed the Percy Jackson series. I’d have to say it’s one of my favorite recent series in the young adult fantasy genre.

  4. The review I read pretty much said the same thing, that if you are a fan of the books, you won’t like the movie because so much has been changed. I’ll probably see the movie at some point, but I may wait till I can watch it On Demand.

    I read the first two books, and I’m probably done with the series. It was OK, but nothing about it really grabbed me. There isn’t much character development – at least not enough to make me care about them much or, in some cases, to remember who they are from earlier in the book. It’s not Harry Potter, in other words. The writing seems to really be aimed at a younger audience, where with Rowling, I didn’t feel like she dumbed down the vocabulary or the concepts. And I doubt that I will re-read Percy Jackson.

    Instead I’ve started reading “Peter and the Starcatcher” series. I just finished the first book and am ready to start the second. It’s more fun, more interesting to read – just more to my liking, I guess. I know, I know – for those Disney haters out there, this series wouldn’t be an option. But I like Disney, so I’m enjoying this one.

  5. I’ve read two negative reviews: the common thread seems to be the lack of “magic”. Also, a school for the half-mortal progeny of the immortals seems a little too much like Mike Mitchell’s Sky High. Despite that, we are going to see it: my 9 year old wants to see it, and I really want to see Thurman’s snake do. I also read that she hams it up wonderdully. Plus, I didn’t really mind Sky High; it’s fun as long as you set your expectations at the Disney movie for the 7-12 year old level.

  6. Well – Slate certainly did a hatchet job on this film and poor Chris Columbus. I haven’t read the book or seen the film so I really can’t say if I agree.

    However – the “Harry Potter rip-off” issue interests me. I can’t begin to tell you the rip-off issues people had with Ms. Rowling with Tolkein, Lewis and T.H. White. So is this any different? A rip-off of a rip-off? I say who cares. As long as no copyright issues are involved write and film away. Mentors, 3 kids on an adventure, magical powers, wars are public domain.

    David Plotz should get over it and open his mind a little to Chris Columbus’ inherent directing style. If you don’t have an open mind about the artistic and diverse styles of directors – why review them? Chris Columbus has his own style – whether it’s Plotz’s cup of tea or not. Chris Columbus in not Scorsese. Scorsese is not Ron Howard. Ron Howard is not Robert Altman. Altman is not Bob Zemeckis. Zemeckis is not Tarantino. Tarantino is no Woody Allen…

    You get the point.

  7. Exactly. I don’t have that much of a problem with the way the film looks in the previews. Actually, I thought it looked pretty good. I was just underwhelmed by the second book (which the reviewers said was better than the first), so I really don’t care that much about it. In fact, with both books, I got near the end and had to force myself to finish reading, especially the second one. That’s not a good indicator, for me.

    The trouble is, any book from now on, is going to be compared to Harry Potter AND all the other books with three kid heroes and any kind of magic. Too bad. Of course, it’s also too bad that Percy Jackson wasn’t given brown, blonde or red hair instead of black – the author could have changed that little detail without affecting the story.

    I am curious, though, why Columbus chose to not stick closer to the book when he was so careful and insistent about doing just that with Harry Potter. It seems to me that was the thing that worked so well and I would think he’d want to do that again. Maybe he feels like this book series doesn’t have the same wide following so most who see the movie won’t know something has been changed.

  8. I read “Peter and the Starcatcher”. Barely made it through and had no urge to read any of the other books in the series, although I don’t have a problem with Disney in general.

    Which is why we can all be grateful for the wide range of reading option available as we’re unlikely to all like the same things. Of course, I wouldn’t want it any other way.

  9. Sean, I’m pretty confident that David Plotz has read the book, because I read the Lightning Thief because he mentioned it in a podcast. He read it to see why the book captivated his daughtert and was on a crusade about derivative the material was then. Plotz gets very opinionated, and usually doesn’t back down.

    I agree with him a bit on the first book in the series, because as soon as I figured out the Quirrel character in The Lightning Thief, I figured out the bad guy. But a lot of his characterizations are complaints that are very archetypical to those types of stories. The books are postmodern Greek monomyths complete with their own mind, body, and soul triptych (thank John Granger for explaining that at NIU).

    Eeyore/Pat, the books get better after Sea of Monster, which I thought was horrible in contrast to the reviewers. I think Riordan, gets more comfortable writing this series after that point and I thought the narrative was easier to follow and much more engaging in last three in the series.

    I want to go see the movie with my wife after we go to church and shopping tomorrow. I will know more then.

  10. At first blush, Percy Jackson looks like a complete steal. But then again, at first blush, Harry Potter looked like a children’s book. So I guess the only way to find out is to read it!

  11. I read the whole Percy Jackson series because my daughter insisted they were wonderful. At one point, she insisted they were better than Harry Potter.

    They’re not. For my money, they’re not even close. I am absolutely with Eeyore above in being underwhelmed.

    There’s really no character development, I never cared much about the stakes of each story, and I found that as soon as I started a new one, I couldn’t remember a thing about what happened in the previous book. They weren’t painful to read, they were fine. But there was nothing “sticky” about them. I can’t imagine going back to read them unless I had to. (Of course, if I were offered a chance to write one of the scripts, I’d find a way to love them.)

    As for my daughter… she raved while she was reading it. And when the last book in the series came out, she never came back to it again. While there’s a volume or two of Harry Potter on her bedside table right now.

  12. Sean said, “I thought the Hunger Games borrow a quite a bit from several works, included The Running Man.”

    Yeah, I thought that too going through the book. Didn’t matter to me since I loved The Running Man. Killion–it’s the part Richard Dawson was born to play! :)

    As for my dilemma of whether to start Catching Fire or Lightning Thief, I’ll put off the day of decision by playing Civilization IV instead.

  13. revgeorge, my wife can quote the entire dialog of The Running Man :) In fact, I think we watched it a week or two before I started The Hunger Games I agree Killion was an awesome character for Richard Dawson. “Who loves you, and who do you love!”

    I’m still working on American Gods.

  14. Sean, it’s not possible for The Running Man to be on & me not watch it completely. I’m not even sure they would’ve had to write the dialog that Killion uses throughout the film; it just sounds like stuff Dawson would say naturally. :)

    Anyway, back to Percy Jackson, my wife did find me an ebook of Lightning Thief, so I guess maybe I will start reading it tonight.

  15. Harry Potter was accused of stealing a good bit from The Worst Witch, and it’s hard not to see Ms. Hardbroom as a female Snape.

    From what I heard, while Percy Jackson probably does follow a little too closely in Harry’s footsteps, it’s not nearly as bad as the Charlie Bone series.

    But maybe it’s not so awful to play variations on the same theme…that’s pretty much the entire genre of Jazz music right? ::dodges projectiles:: I mean Battle Star Galatica (original) was pretty much the live action Star Wars TV series we’re still waiting on, and it rocked in it’s own campy way.

    Honestly the Next Big Thing to follow after Harry Potter, needs to look as little like Harry Potter as possible to stand out, but not every movie has to be the next big thing.

  16. Travis,
    I disagree with the assessment of the series and the movie by the Slate reviewer. In fact, I enjoyed the movie. Of course there were differences from the novel. Movies and books are two different mediums.

    If you are interested in reading my review, I posted one on my blog earlier today.

    http://lcmccabe.blogspot.com/2010/02/lightning-thief-my-review.html

    I absolutely had to see it yesterday with my son. He’s been anxiously awaiting it release for months now.

  17. LC McCabe,
    I haven’t seen or read the story but different mediums do not excuse change from the original story for no apparent reason.

  18. Actually, I tend to think different mediums do excuse change from the original story, for whatever reason the director sees fit – whether it’s good or not. Neil Gaiman, for example, recognized this when wrote the book Stardust and then contributed to the film as well. There was no particular reason why that story had to be so different on film, but there it was.

    We see the same with some of Stephen King’s involvement in some of his movies. I know that these examples involve the original story’s creator, but I think that rather strengthens instead of hurts the argument. If the authors of the stories themselves recognize that a different medium provides opportunities to explore different ways the story could have gone, then film directors should be free to take those opportunities, and take a risk on whether the changes will work or fail.

  19. Different media do have different demands. An interesting example of how something written for one medium doesn’t translate well into another is Michael Crichton’s Timeline

    Crichton has written a lot of books which have been very successfully filmed: Andromeda Strain, Jurassci Park, Rising Sun, Eaters of the Dead etc.

    In Timeline it looks like he tried to cut out the middleman – i.e. the screenwriter – and write the book as a series of scenes, almost like a screenplay. I tried to read it, and couldn’t get through it: the instructions to the camera disrupted the flow of the story.

  20. Changes, yes.
    Changes for no apparent reason or change for, apparently, change sake- no.

    Of course there has to be change and there is always interpretation. Presumably, if someone makes a movie of someone else’s story they attempt it because they have some respect for the story…

    Maybe not. More likely, the studios think it won’t make money unless changes are made to the story to what they think will be more appealing.

    I just haven’t seen changes to book stories that have improved a story for movies.

  21. Changes for no apparent reason or change for, apparently, change sake- no.

    Not to be picky here, but we’re still dealing with a bare assertion. Why? “I haven’t ever seen an improved story” isn’t a good enough reason, even if it’s true for 99% of book-to-film adaptations I’ve seen. Usually, the changes have little to do, in my mind, with why the film didn’t work as well as the book.

    I brought up Stardust in particular because I’ve actually interacted with a lot of people who like the movie better than the book. That’s not something you hear often, but I’ve heard it a lot with that movie. (I disagree, for what it’s worth, and very much prefer the book.) I’ve heard a few people say that Stardust was a film that gave a sort of wandering plot a much better, solid plot.

    A book is not a screenplay, and it’s not a script for a film. Movies based on books are just that – “based on.” I think the director has the freedom to make those changes, whether she believes it makes the story better or wants to tell a slightly different story than the book did or just wants to put her own mark on it, because it’s a different medium and art form.

  22. korg20000bcI think it’s not always easy as consumers of media, books and film, to determine when changes are made for no apparent reason versus obviously apparent reasons. Is it artistic on the part of the director or even the author of the book? Is it for accessibility? Is it for marketability? Is it budgetary?

    When I have read the book first, I am usually more critical of the movie, although sometimes, I can appreciate that the two are separate mediums. I thought the Lord of the Rings movies were outstanding and in my mind, I don’t really compare them to the books. They are completely separate. Then again, they took The Tale of Despereaux, which is an incredible book, and made the worst film possible. I wouldn’t mind if the last copy of the movie burned.

    If I see the movie first and then read the book, it’s usually because I enjoyed the movie. It’s as if the book is the DVD, complete with deleted scenes, interviews with the characters and director commentary.

  23. korg20000bc,

    I can give a good example of a change from the book’s to the screen’s that I thought worked. The first Harry Potter story had a change to the glass in the python/boa’s enclosure to be disappearing and then reappearing when Dudley was inside.

    I thought that was a cool twist.

    Again in the first HP movie the three Gryffindors who went into the Forbidden Forest were different than the ones who went in the book. Why? Because of condensing the plot. The whole Norbert to the top of the Astronomy Tower sequence was excised, so Neville’s getting detention was changed to Ron getting that detention.

    Did it change the overall meaning of the story? No. It simplified things.

    There was a similar change in the Percy Jackson book to movie of who was able to escape from the Underworld and who had to remain behind. The arguments used in the movie were similar to those used in the book, but the ultimate decision of who went and who stayed changed.

    At the end, the story didn’t really change.

    One thing that the moviemakers deleted that a lot of fans of the Percy Jackson series are upset with is the removal of the antagonism that Percy has with Clarisse and the god Ares. So instead, part of the antagonism that was with Clarisse was added to the part of Annabeth, and a duel with Ares was changed into a duel with another in the climax.

    Would I have preferred the Ares/Percy showdown instead? Maybe. But the one they showed in the movie was dramatically satisfying.

  24. My husband and I took our son to see the movie on Sunday; he’s 8 and a huge fan of the books; I hadn’t yet read any of them although a few people have recommended them… gushingly. We all loved the movie. Loved it a lot. And since then I’ve read the first two Percy Jackson books, which I’m enjoying immensely. However, there’s just not a whole lot there, characterwise. Percy’s voice is certainly engaging as he narrates, but the first person automatically precludes really getting to know any of the other characters except as Percy perceives them. The jury is still out for me as to why the filmmakers made the big changes to the story that they did, but I could see things getting extremely convoluted when you’ve already got the three main characters (Percy, Annabeth and Grover) going on the journey together; to throw in too many more characters would likely have overwhelmed the movie’s progress completely.

    I’m not one to get hung up on details when a book makes the jump to the screen. I just want to see that the overall theme of the book is intact in the movie. And I guess that was mostly the case here… although I’m still not 100% certain what the main theme is, two books in. Am I missing something? I don’t know.

  25. Shannon,

    I think the overall theme in the Percy Jackson books is something that won’t really become apparent until you finish the series, but without spoiling your reading enjoyment I will clue you in a little. It does not have the traditional “good versus evil” dichotomy that you find in many fantasy books, like the HP books. Instead, in the PJ series it is “the Olympian gods vs. the Titans.”

    This is not a black vs. white scenario. Instead, there are many shades of gray.

    The Olympic gods have not behaved benevolently to all involved. Instead, they have been selfish and over thousands of years have trod callously over others which has caused resentments.

    This is why some of the minor gods/goddesses wind up siding with the Titans over the Olympians.

    The resolution of the series addresses the consequences of those arrogant actions and how things could be different. I loved how the series tied everything together at the end.

    Enjoy!

  26. As several others have said, I read The Lightning Thief and enjoyed it but have barely thought of it again. And really haven’t thought about reading the second book. I often find a book or a series that’s a page-turner while it lasts and then (as the movie Slughorn would say), poof! It’s gone.

    Harry Potter, on the other hand–well, as soon as I finish one read-through, I have to fight the urge to start over again. I also fight the urge to write fan fiction like I did when I was Star Wars-addicted in my teens. Yes, I need an intervention.

    There’s something almost mystical about why one book or series clicks with a person. Librarians like myself are often asked to recommend to readers books that are “like” other books, and that’s incredibly hard. A book that sounds like it has all the same elements may not click at all. It’s like recommending that a widowed friend date some woman because she looks so much like his wife did. Just won’t work.

  27. Well myy view on this is that, the book told more than the film thats how it always is. I seen the movie before i read the book and to be fair i prefered the percy they adapted in the film than the book, same as the Anabeth as they make her out to be weak sounding to the books, and grover because he’s afriad of evrything and tbh prefer him in the film. I would of liked to of seen how they made Ares look in the film but unfortunately they didnt put that part in but i liked hown they fitted the finding the pearls in with all the other monsters like madussa they face in the book. I honestly prefer the movie and cant stop watching it. Cant wait for it to come out on dvd. They alsoo showw percy to be more of the son of posiedon in the film, with him being able to breathe under water all through it. But altogether i loved it :D

  28. It’s March break up here, and we’re running out of things to do, so we finally went to see The Lightening Thief.

    First off, I haven’t read the books, so I can’t comment on if and how they’ve changed the story and whether for the better or worse.

    I can tell you that I really enjoyed it, and so did my 9 year old, and perhaps for some of the same reasons.

    He liked “the adventures” and that there wasn’t just one adventure but many. Which refers to the fact that once the movie settles down, it follows a three-part quest motif. Percy and his two side-kicks (the funny but loyal satyr Grover and the intelligent Amazon-like warrior Annabeth) have to find the three Pearls of Persephone before they can descend into Hades in order to rescue – well, you get the idea. And once the movie does settle down into its quest motif, it is a lot of fun – and it has fun, especially with juxtaposing the Greek mythology with 21st century adolescent sensibilities.

    A lot of highpoints. The visit to Aunty Em’s sculpture garden is a hoot. Ms. Thurman hams it up outrageously, but she is even more fun after the battle. Let’s just say that rarely have Hollywood style sunglasses been put to better use. The visit to the Lotus Hotel and Casino is one of those great marriages of myth and post-modern sensibility. But the highlight has to be the visit to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Hades. Again, without giving the whole show away, let’s just say that even Gods have their domestic issues.

    The acting by the “kids” is ok – although both of the sidekicks are on the wrong side of 20. Sean Bean is largely wasted as Zeus – although he and a badly miscast Kevin McKidd get into a wonderful testosterone driven pissing match on the 600th floor of the Empire State Building (where the Olympians live). Pierce Brosnan is not entirely wasted as Chiron – although the most interesting part of his performance is the CGI. Ms. Thurman is as wonderful as anticipated, although again the CGI is front and centre. But the highlight for me was the combo of Rosario Dawson and Steve Coogan. I read the story of Persephone and Hades when i was c child. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that their marriage could have looked like this. And never in a thousand years did I imagine Hades as a middle-aged rock star.

    You have to see it.

    And oh yeah, about the comparisons with Potter. Not really. Yeah, there is a kid who discovers he has magical powers, and he and his best friends (who are remarkably similar to you-know-who) do go adventuring to find a lost magical object, and they move through a world full of fascinating magical creatures. But the underneath part is different. I can’t really comment on the books, only having Googled them. But the emotional resonance of this movie is about abandonment, rather than loss. And yeah, it is kind of superficial. But as superficialy movies go, it is a heck of a lot of fun.

  29. Can’t shut up about the movie.

    Two things I forgot to say the first time.

    One point of similarity between Percy and Potter is that although the three-part quest makes for a very entertaining story, it doesn’t make any more sense in The Lightening Thief than it did in Goblet of Fire. When you sit down and think it through, there is actually no more reason for the villain to send Percy on his quest than there was for the villain to enter Harry in the Tri-Wizard Tournament. Both ends could have been achieved much more simply. So don’t think too hard about it.

    The other thing I wanted to mention was that one of the funniest scenes in the movie happens after the closing credits. So don’t get up once the credits start rolling, because you’ll miss a highly satisfactory, laugh out-loud moment.

  30. I’ve only read The Lightning Thief once but I’m quite sure there wasn’t a Pearls of Persephone Quest in there. Oh well, not like I’ll see the movie any time soon. If I had wanted to see it last Friday instead of Alice I would’ve been out of luck since the theater’s projector for Percy was broken.

    Hopefully, though, there was no scene where Brosnan as Chiron grabbed Percy by the shoulders & shouted, “PERCY JACKSON, DID YOU STEAL ZEUS’ LIGHTNING BOLT!!!!” ;)

  31. See, it took me quite a while to get over Brosnan’s CGI generated centaur limbs. I must confess that my mind did dwell for a little while over where the naughty bits would be positioned in such a creature, and if CGI had recreated them. So I wasn’t really thinking of his dialogue. But I don’t remember him yelling at Percy.

    rvegeorge, when you say it like that, it sounds so much like the Perils of Penelope that I have to wonder if it’s an in-joke.

  32. I just saw The Lightening Thief with two of my girlfriends and we loved it. All of us for different reasons.

    Andrea loves Pierce Brosnan – so in her eyes – any movie he’s in is great. I also thought this was one of Brosnan’s best turns as an actor. He convinced me that he has always had four legs – and they have been using CGI to take away two of his legs for his role as 007. I loved him.

    Melinda loves Uma Thurman – as do I – so we love to see her camp it up. Honestly – everything Uma does – I love. From the Adventures of Baron Munchausen to Pulp Fiction to Kill Bill (and everything in between) – she’s my girl. And she never lets me down.

    Ok – Coogan was hilarious. If that’s hell – sign me up. Rosario Dawson is kind of a new discovery for me – and she sassed me up good.
    Mr. Hades: Why don’t you try being a little bit more supportive.
    Mrs. Hades: No!

    Overall – it was a good film. I really had a good time watching it. I didn’t read the book before I went and I concentrated on opening my mind to the film – instead of thinking of Harry Potter. And you know what? I really didn’t think about Harry Potter hardly at all. I think you have to either go along for the ride – or not. I went along – very happily.

  33. The first time I remember seeing Rosario Dawson was in Sin City – which is a movie that I loved but would never, ever recommend to anyone for fear that it could quite easily exceed their tolerance for disgustingly gross and gratuitously violent violence. Anyways, she played Gail, the leader of the hookers, and the dance partner of Dwight, played by Clive Owen. The scene in which they slaughter everyone who isn’t female or is not Dwight was – impressive. Stilll sends chills down my back. When Persephone speaks, I hear Gail.

  34. In my own opinion I think that Percy Jackson and the Olympians The Lightning Thief is Better than any of the Harry Potter movies and books, That it is more Mysteric, and compeling.

  35. I love the percy jackson books and the harry potter ones. I like percy jackson because the harry potter series is ending soon and i have a new series to obsess over now :)

  36. I read both aeries and I think that the Percy Jackson series is much better. Percy Jackson and the Olympians Rox!!!!!

  37. hmm thats a lie harry potter is ten times better! and greek mythology??? thats dumb because its fake and she is not gonna use it but reading is good a harry potter is a bunch of huge books that catch your attention!!! and your gonna need it later in life!!!

  38. man ……percy jackson series is way way more better than the big name -”HARRY POTTER” ……it has humour , suspense .thrill , romance and everything else that a perfect book needs . it a perfect blend of myth and fanatsy with a sense fun and humour which makes it more captivating . percy’s character is shown with complete coooolness……which lackes in harry makin it a” serious” one .

  39. To all the Percy-haters out there. If you think the Percy series is a bad book, your wrong. I think you all fail to realize that how good a book is a matter of OPINION! Stop saying one book is better than another, or that someone is coping from someone else. Even if you didn’t enjoy a book, that doesn’t mean it was bad. Respect other people’s opinions and choices of literature. If someone enjoyed reading a book, the author’s purpose was fullfilled and the book was worth writing.

  40. I have to say that Percy Jackson does not steal from Harry Potter, but they look quite alike, as you may soon find out. But I don’t think that Poseidon wouldn’t look anything different than what Rick Riordan describes him as in the books. Black hair and sea green eyes. I think that Harry’s are more of an emerald green.

    Don’t see the movie, it’s a big disappointment if you have read the books but alright if you have not.

    Also, there’s a follow-up series to Percy Jackson called the Heroes of Olympus and it adds the concept of Roman demigods to the story.

  41. I’ve read both series and enjoyed both immensely. While Percy Jackson is really good, nothing beats Harry Potter. Harry is a much braver character. I like him a whole lot better than Percy. Plus, I think Annabeth is just a prettier version of Hermione. (Just Hermione NOT Emma Watson) And Harry Potter is well-thought out and fits nicely. I didn’t get why Rick had to kill Luke off. Really. You keep him alive for five books so that he could die at the right time? He was my favorite character. But other than that I liked Percy Jackson. But JKR is DEFINITELY the better, more hardworking and BY FAR more successful writer.
    And yes, I do feel that they copied from Harry Potter. I mean “Half-Blood Hill”–really? And that Nathan guy; Percy saves his life but he betrays him by bringing Kronos back to life. Ring a bell? That’s exactly what Harry does to Wormtail! He prevents Lupin and Sirius from killing Wormtail who goes onto bringing Voldemort back to life.
    Bottom line: Harry Potter’s better.

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