{DISCUSSION} Prequels

Should books have prequels?

There are always going to be trends going around in the bookish world. Most recently was the ‘YA trilogy’ where every YA series that came out had to have three books. (most likely because a good majority of them involved a rebellion and rebellions don’t just happen overnight.) However, some other trends aren’t nearly as popular or easy to explain (or love).

One trend that has been catching my eye of late are prequels. And despite what the name suggests, the prequel isn’t published before the series, but after. It’s supposed to offer extra information to the reader to satiate their never-ending need to know everything there is to know about certain characters or the world. Yet, I have some serious issues with prequels.

For one, and most importantly, they’re pointless.

Maybe I’m weird. Maybe I don’t get attached to worlds or characters the way other readers do and, therefore, don’t have the same issues letting go. Maybe I prefer not to know every single little detail and like to leave a lot of it up to my imagination. (I think some of the best books are the ones that don’t tell you everything that happens at the end.) Still, I don’t see the point in prequels.

If a series is finished, it shouldn’t need any more books. If information was vital to the series, it would’ve been put into the main books of the series. Important elements shouldn’t be withheld and lorded over the reader. Especially because it would be a sign of bad writing if a writer couldn’t manage to get every necessary thing into the actual series.

That being said, prequels don’t often hold any vital, important, key knowledge. They hold the ‘before’ to the series. They often show us how the world/society got to the point it was at the beginning of the series. Or perhaps it elaborates on a backstory of one of the characters. Either way, the prequel isn’t actually necessary. 

Thus, a prequel, in my mind, is basically saying: “Hey! This information wasn’t important enough to put into the actual series, but spend more money on me anyway!” Yes, I am a bit cynical when it comes to this. Partly because I don’t want an author to linger on a series. I want them to write another one. I want them to expand my imagination with a whole new world to explore and new characters to meet. I already know this story. I want a new one.

Also, even though money comes from trees, not everybody has a lot of it (and trees aren’t nearly as endless as we think). Thus, I don’t want to spend a whole lot of money on books. I especially don’t want to spend a lot on books with information that wasn’t vital or necessary to the main story line because what if they’re sub-par? What if, because they aren’t as important, they’re not as well written? Then it’s an even bigger waste of money.

But what about you? Do you like or loathe prequels?
Let me know your thoughts!


And check out my discussion from last week:
Opposites Attract

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64 thoughts on “{DISCUSSION} Prequels

  1. I really agree with you here- most prequels really add nothing to the story- there are very rare occasions when they are a different, separate and interesting story, but as I said they are rare! I especially feel like the more modern trend of prequels tends to just be about cashing in on an idea, which is frustrating!! Great discussion!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Prequels are awesome!  I released my prequel at the same time as first book in my series.  And I actually love them, and give them away for free to my mailing list.  They’re a great marketing tool as well, most Indie’s give the prequels away.  I love them as a reader as well, more information in universes I love and most aren’t long enough to take too much time from the authors ability to keep being creative elsewhere.  Finally, isn’t money made from 75% cotton and 25% linen?  Cotton is a renewable resource, and I’d have to do some research on the manufacturing of linen.  Anyway, those are my thoughts!

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  3. I usually feel the same about prequels. I think its confusing to try to add to the beginning of a story. I did, however, enjoy the prequel, Escape From Asylum, in the Asylum series by Madeleine Roux. Its not that the elaboration on the character in this prequel wasn’t good enough to go in the story, it was that he was supposed to be a mystery and a ghost in the series and having the prequel read afterward kind of made things click and added another facet to the story.

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              1. I know!! He has been my idle for most of my life and I expected great things from the movie. The whole ending was changed and two of the characters were switched. Ugh! The only thing he did right for me was get the look of the world and the house close to what I imagined.

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  4. I think maybe prequels are not necessary and certainly understand how they feel more like a money tactic to any, but I don’t care haha. If I am really into a series, I always want more. Even the little stuff. So are they important or needed? Maybe not. Do I want and enjoy? Yes please!

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      1. Not many.. Fairest for The Lunar Chronicles was a short, but beneficial read if you enjoy the series. It provided great insight into how a villain was born.

        The Dark Elf Trilogy was a prequel to that I absolutely loved.

        Now you have me curious. I need to dig back and see how many I have read 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I think I have to disagree (let’s keep things interesting, right? 🙂 )

    I can definitely see the point of view that prequels are just a quick money grab. I’d agree that some certainly are but heck, the so-called “reboots” are much worse if you ask me. Personally, I think there’s more to it than that. A prequel is by definition a story that precedes an existing work. Does that make a story bad? Sometimes, sometimes not. I don’t think anyone would argue that Star Wars Episode I is one that the world could live without but when I look at Rogue One, I see a story I actually love. But, to my kids growing up, they have no understanding of that IV came first. They see 1-6, then 7 etc.

    Take a book like Red Rabbit by Tom Clancy. Clearly it’s a book that goes way back in time when Jack Ryan wasn’t the president. Some didn’t like it but I enjoyed it. It gave a view of an event that happened before he was president that clearly is part of the story of who he is as a character.

    To me, the prequels all make up the one work, good or not, yet separate. If that makes any sense. Sure, writing the end of this universe of works can cause complications and I think that’s a risk a writer that goes down this path have to take if they want to tell the full story.

    I guess the question is as a writer: when you’ve finished your story and suddenly you have this GREAT idea that happens before the last book, do you throw it out as irrelevant? No, I think you tell the story.

    Anyway, that’s my opinion…sorry for being contrary 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah! But the key to Star Wars was that the whole series was written out ahead of time. The ‘prequel’ was pre-planned and, as I’ve discussed with a few others here, that seems to be the ticket to making a good prequel. It becomes a problem when the prequel is an afterthought and the author is scrambling to write a backstory they didn’t originally plan for.

      And once again, you’ve hit another topic that has come up: the author coming up with the idea vs. the publisher wanting them to come up with an idea. I think where the prequel starts has a direct impact on how well the prequel works. If a publisher wants the author to make a prequel because the series was so well received, the author may be lacking for inspiration, and are forcing something out to appease their ’employer.’ However, it’s really hard to say since we will never know exactly who those authors are.

      And don’t be sorry for contradicting! Contradictions are what open up a discussion for debate! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t think Lucas had much involvement with Rogue One though and to me that’s clearly the best of the now four prequels. Episodes 1-3 aren’t that great so from the perspective of pre-planning producing great prequels, that whole series doesn’t fit that concept. If anything, Rogue One as a NEW prequel fits better.

        I do agree on the authors vs publisher initiated prequel. A prequel really should spring from the writer’s mind out of the desire to tell another good story, not because the publisher wants to squeeze dollars out of a franchise.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Are there prequels that are mostly to milk a successful series for all it’s worth? Sure. But there is also plenty of room out there for thoughtful, companion-style prequels out there. Had Robin McKinley written The Blue Sword, thought, “Eh, good enough.”and called it a day, the world would be missing one of its present Newberry winners and fantasy classics in The Hero and the Crown!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah. I think you brought up a key element, though, of what makes a good prequel: companion-style. I think a lot of prequels are often used as the name would suggest: something before the story. They’re supposed to give us more backstory, even though we don’t really need it for the story. But if it weren’t designed for that purpose and designed as a companion book, offering different information, I could imagine the prequel would be a good option. It’s just that, like most things, it’s easy to screw up.

      Also, I’ve never read these books. I will have to look into them now that you recommend them. Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Melanie,

    I actually AM one of those weird people who fall madly in love with characters and obsess over knowing every factoid about them, however your point is definitely intriguing where the ‘prequel’ is concerned.

    I tend to buy up every book in a series I love mostly to say ‘I have every book in the series’ however I have found prequels to be quite a let down. And the main reason for this is that I LOVE the anti-hero, bad boy character. And nine times out of ten, the prequel is written while he was still being a ‘good boy’ and goes on to explore the events that turned him bad. I don’t really care about those events OR what he did as a good boy. I want more badass, immoral, heart-breaker anti-hero!

    So, although I am one of those who falls deeply for a character, I do share your thoughts on the prequel. Plus, I loved this line… “Hey! This information wasn’t important enough to put into the actual series, but spend more money on me anyway!” Yes. Just, yes.

    Great post.

    Jess

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 😀 I’m so happy you liked my post and I’m really happy you commented because you offer an opinion from the other side of the spectrum. I’ve never read a prequel. So, my opinion is very biased, but I’m happy to hear I may not be that far out in crazy-land with my opinion. Hee hee!

      And you bring up an interesting point. A lot of prequels seem to follow a character’s journey. They explain how the character got to where they are and show how they became who they are in the main series, but that’s not the part that made us love them. We love them because of who they are IN the series, not who they were before it. But then, if you want more information about the bad-boy, I don’t think a prequel is appropriate. I think a novella would be a better option because prequels are supposed to happen before the main series. The novella could just be like… a random side-trip he went on and gallivanted about. Haha!

      I also hate to say it, but I put that line in there because authors don’t often see most of the money their books make. The publisher and agent get a hefty chunk of that. Thus, I almost wonder if it’s the publisher/agent pushing the writer to throw out a prequel so they can make more money, especially since many of the prequels don’t feel pre-planned, but more of an afterthought. It’s such a shame!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes so true. I’ve heard of so many stories where the writer says, oh my publisher pushed me to write the prequel. As a writer myself, I like to go forwards in a journey, not backwards with my characters!
        Anyway, great post and great discussion Melanie!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Absolutely! I can totally understand that from a writer perspective, but if my publisher pushed me to write a prequel, I’d probably be like: “Alright, but it ain’t gonna be what you think.” ;p I’d probably make up all new characters and turn it into another series than a prequel (ala Cassandra Clare or something). Haha! Otherwise, I can’t see it as being worth it and I wouldn’t want to write a half-hearted book and disappoint my readers. (You know… should I ever get published. :p)

          Thank you for reading and commenting, Jessica! 😀

          Liked by 1 person

  8. I tend to agree with you. I think prequels are often done as a way of squeezing more money out of a fictional property after the original has established itself as a success, and I think that kind of “afterthought prequel” is exactly what leads to problems.

    If the existing story makes any reference to what happened in the past, audiences will begin to develop their own idea of what happened.
    For example, in the original Star Wars, Obi Wan Kenobi makes some very specific and concrete references to what happened during the age of the Republic and the Clone Wars. But I think many audiences were surprised to see the “story” surrounding those details, because they had already created their own story around them.

    I think the key with prequels is to keep references to the past “vague”, leave some room to adapt. A good example is how many historical events become distorted as they’re passed down verbally. Stories of Atlantis persist to this day, but no one really knows if it really existed, or what it was like.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh! Afterthought prequels are SOOO annoying because then it’s just the writer scrambling around for ideas and throwing in thoughts. I think a prequel might work if the author plans to write a prequel and throws in hints throughout the main series (as I’ve heard has been done by Cassandra Clare. Though, I can’t confirm.)

      Ah. I think you’ve really hit the snag with writing prequels: They have to be planned out ahead of time. The writer has to know exactly what happened beforehand and plan to write a prequel before they even finish writing the series, or they end up with a prequel that doesn’t match what they wrote because they didn’t plan it out.

      Honestly, that’s way too much forethought for me, which is why I’d never write a prequel. I also don’t like withholding information from my readers just so I can spill it to them in another book. Any information vital to the story should be offered in the book. Everything else is irrelevant, but that’s my opinion. :/

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Ok, wow I’ve never even thought of it like that. You’re right, these prequels are often times like just unnecessary extra info that was just a chore to buy and read. Or, like pamlingelbach said, they don’t even live up to the expectations from the first book. The only series I can think of that goes against this mindset is the “Maze Runner” series. Actually, the prequel is my favourite one because the actual trilogy just ended in such an anti-climatic manner. Since I didn’t like the actual story, the prequel leading up to it was like redemption from the author…at least for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh man. I’m happy you brought up Maze Runner because I, too, felt the series was pretty bad. I didn’t like the writing style. A lot of the slang was overused and became annoying and that ending was total garbage. It was your stereotypical dystopian ‘hope for the future’ ending and gave the reader nothing, not even satisfaction. A real buzzkill after how annoying the series was, but it was why I didn’t want to read the prequel. I had already wasted so much time on the series that I didn’t want to waste any more on the prequel, but you think it redeemed it. Hmm… Perhaps I’ll have to look into borrowing it from the library or something. (No way I’m paying money on it.)

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      1. You totally should try the prequel. It’s called “The Kill Order” and it has completely new characters too so even if you hated the first book there’s like a fresh start here. It’s the exact same world but it talks about how WICKED was formed and how the disease hit and affected everybody. In this book he actually carries out a good ending and he even wrote a second book recently for the prequel called “The Fever Code.” I’m still waiting to read that one. Hopefully it gives way more answers to the first books unanswered mysteries…and has better endings!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Haha! Well, I’m happy to hear it’s better. I didn’t mind the characters so much as the language they over-used. It really took away from the plot. But I’ll have to check it out! Thanks for the rec! 🙂

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  10. I see what you mean here, I think you’ve said before that you feel the same way about novellas right? If it wasn’t originally included in the series then what’s the point.
    I think for me, I don’t mind them (maybe even like them) because I don’t read a series until it’s 100% complete. For example I have the Robert Langdon series. I know that Angels and Demons is the prequel that came after The Da Vinci Code but I’m going to read that one first as if it were the first one written. But because you don’t like prequels, if you were reading that series (or if you have) would you bother to read Angels and Demons?
    I also find this question interesting because of Cassandra Clare. Before she finished The Mortal Instruments, she started The Infernal Devices which was a trilogy advertised as the prequel to the series. However, I read TID first so I had all of this extra information that was useful and allowed me to find hidden connections between some of the characters. I don’t know if you read her work but I feel like this would annoy you lol: she has another series coming out called The Last Hours. This one takes place after TID but before TMI so it’s like ANOTHER prequel. Would you (or have you) read those?

    I didn’t plan on the response being so long but it made me think about a lot lol

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I read the infernal devices before the mortal instruments too! Just like you said, I wanted to get all the background info first before delving into the mortal instruments.
      Actually I’m not done the infernal devices because by the clockwork prince I was starting to get bored of it. It seemed to follow this format every time where it starts slow and then only gets REALLY interesting towards the end. Did you find that? My friends say that if I had read the mortal instruments first then I would have actually liked and finished the clockwork books. Now that you’ve finished all of the books what would you suggest? TMI or TID first?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree that it did get boring for a bit but like you said, she makes it really good at the end!
        I personally still think it’s better to read TID first. There are a lot of little things that she says in TMI that you can’t pick up on without TID. And the way that City of Heavenly Fire ends won’t fully make sense if you don’t read the end of Clockwork Princess. But I understand how people might see it the other way since they were written out of order.

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    2. I have not read (and probably won’t read) The Da Vinci Code or Angels and Demons. Though, I did not realize Angels and Demons was a prequel, but I think it makes sense to read a prequel first if the series is published. After all, then you’re reading the books in the appropriate timeline and it’s very unlikely for a prequel to give away vital information for the main series. But the problem with that is when a series is 3, 4, 5 books or more and then they throw out a prequel. If you didn’t know a prequel was going to be released after series, and you’d already read the whole series, would you go back and read the prequel anyway?

      Hahaha! Would annoy me? To be honest, I have TMI sitting on my bookshelf ready to be read, but… I’ve been skirting it because it is such a daunting series. Also, my SIL told me to read like… 1-4 and then TID before reading book 5 or something like that. But I think the difference with TID is that it offers important information for TMI, at least from what I’ve heard. In that sense, the prequels aren’t useless. You know what I mean?

      Also, the biggest reasons why I don’t dislike Cassandra Clare for doing this is because (again from what I’ve heard as I haven’t read them yet) is that they aren’t necessarily the same characters, but rather just written in the same world. Thus, she’s able to expand on the world and isn’t simply re-iterating information we already know from the main series. Am I right or have I been misled?

      P.s. No, I’m not a huge fan of novellas either, but I accept them a bit more than prequels. :/
      P.p.s I LOVE when responses get away from you. :p Means you got a lot to say!

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      1. The Angels & Demons thing was a hypothetical one. I meant like, if you were reading a series and then a prequel popped up would you read it? Now that you mention it though, if I had already read the series and then the prequel was released I would read it if I enjoyed the series and cared enough to go back.
        I have heard that some people go back to TID halfway through TMI. The reason I think that happens though is 1. TMI was written first and 2. It was supposed to only be a trilogy. So I get it but I found read all of TID was useful.
        The characters in Clare’s work aren’t necessarily the same but it’s all the same families. Each series is a different generation of the same few shadowhunter families basically just written out of order. So it starts with TID and her new series The Last Hours is the children of the couple in TID. TMI is the generation after that and then The Dark Artifices is the same generation as TMI but a different family and it takes places directly after TMI (I hope that made sense) So all of the characters are connected (and some are immortal so they’re everywhere). Its basically a big family history really.

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        1. Honestly, I’m not sure. There haven’t been any series I’ve absolutely drooled over that have come out with prequels. Though, I know of a few that came out with novellas. (Didn’t read those either. :p ) I guess my bias has always kept me at arms length. I’ve also never really been interested enough in the premise of a novella or prequel to want to pick it up. :/ So, that’s a difficult question. Though, I’ve been recommended a couple here in the comments. So, maybe I’ll go ahead and read those at some point. I know I want to read TID, too. (You know… when I… get around to it. Haha!)

          Umm… I think my brain just exploded. o.o But… I’ll keep that in mind. :p That is a lot of work for Clare. I imagine she had A LOT of this planned out before she started the series because of the interweaving information between the series(es).

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          1. I see. Even if the novellas only like 40 pages it’s no go? I guess that would be kind of pointless actually huh?
            I’ll admit Clare’s work is a lot to deal with lol that’s why I took a break. Apparently she’s got even more in the works. Its kind of ridiculous.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. See?! SEE?! If a novella is only 40 pages then WHY on earth am I paying the same price as I would for a 400 page book? Speaking of! I was in the book store the other day (because I am a book hoarder and I say this with pride! HAHa!) But really, though, I honestly was wondering what book shopping would be like if we paid by the page. Or like… the word count or something? Children’s books would be super cheap. Then like… Tolkein and GOT would be rather expensive. It would make sense, but I’m not sure how’d I feel about this. Hmm… has found a new discussion topic :p

              That woman is truly insane, but I fully respect her because that is a LOT of work and planning. I don’t think I have the capability to ever attempt such an complex task. 0.0 (I also have WAY too many different world ideas. Haha!)

              Liked by 1 person

              1. In defense of the novellas……………you don’t buy the physical copy. You get it on kindle either for free or $1. haha Yeah I don’t actually know how much they cost for a physical copy but I agree that would be a COMPLETE waste of money.
                Ooh that would be a good discussion topic!
                Yeah I checked Clare’s Goodreads page and she has idea for two more series that she hasn’t even started yet……

                Liked by 1 person

                1. Goodness gracious, that woman!

                  Ohh! I never used to do ebooks (as I never had an ereader) so doing kindle copies of novellas never crossed my mind, but that is a good idea.

                  I actually just saw a used novella today at the bookstore for $5, but that is the same price as a used copy of a 400pg book. So, I didn’t pick it up. :/

                  Liked by 1 person

                    1. Wow. Way to go, brother. Shame. For shame.
                      And I had the kindle app on my phone, too, but… I had a samsung mini. My eyes started revolting. :/ (And the laptop app didn’t accept Netgalley books. So, I was jumping between so many different apps/devices.)

                      Liked by 1 person

                    2. Bahahaha! I wear glasses, too! But my eyes are super light sensitive. (I wear sunglasses in winter. >.>) Not enough melanin to protect my retinas, apparently. Darn you, windows to the soul! Why you gotta be so squeaky clean? :p

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  11. For the most part I agree. Here is my pet peeve – In reality, a team, a starship crew, a military unit, a group of people, a school of artists/engineers/etc., whatever, exist for a short period of time. In fiction it’s often the period of time of the book, the series, the movie, the TV show, whatever. They all, however, have an individual past. There might have been some interaction in the past, but they developed in separate environments. That’s what makes teams great. I hate prequels that have that group existing in its entirety before, forever set in stone. That have them as kids together is even worse.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah. I see what you are saying. You want a prequel to show you how each character developed individually, which is only natural if the characters have differing personalities. In this sense, prequels could be utilized to show more of another world/culture/society that isn’t portrayed in great detail in the main series and show how that world/society/culture framed the character into the ‘adult’ they are in the main series. That would be really cool because it would stick to something the readers know, but still offer them more. What do you think, Trent? Would that be something you’re looking for?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. What you described would be cool, and one way to go about it. How about The Hobbit compared to TLotR? Not movies – books. The Hobbit is a book that gives a lot of background and history but isn’t need to read TLotR. It also works as a stand alone. It is perfect.

        I can’t think of many bad examples, I think because I’ve blocked those traumatic experiences 😉 One that stands out is the recent Star Trek reboot. It has all of the characters going through Star Fleet together, etc. In the TV, they all had their own careers that happened to coincide for that one moment. It is much closer to reality – people on a naval vessel might haven’t gone through their entire careers together. I hated that movie because it was so contrived. I thought it was idiotic. In the TV show, Kirk had a rich past, both good and bad. We saw glimpses and it made the show exciting. In that movie he was a cardboard cutout. I’ve seen other movies and TV shows where they took popular characters and put them together in some past experience and I’ve hated all of them. It only cheapens the original. Anything that is called “The Young…..” will be bad.

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        1. Ah! I think you definitely hit the mark! I have not read LOTR or Hobbit, but I hope to! And I can tell (at least from the movies. oops) that the Hobbit can be read as a standalone, which is one option for a prequel. Either the prequel has deep pre-planned roots in the main series or the prequel is a standalone in the same universe.

          I honestly am not familiar with Captain Kirk. (I grew up with Enterprise. :p ) But I understand where you are going. Prequels would work a lot better if the characters didn’t know each other beforehand. It allows them to have distinct, entertaining stories from each other that formed them into the person they are. Not to mention, it each gives them a different reason for ending up where they are for the main series and having unique goals and stakes while being there.

          I never actually finished watching Young Frankenstein. I kind of fell asleep on the plane. :p But I wasn’t a huge fan of it from the beginning… Maybe I’ll have to try and re-watch it at some point.

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          1. It might be my generation, but i think Young Frankenstein is one of the funniest movies ever made. Of course, I grew up watching the old original Frankenstein movies and this was such a huge spoof of them. And ironically it was put out the same year as that other Frankenstein spoof, The Rocky Horror Picture show.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Ohhh! You’re referring to the OLD Young Frankenstein, not the new one that came out a year ago or so. I do remember watching that when I was younger while my lit teacher explained a lot of the innuendos and phrases. Can’t say I’ve ever been a fan of black&white, though. Or comedy for that matter. :/

              Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t read a prequel before because that’s what I was always worried about. I can’t imagine there is anything left after a series is over to require a prequel. :/ A shame, really. They could be really good if they weren’t used as a marketing gimmick.

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