Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
11/22/20; 4:40pm CST
Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell won the Hugo and a raft of other awards, and was finalist for many more. It is very long, very complex, very, very good. Highly recommended.
11/5/20; 2:00pm CST
Weston Ochse's Bone Chase is a conspiracy theory thriller with an interesting premise, but poor execution.
11/5/20; 2:00pm CST
The Ambergris trilogy concludes with Finch, a finalist for Nebula, World Fantasy, and Locus awards in 2010. Even more confusing that the previous books, and it will take re-readings to be sure about the end, which is why I only rated this one four stars, but the trilogy as a whole warrants the full five stars.
Shriek: An Afterword
11/2/20; 4:50pm CST
Shriek: An Afterword is the second part of Jeff VanderMeer's Ambergris trilogy. Very good, sometimes rambling and confusing, but ultimately satisfying, profound and moving. Highly recommended.
The Burning God
10/26/20; 12:40pm CDT
R. F. Kuang's Poppy War series comes to an explosive conclusion in The Burning God. Almost literally heart-breaking. Recommended for those who can take it, but not for those who want their fantasy light and positive.
The Flowers of Vashnoi
10/20/20; 9:45am CDT
The last Vorkosigan story to have been published, although it's second to last by internal chronology, is the novella The Flowers of Vashnoi. Miles does appear in a few scenes, but the focus is on his wife, Lady Ekaterin. Entirely too short, and this better not be her last appearance. One more novel to go and I'll be done with the Vorkosigan Saga.
Captain Vorpatril's Alliance
10/11/20; 9:45am CDT
Continuing with peripheral characters in the Vorkosigan Saga, we come to 2012's Captain Vorpatril's Alliance. I liked it, but with reservations. Could have been more tightly edited, and I got the impression all the extra expostion was tying up loose threads that could have been in another book, but probably won't.
Ethan of Athos
10/2/20; 6:55pm CDT
Ethan of Athos was Bujold's third published novel, but it's the ninth (or tenth) in the order of the Vorkosigan Saga chronology. Not a waste of time, but not that enjoyable, landing at the very bottom of the list, my least favorite of the series that I've read so far.
Seven of Infinities
9/30/20; 2:50pm CDT
Seven of Infinities is a new novella by Aliette de Bodard, set in her Xuya Universe, so I'm adding it to an existing page. Scroll up from where that link takes you in case you haven't read the other parts of the review. Each are very good, worthy of your time, with my only complaint being they should be longer, with more information and background. Otherwise highly recommended.
9/28/20; 8:10am CDT
Dreamweaver's Dilemma is a collection of stories and essays by Lois McMaster Bujold. It also includes bibliographical information about her books and awards, a character pronunciation guide, and lots of other information. Two of the stories had been previously unpublished, including the title story. It's a worthy addition to the Bujold canon.
City of Saints and Madmen
9/25/20; 7:00pm CDT
Jeff VanderMeer's City of Saints and Madmen, published in 2001, then revised and expanded several times since, is a collection of novellas + extras. I have it in a paperback which I hadn't read yet, but it's getting yet another edition, in an omnibus that will include two related novels, titled Ambergris. I have an ARC of that from Edelweiss, but I've also read portions in the paperback, since it doesn't seem that the omnibus will actually be the "complete" Ambergris. What I've read so far is very good, and I'll follow up later, but not before several other books.
The Once and Future Witches
9/18/20; 5:55pm CDT
Alix E. Harrow's second novel proves her first was no fluke. The Once and Future Witches is exciting, well plotted, with great characters. Witchcraft blended with political thought, even though I may have read some things into the narrative she didn't intend. Highly recommended.
9/14/20; 5:25pm CDT
Rebecca Roanhorse hasn't completed her Sixth World series, but she's started another. Black Sun is the first in a projected trilogy with the collective title of Between Earth and Sky. I liked it, but the end was a bit frustrating.
9/11/20; 2:05pm CDT
P. Djèlí Clark's Ring Shout is set in Georgia in 1922, the narrator being a Black woman monster hunter, tracking down otherworldly Ku Kluxes that have infested some members of the Klan.
The Last Campaign
9/9/20; 3:25pm CDT
The Last Dance combined previously written stories, but its follow-up, The Last Campaign, is a novel, and it lives up to the series' collective title of Near Earth Mysteries. Complex and convoluted, with multiple threads tied up at the end, in a conclusion that is sure to reverberate throughout the solar system for years to come. It's not clear if the two main characters will live long enough to see a Free Mars, but I hope so, and I will definitely read those stories when they come. Highly recommended.
The Last Dance
9/7/20; 1:00pm CDT
Martin L. Shoemaker's The Last Dance is what's known as a fix-up. Not a novel, but several previous stories with framing sequences to tie them together. It's the first of the Near Earth Mysteries, but it could just as well have been called "The Chronicles of Nick Aames." High concept. Hard-SF. Recommended.
9/3/20; 3:00pm CDT
S. L. Huang's Burning Roses will be published at the end of the month. It is recommended, but to get an idea of whether you'd like it I link to two previous short stories available to read online.
World of the Five Gods
9/1/20; 7:10pm CDT
I've enjoyed Bujold's science fiction immensely, the fantasy series of the World of the Five Gods much less so. The second book won both Hugo and Nebula, so needed to be reviewed, although I liked the first one a bit more.
Miranda in Milan
8/23/20; 4:20pm CDT
Katharine Duckett's Miranda in Milan is another novella from tor.com. It's a sequel to Shakespeare's The Tempest, with Prospero up to his old tricks of magic and mayhem, and Miranda hidden away in her rooms in the Milan castle, cut off from her betrothed Ferdinand, with no means of communicating with him, and contacts with almost everyone else restricted. It received mixed reviews on publication last year, but I loved it. A worthy successor to the Bard's story, with modern sensibilities, and a potentially happy ending.
8/22/20; 11:40am CDT
Riot Baby is Tochi Onyebuchi's first adult title, a novella that packs a terrific punch. Brutal but honest. Angry but also redemptive. It is an SF story, with a girl with powers of telekinesis and more, a story that centers the tragedies of her Black family's life, but behind that is the history of so much more pain. Sort of a mash-up of The X-Men, The Hate U Give, and the recent HBO adaptaion of Watchmen. Highly recommended, even though it is not a pleasant read.
The Ascent to Godhood
8/20/20; 12:30pm CDT
The normal pattern of books in a series is they usually get longer as the story progresses. JY Yang has gone in the opposite direction. The Ascent to Godhood is the shortest of the Tensorate series. Each has had a different style, the first two more lyrical, the last two more mundane. They don't always go in the direction you anticipate, and I'm not sure to whom the latest title refers. I liked it, but the second one is still my favorite.
8/17/20; 5:45pm CDT
The last (for now) of Bujold's novels that center directly on Miles Vorkosigan is Cryoburn. Unfortunately, it's the first of the series I cannot recommend. Somewhat interesting story, but poorly paced.
8/11/20; 6:45pm CDT
Bujold's Diplomatic Immunity continues the exploits of Miles Vorkosigan, as his honeymoon with Ekaterin is interrupted by an urgent case direct from Emperor Gregor. Another high stakes adventure, mystery and intrigue, so many clues it takes Miles a while to sort them all out. Recommended.
8/8/20; 2:15pm CDT
Wayward Witch is said to be the conclusion of Zoraida Córdova's Brooklyn Brujas series. Obviously it is the end of a trilogy, but I can imagine the Mortiz family has many more adventures ahead, and I will read them if Zoraida ever writes them. Recommended.
8/3/20; 4:35pm CDT
Greythorne is Crystal Smith's second novel, second in a series that began with Bloodleaf. They are both good and recommended, with the new one having a faster pace, and many twists and turns of plot.
2020 Hugo Awards
8/1/20; 5:00pm CDT
The 2020 Hugo Awards were announced last night by CoNZealand. I've edited the current Hugo/Nebula and Retro Hugo pages to reflect all the new winners, as well as editing several review pages to add their award wins. I was very pleased, but surprised, that my favorite novel won, Arkady Martine's A Memory Called Empire, as did the novella This Is How You Lose the Time War, and The Expanse books won for Best Series.
Architects of Memory
7/28/20; 5:00pm CDT
Karen Osborne's debut novel is the start of a new series with the collective title of The Memory War. The fact I used that in the URL of the new page is not an indication I'll read the second book.
7/23/20; 8:00pm CDT
I'm not sure why it took me so long to get around to Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven. Published almost six years ago, it's been on my Kindle almost five years. If I had the time I'd be re-reading it already, it's that good.
Tales from the Loop
7/23/20; 4:10pm CDT
Tales from the Loop is an Amazon Prime series, just eight episodes so far. It's based on an art book of the same name by Simon Stålenhag, which depicts the eerie atmosphere in a town above a particle accelerator. It's very good, but it's slow and contemplative, full of emotion rather than action. Highly recommended, and I hope there will be more.
The Hound of Justice
7/19/20; 4:20pm CDT
The second book in Claire O'Dell's Holmesian series, The Janet Watson Chronicles, is The Hound of Justice. I'd rate it a bit below the first one, but it's still good and recommended, in spite of some cliché elements and illogical developments.
Brave New World
7/16/20; 1:50pm CDT
With a new TV adaptation just released, I re-read Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. It has been close to 50 years since the first time, and I am almost 100% positive my original opinion does not match my current one. Interesting, but simplistic and derivative ideas, and the prose is weak.
A Civil Campaign + Winterfair Gifts
7/15/20; 4:30pm CDT
After a couple of false starts on other books I went back to Bujold. A page I've named Miles Vorkosigan Saga #4 starts with comments on 1999's A Civil Campaign and 2004's "Winterfair Gifts," and I'll follow up with two more novels on that page soon.
The Girl and the Ghost
7/4/20; 1:15pm CDT
Hanna Alkaf's first novel was a YA set in Malaysia in 1969, historical but with a slight fantasy element. Her second is MG, so I'm definitely not in the target demographic, but I loved it. The Girl and the Ghost is again set in Malaysia, this time it's current day with story elements based on traditional folklore. I knew it was a good idea to follow her career, and I'm looking forward to anything else she writes.
The Light Brigade
7/1/20; 5:25pm CDT
I can highly recommend Kameron Hurley's The Light Brigade, which is a Hugo finalist, as well as for Locus and Arthur C. Clarke awards. If I was voting this year it would be a difficult decison, but it would place no lower than #2 on my ballot.
6/24/20; 2:10pm CDT
In addition to Amazon and ReAnimus Press, we are now also an affiliate of Bookshop.org, which was recently started to support independent bookstores that had been forced to close due to the Covid19 pandemic. I've created just a basic page for now, with only one link, the only book I've reviewed since signing up with them. I'll add more information later. As with Amazon, you don't have to buy the item you linked to, you can do a general search once you get to their site, and as long as you complete a purchase within 48 hours, we'll still be credited for the sale.
6/24/20; 1:40pm CDT
Seanan McGuire's Middlegame is a Hugo finalist for Best Novel. It's good, but also frustrating, so it only gets a reserved recommendation.
The Relentless Moon
6/16/20; 6:40pm CDT
The third novel in Mary Robinette Kowal's Lady Astronaut series is The Relentless Moon. The timeline overlaps that of the second book, but instead of more about Elma York and the Mars expedition, another lady astronaut tells of her perilous adventures on the Moon. It's very good, highly recommended.
6/14/20; 11:10am CDT
Tobias Cabral's debut novel, New Eyes, is a continuation of a story that began in a collaborative novella that I have not read, but there's enough expostion for this to be understandable on its own. Post-Cyberpunk, rogue androids, even more rogue humans, but a few good ones too. Recommended, but with a few reservations.
The Vast of Night
6/8/20; 7:50pm CDT
It's been a very long time since I've reviewed a movie, and I think that one (Ad Astra) was the last time I went to the theater, long before they closed due to Covid19. But The Vast of Night is on Prime Video. It's low budget, set in the late 1950s, and reminiscent of drive-in fare of that time. I'm not giving it an enthusiastic recommendation, but there's lots worse things you could do with an hour and a half.
6/8/20; 12:40pm CDT
Red Dust is a newly translated version of the 2004 novel Polvo Rojo by the Cuban writer Yoss, pen-name of José Miguel Sánchez Gómez. There's no way for me to know if the tranlation is the problem, but it was not what I was expecting, not as good as I was hoping. I can't recommend it.
Or What You Will
6/7/20; 1:20pm CDT
Jo Walton's Or What You Will comes out next month, but I got an ARC from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. Honestly, it's in contention for favorite of the year. Highly recommended.
Of Dragons, Feasts and Murders
6/5/20; 5:30pm CDT
One of Aliette de Bodard's series has the collective title of Dominion of the Fallen, consisting of a trilogy of novels, along with several shorter works. I have the first novel but haven't read it yet, but have now read four of the shorts, with the latest, Of Dragons, Feasts and Murders due out next month. It's about Fallen Angels, dragons, and of course, murders. It's pretty good, and enough of a stand-alone if you know a bit about the general premise.
6/4/20; 4:30pm CDT
I'd rate Komarr a bit lower than most of the others in the Vorkosigan Saga. It's still good and entertaining, but more a mystery with too many predictable elements.
6/2/20; 1:25pm CDT
Even though Bujold's Memory was a finalist for Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards, it didn't win any of them. But it's as good as any of the others in the Vorkosigan Saga.
5/30/20; 5:30pm CDT
Miles Vorkosigan, and his clone-brother Mark, return in the Hugo and Locus winner Mirror Dance. I've started a new page for it, entitled Miles Vorkosigan Saga #3, and will follow up on that page with comments on two other books.
5/25/20; 2:00pm CDT
Once again, Silvia Moreno-Garcia does not disappoint. Mexican Gothic is highly recommended. There are familiar elements, although you'll likely guess wrong several times about what is going on.
5/21/20; 5:25pm CDT
Sadly, Gene Wolfe passed away more than a year ago. Sadly, what I assume is his final novel, the posthumously published Interlibrary Loan, is a disappointment. It's a sequel to 2015's A Borrowed Man, which I'll give a reserved recommendation, but not so for this one.
Veil by Eliot Peper
5/20/20; 5:45pm CDT
Eliot Peper's latest novel, Veil, is a fast-paced, near future SF thriller, part spy romp, part environmental activism, with a very strong protagonist in Zia León. Highly recommended.
The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water
5/17/20; 5:30pm CDT
Zen Cho's novella, The Order of the Pure Moon Reflected in Water, comes out next month, but I got an advance look from Edelweiss. It was different than I expected, well-written but not that satisfying, especially if this the only look we get into this world.
Hella by David Gerrold
5/16/20; 2:05pm CDT
David Gerrold's new novel, Hella, is a continuation of his Dingilliad Trilogy from the early 2000s. It may be the beginning of a new trilogy, not sure about that, but I hope so. It's hella good.
We Ride the Storm
5/10/20; 3:25pm CDT
Devin Madson has several self-published novels to her credit, and they've been successful enough to warrant Orbit Books reissuing them. First up is her fourth, We Ride the Storm, the first in the Reborn Empire trilogy. Paperback comes out next month, e-books were released in January. I got it through a Twitter giveaway. I prefer SF to Fantasy, and urban to epic fantasy, so I didn't like this as much as many others have. As in all things, YMMV.
Brothers in Arms (Miles has a brother?)
5/7/20; 7:40pm CDT
Another short but action packed adventure with Miles Vorkosigan. Hardly anything is as it seems in Brothers in Arms, wherein Miles meets his clone brother, Mark.
Borders of Infinity, more Miles Vorkosigan
5/4/20; 2:00pm CDT
Borders of Infinity consists of three novellas in the Vorkosigan Saga, with added scenes framing them around interviews of Miles by his superior, Simon Illyan. As with a lot of this saga, publication dates are different than internal chronology, which leads to a few inconsistencies in the plots. But the stories themselves are strong, both plot-wise and in characterizations.
Of Honey and Wildfires
4/28/20; 4:20pm CDT
Sarah Chorn's second self-published novel, Of Honey and Wildfires, might not be considered Grimdark like her first, but it is still pretty grim and dark, with just the slightest bit of brightness and hope at the end.
Cetaganda, a Miles Vorkosigan Adventure
4/28/20; 4:20pm CDT
My exploration of Lois McMaster Bujold's work, and the adventures of Miles Vorkosigan, continues with Cetaganda, on a page I've named Miles Vorkosigan Saga #2, and I'll follow up with two others on that page as soon as possible, maybe even before the end of May, but I've got a lot of others on my To Be Read pile.
Heinlein's World As Myth
4/26/20; 11:20pm CDT
Robert Heinlein introduced the concept of the multiverse in 1980's The Number of the Beast. What no one knew until recently, another book about parallel universes with the same characters as in Number had been written but never published. It has now. There are sections that are duplicates in the two books, but there are also places where they diverge. I've re-read Number, and combine thoughts on it and The Pursuit of the Pankera on a page I've titled the World As Myth.
The City We Became
4/18/20; 7:20pm CDT
N. K. Jemisin begins a new trilogy, completely different than the previous one of The Broken Earth. This one has the collective name of The Great Cities. The first book is The City We Became, which is an expansion of her Hugo-nominated short story, "The City Born Great" from 2016.
Network Effect, a Murderbot Novel
4/14/20; 6:20pm CDT
The four previous novellas in the Murderbot series concluded, for the most part, the original story arc. Martha Wells' latest novel, Network Effect, is being marketed as a stand-alone continuation, and while it has sufficient exposition to fill you in on previous events, I'd recommend starting from the beginning if you haven't already done that.
"Jack" by Connie Willis
4/10/20; 4:15pm CDT
A short, hopefully spoiler-free review of Connie Willis' 1991 novella, Jack, which gets the special edition treatment from Subterranean Press at the end of the month.
Shorefall, Founders #2
4/9/20; 1:20pm CDT
The second book in Robert Jackson Bennett's Founders trilogy, Shorefall, is a lot like its predecessor. Both start slow, but end very strong. Both get a recommendation.
3/31/20; 6:20pm CDT
Hao Jingfang is the first Chinese woman to win a Hugo, for her 2015 novelette "Folding Beijing." Ken Liu translated that, and he does the honors again with her first novel Vagabonds, which was published in 2018 with a title that would translate as Wandering Maearth. A bit tedious at times, but it ends much stronger than it begins, and it gets a recommendation.
Sunspot Jungle, Volume Two
3/23/20; 1:35pm CDT
The Bill Campbell edited anthology Sunspot Jungle, Volume Two continues with both the diversity of authors and the quality of the fiction. Highly recommended.
Young Miles (Vorkosigan Saga)
3/16/20; 12:30pm CDT
I continue my reviews of Grand Master Lois McMaster Bujold's work with Young Miles, an omnibus of two novels and one novella, the early adventures of Miles Naismith Vorkosigan.
Beneath the Rising
3/5/20; 5:55pm CST
Do you like Lovecraft? Even if you don't I'd say you'll probably still enjoy Premee Mohamed's debut novel, Beneath the Rising, a creepy occult horror story with just the right amount of humor thrown in.
The Poet King
3/1/20; 3:45pm CST
The most positive thing I can say about The Poet King, and the Harp & Ring series as a whole, is that it is not predictable. But it is frustrating, and ultimately unsatisfying.
2/27/20; 12:35pm CST
Lois McMaster Bujold's Barrayar continues the adventures of Cordelia Vorkosigan, née Naismith. Even though five years separated it from the publication of Shards of Honor, the events pick up almost immediately after it. A solid Hugo-winner, with character predominate, but plenty of action to satisfy almost any fan, as well as effective commentary touching on personal rights and autonomy, trauma and disabilities.
The Rage of Dragons
2/23/20; 4:45pm CST
Evan Winter's debut novel, The Rage of Dragons, is not the type of fantasy I'm usually drawn to, but it has been getting lots of positive reviews, and when Amazon dropped the Kindle price I took a chance. As I suspected, it's not the type of fantasy that interests me. Too much fighting, too much brutality, and a rigid caste society that has hardly any redeeming qualities. It's been described as Game of Thrones meets Gladiator, so if that sounds interesting you may like it more than me.
The Rosewater Insurrection
2/18/20; 5:50pm CST
Another second book from Tade Thompson, this time The Rosewater Insurrection, finalist for a BSFA award. Just as good as the first book, although told from multiple perspectives this time instead of just one. Exciting action, intriguing future tech, and very interesting characters, not all of whom you'll like.
The Survival of Molly Southbourne
2/15/20; 1:05pm CST
The second novella in a series by Tade Thompson, The Survival of Molly Southbourne continues the weird and fascinating story of Molly, or I should say a molly, one of the original's blood clones. A few negatives, things that don't make sense in the overall scenario, but enough action and speculation to satisfy. I hope there will be another story soon, although no word on that yet.
2/13/20; 4:50pm CST
Fire Dance is the second book in Ilana C. Myer's Harp & Ring sequence. I rate it about the same as the first book; lyrical prose, some intriguing characters, but poor pacing. Just when it seems important revelations are imminent, the narrative shifts to another scenario, which is frustrating.
2/5/20; 3:15pm CST
K. M. Szpara's debut novel, Docile, has an interesting premise, but too much of the narrative was disturbing. Only recommended for those who can read all the review and still be interested.
Shards of Honor
1/31/20; 6:30pm CST
Lois McMaster Bujold's first published novel was Shards of Honor in 1986. There was a direct sequel five years later, Barrayar, which won the Hugo. At one time they were available in one volume under the title Cordelia's Honor, so that's what I used for the URL of this new page. I'll follow up with thoughts on Barrayar soon, but at least one other book will come before that.
The Wolf of Oren-Yaro, Bitch Queen #1
1/26/20; 2:50pm CST
Originally self-published a couple of years ago, the first two books in K. S. Villoso's Chronicles of the Bitch Queen are being reissued by Orbit Books. The first, The Wolf of Oren-Yaro, is already out on Kindle, the paperback coming next month, with the second title due in September.
The Return of Murderbot!
1/21/20; 5:55pm CST
I had already reviewed the first two novellas in Martha Wells' The Murderbot Diaries, gave up hoping they'd drop the Kindle prices on the others, so I checked them out of the library. So a few brief words about Rogue Protocol & Exit Strategy.
1/19/20; 4:50pm CST
The first award-winning novel from newly named Grand Master Lois McMaster Bujold was 1988's Falling Free. It's very good.
1/15/20; 7:40am CST
Silvia Moreno-Garcia's latest novel is another departure for her. Untamed Shore is not SF, Fantasy, or Horror, instead it's a noir-thriller set in 1979 on the west coast of Baja California. It's the second book to fit into the new Non-SF section of the site, in fact it was what prompted me to create that. It's out next month, but I was lucky in getting an advance e-book from Net Galley. As with everything else I've read by her it is very good.
Last Song Before Night
1/13/20; 11:00am CST
Ilana C. Myer's debut novel, Last Song Before Night, is also the first in the Harp and Ring sequence. I can't give it a strong recommendation, but it does have positive attributes, and since more and more people prefer fantasy over science fiction, some of them might like it more than me. I plan to continue with the series soon.
1/8/20; 10:15am CST
Shadowshaper Legacy is said to conclude Daniel José Older's series, although I'm hoping that is not the case. The major mysteries have been revealed, Sierra Santiago and her fellow shadowshapers prevail, but there are many side plots and peripheral characters I'd like to learn more about. Especially Uncle Neville. Whether we ever get any of those doesn't matter, this series is still recommended.
The Lost Book of Adana Moreau
1/4/20; 11:25am CST
I had expected the first book to go into the new Non-SF section would come a bit later, but Michael Zapata's debut novel fits the bill. It will appeal to SF fans, but the speculative elements in The Lost Book of Adana Moreau are only contained within books written by this books' characters. It's very, very good.
Happy New Year, and A Look Back
1/1/20; 7:45am CST
Hello, 2020! Not sure what the year will be like here, although I find it hard to believe it could top 2019, the most productive year for the site. As we enter our 20th Anniverary year, there is now a total of 628 pages (if my math is not in error), almost 100 of them added in 2019. There were a total of 102 reviews, although some of them were sequel books on an already existing page. It's gonna be tough topping that, and I'm not even going to try. No specific goals this year, that way I won't be upset if I don't meet them. I'll just keep reading and writing reviews, and we'll see how it gores.
The first review will be along in a few days, hopefully, but I'm also in the midst of making minor edits on all the pages, and that will take a while. A new category has been created, for Non-SF related media, something I've thought about for several years. It's not likely there will be a lot of content there any time soon, but the first book review is imminent, sometime this month. There won't be any links to any of the category pages there until content is uploaded. Last year's updates have been moved to the Archives page.
Have a great year, everyone!
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