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‘Repo Men’ the Movie Compared to the Book ‘Repossession Mambo’

The Repo Men film is a dark, at times comedic dystopia with plenty of action and tension. Essentially it is about a Credit Union repo man –the kind that takes your car if you don’t make your payments– except instead of cars, he repossesses artificial organs (artiforgs), almost always killing the client in the process. It is gruesome -at times qualifying as torture porn- and definitely earns its R rating. It is great popcorn fun and I really enjoyed it; you will too if you have the stomach for it.

The book was written by Eric García (Anonymous Rex trilogy) and the screenplay by García and Garrett Lerner (John Doe, Smallville, Roswell). Besides García, there are other Latinos in this production:  director Miguel Sapochnik, cinematographer Enrique Chediak, and supporting actress Alice Braga (I Am Legend). There are other Latinos in the cast and crew. For example, John Leguizamo is in it, although we’ll have to wait for the DVD because his main scene was cut and you barely get a glimpse of him in the movie. He plays Asbury, a black market artiforg dealer. All in all, lots of Latino love in this film. Just listen to the musical intro! Of course Forest Whitaker, Jude Law, and Liev Schreiber help make the movie first-rate.  Law plays the main character Remy and Law’s son Raff plays young Remy. And for NBC’s Community fans (like me), there is a nice surprise! The casting was perfect all around. There were no weak links among the actors.

Overall, the movie is faithful to the book. Even the name change to Repo Men is redeemed. Speaking of names, in the book the main character had none. So, according to the book’s Author’s Note, screenwriter Garrett gave him a name based on ‘Repo Man,’ RM, or Remy for reference. The name isn’t used in the movie  (unless it’s in a deleted scene). Jude Law is credited as Remy though. Here are some differences between the book and movie:

  • The repo men tattoos in the book are dark circles with golden arrows running through it; in the movie they’re Union logos with stripes underneath according to rank.
  • The endings were very different. I’m not spoiling this bit, but let me say that they are both interesting endings, and I’m not sure which one I like better.
  • [SPOILER] In the movie, Remy is married and lives with his wife Carol and little boy Peter. He is a likeable anti-hero. The book Remy is divorced four times and is arrogant in his repo man status. He is married to his fifth wife Wendy. His one good feature is his relationship with his son Peter, a college student (son of third wife Melinda), even though he manages to frak that up too.
  • [SPOILER] The one adaptation I was totally bummed about: in the book, a woman called Bonnie finds Remy and goes on the run with him. Bonnie is badass and more interesting than her movie counterpart Beth, who needs to be “saved.” (In the book, ‘Beth’ was the name of the first wife, a prostitute who couldn’t be bothered to switch careers once married. This Beth is unrelated to movie Beth.) In the movie, Remy finds a drugged-out woman in hiding called Beth, helps her detox, and wants to save her. In the book, the woman he finds hiding out is someone else entirely, and it’s the most dramatic point of the novel. The screenplay watered down the female costar and that dramatic moment.
  • [SPOILER] The four times Remy became unconscious according to the movie: tank test during soldier training, a bar fight, defibrillator accident with songwriter T-Bone, and botched repo job. In the book: tank test; attacked by two “beefy” guys he interrupted at the Red Light District while searching for his prostitute wife Beth; misuse of ether on first solo job, and defibrillator accident with kid show actor Captain K.

I liked the movie more than the book it’s based on, Repossession Mambo (itself based on the short story The Telltale Pancreas)  although they both have pros and cons. The best feature of the movie over the book is the stripping of excessive wives and soldier back story. The storytelling is linear and straightforward. The book jumps to different times and characters, symbolizing Remy’s fragmented view of the world. It’s not as easy to grasp as the movie. Plus action sequences do much better visually, especially an awesome hallway fight scene that’s not in the book. The movie soundtrack is excellent, by the way. The best feature of the book over the movie is the expanded artiforg, supply house, and Credit Union history. Also, the female lead is stronger in the book and you get a better sense of Remy’s thought process- something that’s hard to do with a movie script.

If you liked the book, you will definitely like the movie. If you liked the movie, you might want to read the book for its extra details and character development. The jumping around in the plot won’t be a problem if you know most of the story already. On the other hand, reading the book first might be confusing. To sum up, it’s a great story of a scary future that just might be ours.

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Cosmos Latinos: Anthology of Science Fiction from Latin America and Spain (Book Review, Part Two)

The previous post covered the introduction of the Cosmos Latinos anthology edited by Andrea L. Bell and Yolanda Molina-Gavilán. This post will briefly describe the 27 short stories in the book without spoilers except for the first two essay-type stories. The 27 were selected to represent different authors and different “eras” of Latin American science fiction. Each story is preceded by a short biography.

In the Beginning: The Visionaries

1. The Distant Future by Juan Nepomuceno Adorno (Mexico, 1862). A treatise on what the author, an inventor and philosopher, thought the future would be like. He cites a philosophy called Providentiality, which sounds like Communism enhanced with literal brainwashing, all based on “moral science.” Racial differences literally disappear. Women’s rights are honored (sort of). Nature is submissive. Telegraph and trains link all parts of the globe like one big city. Neighborly aliens of our solar system also communicate with humans via telegraph. War has been eradicated. Medicine is highly advanced. Carnal pleasures are of limited use and sexual love isn’t a “frenzy of anguish and jealousy.”  The rare case of crime is a result of mental disorders which barely exist. People live in sparkling, safe, portable, and sometimes floating homes called social nuclei along with their local workers guild. In the social nuclei, men and women sleep separately. When their bodies develop, young women are presented at a Festival of Virgins in a kind of talent show.  The young men submit a formal request to a council of elders when they see someone they like. The women are then given the young men’s file and they decide who to marry at the Festival of the Adults. Women can be married for as long as they wish, and can separate easily at the same Festival of the Adults (hopefully away from all the marriages). When they return to the nuclei, the man goes to the men’s sleeping area and the woman gets a marriage chamber where her husband can only go by request.

2.  On the Planet Mars by Nilo María Fabra (Spain, 1890). Fabra, a journalist and a main force behind the creation of Spain’s first news agency, envisions a world where people no longer read but listen to all their news via paid in-home or street phonographs. People no longer write, but communicate via telephone. Only diplomats are taught to read and write. All streets are moving platforms at different speeds with hotels above them for travelers.  Canals crisscross the continents to allow for the melting of the polar icecaps and also for fast electric ships.  There is political, linguistic, and religious uniformity. Martians boast of synthetic clothing and food, free travel via an unnamed “vital fluid,” weather control, teaching via hypnotic sleep, telefoteidoscope (similar to TV and videophone). Mars discovers that their blue planet neighbor is inhabited, and the main news program Universal Resonance tells its listeners all about it. The story is a thinly veiled critique of Earth’s state of societal and scientific backwardness with a smugness in Mars’ superiority. Reports from Earth show mistreatment of women, excessive animal sacrifice, war, and general barbarity. The report starts talking of Earth but then ignores it in its insignificance to exalt Mars’ superior virtues. It is disheartening to read about an 1890 Earth that sounds a lot like what we have more than a hundred years later.

Speculating on a New Genre: SF from 1900 through the 1950s

3.  Mechanopolis by Miguel de Unamuno (Spain, 1913). Mechanopolis is the story of a traveler that comes upon a highly advanced city devoid of humans or animals and ruled by unseen machines that regard the man as a curiosity since humans have become extinct.

4. The Death Star by Ernesto Silva Román (Chile, 1929). In 2035, the radiation wave of a star passing near Earth causes all living things including humans to grow exponentially the closer it gets.

5.  Baby H.P. by Juan José Arreola (Mexico, 1952). Hilarious advertisement, directed to exhausted moms, of a contraption to harness the energy of children and put it to use in the home and even market any surplus.

The First Wave: The 1960s to the Mid 1980s

6.  The Cosmonaut by Ángel Arango (Cuba, 1964).  On an alien planet with sociable creatures of tentacles and pincers, a human visitor faces well-intentioned yet confused inhabitants. Interesting use of dark humor and authentically alien creatures.

7.  The Crystal Goblet by Jerônimo Monteiro (Brazil, 1964). The founder of the first Brazilian sci-fi club writes a story of Miguel, a former political prisoner, who rediscovers a crystal device from his childhood that shows disturbing scenes from a people unknown to himself and his wife.

8.  A Cord Made of Nylon and Gold by Álvaro Menén Desleal (El Salvador, 1965). At the height of the space race and the Cold War, an American astronaut, frustrated with humanity (especially his cheating wife), cuts the cord that tethers him to his orbiting space vessel with an unexpected result.

9.  Acronia by Pablo Capanna (Argentina, 1966). P. lives in a bureaucratic state, manned by robots but supervised by humans. The construct of time doesn’t exist, just the Plan, which tells everyone what they should be doing at a determined moment. Architecture and transportation are radically different: homes, shopping centers, and workplace quadrants orbit and intersect according to Plan. Due to “errors” in his education that were never fixed, P. starts to question and deviate from the Plan, a condition called oneiromancy that could result in exile from society.

10.  The Last Refuge by Eduardo Goligorsky (Argentina, 1967). A man persecuted by an authoritarian regime because he possesses photographs of the outside world seeks salvation from a nearby spaceship grounded due to mechanical difficulties.

11.  Post Boomboom by Alberto Vanasco (Argentina, 1967). Dark comedy about three not so bright men gathering to write the history of mankind that has all but disappeared after a cataclysmic event.

12.  Gu Ta Guttarrak (We and Our Own) by Magdalena Mouján Otaño (Argentina, 1968). Comedy of a family of Basque geniuses that develops time travel to discover the origin of their people.

13.  Future by Luis Britto García (Venezuela, 1970). A humorous depiction of the future of humanity and what happens when it finally reaches all its goals.

14.  When Pilate Said No by Hugo Correa (Chile, 1971). Humans travel to the planet of the Sumis, a “savage” race of smelly cave dwellers that look like insects. A Sumi prophet born on the night of a shining nova causes unrest among his people, and is brought before the human conquerors. The captain of the starship must decide the prophet’s fate.

15.  The Falsifier by José B. Adolph (Peru, 1972). Story based on a native legend about a white man who appears and performs miracles before he continues his journey, and the royal chronicler who in the 1600s feels obliged to change the tale to avoid heresy.

16.  The Violet’s Embryos by Angélica Gorodischer (Argentina, 1973). A mission to the planet Vantedour to discover what happened to a previous mission’s crew finds them alive and wielding seemingly infinite power.

17.  Brain Transplant by André Carneiro (Brazil, 1978). One of the founding fathers of Brazilian sci-fi presents a bizarre story of a future classroom in which the professor uses every one of his students’ senses to teach a lesson about the history of human brain transplants and reality.

18.  The Annunciation by Daína Chaviano (Cuba, 1983). Founder of Cuba’s first sci-fi writers’ workshop and host of genre-related television and radio programs before emigrating to the U.S., Chaviano presents an alternate and humorous view of the immaculate conception.

19.  A Miscalculation by Federico Schaffler (Mexico, 1983). A little fanboy lying in his back yard is dreaming of the stars when he suddenly sees a bright object come towards him.

Riding the Crest: The Late 1980s into the New Millennium

20.  Stuntmind by Braulio Tavares (Brazil, 1989). Roger Van Dali is chosen to be the first of several human contacts for a race of alien visitors, changing his life from simple bookkeeper to fabulously rich, but with severe physical and mental consequences. The contacts, called Stuntminds, provide a wealth of alien knowledge to the world.

21.  Reaching the Shore by Guillermo Lavín (Mexico, 1994). On Christmas Eve, a little boy dreaming of a new bicycle runs to greet his father at the end of his factory shift but his dad, a pleasure microchip addict, just wants his next fix.

22.  First Time by Elia Barceló (Spain, 1994). In a decadent world, a teenager writes excitedly about her first time in her diary while doing her best to ignore her computer teacher and parents that force her to socialize.

23.  Gray Noise by Pepe Rojo (Mexico, 1996). A reporter with a camera in his eye, embedded audio links and a direct line to the news center, roams the city in search of the best news. The more his items are viewed the better he gets paid, and violence always gets the most attention. Meanwhile anti-media extremists use the panic caused by a new illness called Constant Electrical Exposure Syndrome to advocate a radical change in society.

24.  Glimmerings on Blue Glass by Mauricio-José Schwarz (Mexico, 1996). An office full of detectives is addicted to the adventures of Jacknife, a fictional private eye. In real life however, their main job is to certify the mental retardation of assembly line applicants.

25.  The Day We Went through the Transition by Ricard de la Casa and Pedro Jorge Romero (Spain, 1998). The GEI Temporal Intervention Corps protects the pre-2012 historical timeline from those who would benefit from illegal time travel in Spain. In this particular story, the Corps intervenes in the post-Franco transition to democracy (1975-1981).

26.  Exerion by Pablo Castro (Chile, 2000). A metaphor for Chile’s brutal Pinochet period, this story is about a man traumatized by his father’s kidnapping who tries to escape the authorities himself years later by preserving his memories virtually. As he awaits the police, he attempts to break the record of his favorite videogame, Exerion.

27.  Like the Roses Had to Die by Michel Encinosa (Cuba, 2001). Encinosa tells the story of a world with millions of exotics- humans with extreme animal, vegetable, or synthetic implants. The Walled Zone inside an unfinished Olympic stadium is a market and center of a city filled with violence perpetuated by power struggles, virus-laden Skaters and the police.  Here the Wolf, a former space fighter pilot, awaits her friend the Wizard, a techno-alchemist. She recruits the Wizard to help free her husband Mastín from a group of mercenaries. The Wolf stumbles upon a war against exotics led by fanatical pure humans.

The only ones I found to be a chore to read were The Violet’s Embryos and Brain Transplant which were a bit too “out there” for me. My personal favorites were Baby H.P. and The Annunciation for making me laugh; Acronia and The Day We Went through the Transition for the worlds they create; Like the Roses Had to Die and Gray Noise for their fast-paced action; and Reaching the Shore for its tenderness. I will definitely be looking for more from these authors- any recommendations are appreciated!

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V Series Episode Four Review: “It’s Only The Beginning”

Valerie leaves the house on her own in this episode (and must seek comfort)

Note: As usual, minor episode spoilers, major series spoilers if you haven’t seen the previous episodes.

This blogger is more than satisfied with V’s fourth and final episode of 2009. We got more action, more technology, more Morena Baccarin, and finally more of our other chica Latina Lourdes Benedicto as Valerie Stevens! Even some humor! Bliss all around!

The Visitors practice what they preached when they first came by opening healing centers around the world. It is especially interesting to note how quickly they find perfect locations to open these centers, at least in New York City. They must have Sleeper Agents in the real estate business! They offer the best diagnostics ever, fast healing and a preventative “vitamin supplement” which of course is met with suspicion by the Resistance. The rest of the world seems OK with it as evidenced by the Centers’ months-long waiting lists. Unfortunately the Visitors have not developed the cure to the common cold (oh Anna, you’re so funny when you try human humor).

The Resistance investigates the “vitamin supplement” by following leads to a V-lab which kind of looks like the Fringe lab in terms of creepy things, sans the crazy old guy and the cow. During this whole episode the Resistance shows its strengths and weaknesses, and although everyone has their own agenda it seems that they work well together. The only one who seems to be a loose cannon is Georgie. In my head I keep referring to them as the Mini-Resistance because they are only four people, at times even less.

Our chica Lourdes’ character Valerie gets a personality! (sort of) and we discover more about her: the work she does, her work ethic, and her health issues. Turns out she will have an important role in the V/human saga after all. But I fear her character is being set up to die so her importance may be fleeting.

Chad Decker, a.k.a. The Only Reporter in New York does a story on the Healing Centers and he gets some startling news on his own health. Chad is another character that needs more development. For example, I want to know how he’s handling his fame.

Meanwhile, up on the mothership, Anna investigates the murder of valuable Sleeper Agent Wash Dale Maddox at the hand of the 5th column. The sentence for the traitor? To be skinned. Why exactly this is a punishment struck me as odd, since they all have artificial skin that in theory should be removable. Well apparently being skinned alive is a punishment worse than death. And there goes my theory of why the Vs never show their true form on the ships- I thought they didn’t want to risk any human guests seeing them.

Besides managing the media, we also see Anna managing her fellow Visitors’ opinions what with the whole 5th column rumors going around. We see exactly how she uses the Bliss we had heard about previously. Anna’s position is much higher than expedition leader. (As a side note, the Bliss reminded me of the Russian sci-fi novel Prisoners of Power -or the cooler movie adaptation The Inhabited Island– where citizens are controlled by a similar method only via radio waves.)

Teenager Tyler becomes less annoying, mostly because you know he’s gonna get it for being such a whiny brat. Even his mom ignores him, ha! Also I am more lenient towards him today because in his scenes we got to see some more above-the head-shots (which I really like) and the ship’s propulsion system (pure computer-generated magic). Speaking of special effects, I still cannot forgive the terrible green screen. Please fix that by March, dear ABC! Yes, March… we have to wait until March to get the next installment of the series. Will the Visitors march in March?? Sorry, couldn’t resist!

It’s going to be a long wait because of several cliffhangers, especially the final one. As Anna says at the end, this is only the beginning.

Note: As usual, minor episode spoilers, major series spoilers if you haven’t seen the previous episodes.

This blogger is more than satisfied with V’s fourth and final episode of 2009. We got more action, more technology, more Morena Baccarin, and finally more of our other chica Latina Lourdes Benedicto as Valerie Stevens! Much Bliss all around!

The Visitors practice what they preached when they first came by opening healing centers around the world. It is especially interesting to note how quickly they find perfect locations to open these centers, at least in New York City. They must have Sleeper Agents in the real estate business! They offer the best diagnostics ever, fast healing and a preventative “vitamin supplement” which of course is met by suspicion by the Resistance. The rest of the world seems OK with it as evidenced by the Centers’ months-long waiting lists. Unfortunately the Visitors have not developed the cure to the common cold (oh Anna, you’re so funny when you try human humor).

The Resistance investigates the “vitamin supplement” by following leads to a V-lab which kind of looks like the Fringe lab in terms of creepy things, sans the crazy old guy and the cow. During this whole episode the Resistance shows its strengths and weaknesses, and although everyone has their own agenda it seems that they work well together. The only one who seems to be a loose cannon is Georgie. In my head I keep referring to them as the Mini-Resistance because they are only four people, at times even less.

Our chica Lourdes’ character Valerie gets a personality! (sort of) and we discover more about her: the work she does, her work ethic, and her health issues. Turns out she will have an important role in the V/human saga after all. But I fear her character is being set up to die so her importance may be fleeting.

Chad Decker, a.k.a. The Only Reporter in New York does a story on the Healing Centers and he gets some startling news on his own health. Chad is another character that needs more development. I want to know how he’s handling his fame for example.

Meanwhile, up on the mothership, Anna investigates the murder of valuable Sleeper Agent Wash Dale Maddox at the hand of the 5th column. The sentence for the traitor? To be skinned. Why exactly this is a punishment struck me as odd, since they all have artificial skin that in theory should be removable. Well, perhaps being skinned alive is a punishment worse than death. And there goes my theory of why the Vs never show their true form on the ships- I thought they didn’t want to risk any human guests seeing them.

Besides managing the media, we also see Anna managing her fellow Visitors’ opinions what with the whole 5th column rumors going around. We see exactly how she uses the Bliss we had heard about previously. Anna’s position is much higher than expedition leader. (As a side note, the Bliss reminded me of the Russian sci-fi novel Prisoners of Power -or the cooler movie adaptation The Inhabited Island- where citizens are controlled by a similar method only via radio waves.)

Teenager Tyler becomes less annoying, mostly because you know he’s gonna get it for being such a whiny brat. Even his mom ignores him, ha! Also I am more lenient towards him today because in his scenes we got to see some more above-the head-shots (which I really like) and the ship’s propulsion system (pure computer-generated magic). Speaking of special effects, I still cannot forgive the terrible green screen. Please fix that by March, dear ABC! Yes, March… we have to wait until March to get the next installment of the series. Will the Visitors march in March?? Sorry, couldn’t resist!

It’s going to be a long wait because of several cliffhangers, especially the final one. As Anna says at the end, this is only the beginning.

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V Series Episode 3 Review: A Bright New Day

I has V-Visa now

I has a visa now!


[NOTE: Minor spoilers for this episode, and big spoilers for episodes 1 and 2]

With the third episode of V, I can confirm that the series is going in the right direction. My doubts from Episode One have abated and now I’m brainwashed by the Visitors. I only have two requests: Fix that sub par green screen and kill off the teenager! Just kidding! His story just became less annoying interesting in this episode.

Episode Three begins with news of a credible death threat to the Vs, now that they have their visas and are able to move about New York City. The FBI is sent to protect the Vs on their first visiting day and since we know that the FBI has such a limited pool of agents (bit of sarcasm there) they have Agent Erica help out. She ends up discovering the Visitor surveillance technology, which is pretty cool stuff. Actually we see a lot more alien technology in this episode and get a look at their written language. Apparently they like to label everything like good space aliens. We also learn about Visitor culture; they are “connected” somehow but can be disconnected from something called the Bliss. This is very Odo from Star Trek Deep Space Nine. Or Borg perhaps. OR, closer to human teachings, Nirvana. It was only briefly mentioned so we can’t tell the nature of this Blissful state yet.

There is more talk of forming the Resistance movement, and previous episodes’ whispers of an alien against alien rebellion are better explained. The V non-human resistance group is called the Fifth Column and has a leader we have yet to meet. Or maybe we met him and don’t know yet! Every episode of V has proven chock-full of big reveals and I’m loving it.

Our main chica Anna, played by Morena Baccarin, has a disturbing yet hilarious scene where she tries to fake human empathy. We get a look at how she practices her appearances to get the best public opinion possible. Her main job on this episode was to counter the negative publicity generated by those protestors who were affected by the Visitor arrival. All those earthquakes in Episode One created panic and killed several hundred humans (I didn’t catch the exact number) and one woman in particular had a sad story about her dead husband. This widow, Mary Faulkner, had become the voice of the protestors and Anna did her best to make an example of Mary’s story, spinning it as much as possible as she did the death threat story from the beginning to get good Visitor PR. And yes we got creepy Anna stares.

As for our other chica Latina, Lourdes Benedicto (of part Dominican heritage), I am still waiting for her Valerie role to become something other than a girlfriend background story to elicit sympathy for the Ryan Nichols character.

As an interesting note, Diego Gutiérrez co-wrote this episode with Christine Roum.  Not sure what heritage Gutiérrez has, but since he has worked on so many projects from Argentina, I’m guessing Argentinean.

Next week is the fourth and final episode of V for 2009! This is a terrible way to cut up a series, but hopefully ABC will rebroadcast the show so others can watch and catch V fever- and the rest of us don’t forget about it by the time it comes back.

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V Series Episode Two Review

morena V

I will answer all your fashion questions today

[NOTE: Minor spoilers, especially if you haven’t seen the first episode.  In that case, big spoilers!]

Episode Two of the V series- the one that should have been shown with the pilot- definitely made more sense than the pilot episode. Events were better paced, and if something happened too fast (like establishing Earth-Visitor diplomatic relations), it was explained early on that sleeper Visitors have been on Earth for at least seven years. Presumably during this time they have been infiltrating every influential organization on Earth including governments.

Characters are fleshed out more and additional characters are introduced.  Still no military though.  Maybe I question the lack of military power because I am so used to the mostly military human organizations in series like Stargate and Star Trek.  In this episode we also see more people protesting. The writers are making us paranoid just like FBI agent Erica is; since Visitors can look and act like humans, now we don’t know who to trust.

Unfortunately this episode had a lot of teenager Tyler and his buddy Brandon. I say unfortunately because I can tell that they will be the most annoying characters, the ones who act stupidly and need others to rescue them.  Tyler for example ignores his mom’s advice and gets more involved with the cute Visitor Lisa. Since I doubt Tyler is going away any time soon, I hope they make his character grow up and fast. Or die. Meanwhile on the New York mothership, we see more of the Visitors intent on crushing any “new” rebellion, implying that they had fought this battle before- perhaps on Earth, perhaps on another planet.

As for Anna, we get a glimpse of her holographic wardrobe, and all us women who can’t figure out what to wear in the morning are instantly jealous. We also wonder how lizard-Anna is hiding under the human skin of skinny Anna. Besides the “very important” wardrobe scene we see Anna thanking different nations for their diplomatic ties in different languages and watching a Visitor television debate with reporter Chad. I really like the way Morena uses more facial muscles than anything else to convey emotion. It seems that non-sleeper Visitors are much less emotional than those that have been living on Earth, so Morena makes every twitch count.

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