Review: EPIC by Conor Kostick

4.5 starsDisclaimer: this book is the first in a trilogy where all book have been released. 

Result: 4.5 stars. Excellent book but there were some issues with it. Overall I would recommend this book to people that like to read fantasy and SciFi.

A little bit of back story to explain how I found out about this book.  I recently read Ready Player One by Ernst Cline (when I should have been studying for my Master’s defence…) and while I thought this book had many, many problems it started me thirsting for books with a RPG component (role-playing game).  I read the book Gamer Girl by Mari Mancusi for this reason.  This lead GoodReads to recommend a list of books with RPG components, which is how I found Epic.  

Summary:

This book is about Erik, a 14 year old living on New Earth.  New Earth was created when a group of people left Earth to colonize a new planet, one without violence which they felt was destroying the planet.  But since conflict is a part of all human communities, they use the game Epic to solve conflict.  Epic was developed as a game to amuse the colonists as they travelled through space but in the century since landing on New Earth Epic has become the way the Central Allegations run the economy as the money earned in the game is used to pay for real world resources like solar panels.  If you don’t have enough money to pay for something you can try petitioning the CA which results in a duel: if you win you get what you petitioned for, if you lose you die in the game meaning you have to start over with nothing.  However the CA is made up of the best players in the world.  

Erik is a farmer, one of the many people on New Earth that has to work very hard in order to supply the world with the required resources.  When his family does not produce the required amount due to bad luck they are faced with the prospect of being forced to reallocate to a new town and a new, harder job unless one member of the family wins against the CA.  But since as farmers they have no time to devote to the game, they have lesser quality of armour and cannot hold up against the CA in a fight.  

This book is about the fight between the rich and the poor and how Erik and his family and friends fight back against the CA. 

Review:

I loved this book.  It was interesting and unique.  To start with, Conor Kostick had a fantastic writing style, one that is my ideal writing style which made reading this book easier and more enjoyable.  Few things irritate me more then an amazing book with a writing style I cannot stand.  Another thing Conor Kostick does really well with in this book is the world building and the set up of the novel.  For the world building it just makes sense.  You can picture the circumstances that lead to a group of colonists fleeing Earth and forming New Earth and doing so because of violence.  The formation of a community of people that try to stamp out violence makes sense as we devote much time and money to doing the same thing.  Using the alternative of Epic as a way to fight the battles that need to be fought is an interesting way to deal with in inevitable conflict that will arise.  Kostick provides us all the needed background knowledge in a way that is not too much at a time but is also not withholding, a balance that is hard to achieve.  In addition to this balance, the pacing of the book felt right to me: never too slow or too fast.  This book didn’t have a plot twist that seemed to come out of left field but at the same time it also wasn’t a predictable book.  

Going deeper in, I liked that when Erik lost his character in a battle he decided to make a female character as his next character, defying convention which is to make a character that is similar to yourself as it’s one of the way you meet your future partner.  It’s an interesting choice as I would have expected a female novel character would be more likely to take on a male character in the game then the way it was done.  There are slight undertones of ‘I’m not like them’, a trope that in female lead characters has the issue of putting down all other females that are not like the lead.  However, it is done in an act of rebellion rather that putting down other people.  

Overall I liked Erik as a character: he’s smart and a risk taker.  He is a leader of his group of friends.  There is a little bit of one-sideness to him in that after an initial outburst of anger to show he is not perfect he is more or less perfect.  Kostick does a good job in making the side characters more interesting with more depth to them.  So much so that I would have preferred if the booth took place in the viewpoint of Injeborg, his best friend, however as I said, I did like Erik’s character.  Another I liked about the book is that Kostick didn’t use generic ‘white people’ names or strange fantasy names for the characters instead opting for Nordic names.  I causes me to wonder more about the original colonist in the novel.  I do think that Erik and Injeborg were on the young side to be leading the fight, but at the same time, I can see how being younger lead to things occurring as they do.  Finally I liked how the book ended: it can stand on its own but you can see how a second book could easily be written.

This book was not perfect, though, and there are a number of issues that I had.  Most concerning was the lack of female characters in the book.  Of the main characters, ones that show up in multiple chapters and have speaking roles (the peoples of the CA, Erik’s friends and family) about a quarter or a third of the characters are female.  It gets worse when you look at the secondary and background characters, most of whom are gendered even if they didn’t need to be, where less that one in five are female.  In a world where roughly 50% of the population is female and everyone plays Epic and has stakes in the game, having about a third of the character being female is unacceptable.  Just as many females would be good at the game as men.  Having Erik’s Epic character be a female seemed to be a way to get out of having to put work into making more female characters.  This is not an justification or an excuse to have fewer female characters. 

 Another issue I had was just the mechanics of how the game works.  There are a few things that just don’t really make sense: how does one smell in the video game?  Scents were mentioned in the game environment but it was explicitly stated that Erik could not feel the hot or cold of his character.  Somehow most of the characters in the game were ‘grey hexagon heads’ yet Erik managed to identify his friend based on sight.  Finally I can’t quite understand how the magic that influenced Erik and his friends through their characters worked.  One player even managed to get a headache as a result of an game piece character.  It would imply that the game had some sort of brain altering capabilities, yet that was never mentioned.  These things did not take away from the book and are minor in the scale of things, but are inconsistencies that are not explained. 

Last thoughts:

I mentioned that I could see where the book could go in the second novel of the series, which I am excited to pick up, however having read the synopses of that book it’s clear my prediction is completely wrong.  This has be both intrigued and wary to start the next one.  

Note:

A guide to my rating system can be found under the ‘Five Golden Stars?’ tab.

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Would you rather?

green tagStealing this Tag ‘video’ from BookTube to use as my first bookish blog post!  It seems a fitting choice as it’ll reveal some of the inner working of my brain and my reading style/habits/what have you.

Shout out to Lindsey Rey for coming up with the questions for this post.  Her original video can be found here.

Would you rather do only book review posts or only tag posts?

Both are useful for different things but in the end I think I would rather always review books then only do tag posts.  Tag posts are useful for short blurbs about certain books, but are good for longer discussions about the book’s strength and weaknesses.  Plus tag posts typically have similar questions resulting in the same few books being discussed 90% of the same.

Would you rather always see the film first or never see the film version of books?

Never see the film of the book!  If I see the film/tv show before reading the book there is almost no chance I will actually read the book, it’s just the way I am.  I would rather not rob myself of the chance to read a great book and often times I don’t like the screen adaptations of books anyway.  

Would you rather have a list of every book you’ve ever read (like Goodreads from birth) or still have the physical copy of your first favourite book?

Definitely a list of every book I have ever read.  I already own the first book I have ever loved, so this is no contest.  It would be interesting to see how my reading habits have changed and differed over time and the types of books I read as a child.  Also as a scientist, I really would like to do stats on things: best reading years, pages, countries authors are from, etc. 

Would you rather have an active in-person book club or have lunch with your best online book buddy once a year?

Again, no contest, I would rather have an active book club.  Book discussions in person semi-regularly?  YES PLEASE

Would you rather have the time to read everything you want to read or the money to buy everything you want to read?

I WANT ALL THE TIME TO READ EVERYTHING.  Any other answer is the wrong one, in my opinion, because libraries exist for a reason. 

Would you rather dream cast the film or have editing power over the script for the film version or your fav?

Editing power.  That little moment you love in the book for whatever strange reason that the scriptwriters don’t understand?  Yes, that is going to be put back in.  I would trust the casting director and the actors to do their job properly.

Would you rather have your favourite fictional superpower or your favourite fictional technology?

I don’t read a lot of SciFi books, so I can’t even think of a fictional technology right now so it would have to be my favourite ‘superpower’ which I’m going to say includes magic. Therefore I would like to have wild magic as Daine does in Tamora Pierce’s amazing books.  Though having the gift would be cool too.  So would having the Sight.  Do Darkings count as a technology?  Because if so I would change my answer.  Darkings are the best and I want one, now! 

Would you rather read an amazing story with a ‘meh’ ending or a ‘meh’ story with a spectacular ending?

Finally, a hard question, but I think I would rather have an amzing story with a ‘meh’ ending.  You can always re-imagine the ending or the author might be writing another book, but you can’t really rescue a ‘meh’ book with an amazing ending.  The fact that Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff exists and did this is the exception that proves the rule.

Would you rather not be able to read in a moving vehicle or not be able to read lying down?

Not being able to read lying down still means you can read in bed, just have to sit up, therefore I think I would prefer not reading lying down.  This way you can eat too!  I read too much on buses to be able to forgo the alternative. 

Would you rather reread your favourite book or series with fresh eyes, like the first time, or be able to un-read your biggest disappointment?

I think I’m leaning towards re-reading my favourite book again.  But the thing is, your favourites are coloured by the situation you were in when you read the book, so to alter that might alter your thoughts about the book.  Also I’d likely read it just as fast as I did the first time.  Yet at the same time, I haven’t read many disappointing books and who’s to say if you un-read it, you wouldn’t accidentally re-read it?  And maybe later in life the disappointing book might be important.  Did I answer this question?  I don’t really think so.

Bonus: Would you rather go to Hogwarts or live in Middle Earth?

Again, a tough one.  Hogwarts would be fun but I’m not dying to go.  I have not read Middle Earth books, but elves and hobbits and dragons would be fun!  Perhaps I should just be sent to Tortall, then I would not need to decide!

Thanks for reading this!  Now back to your book, while I go back to mine (Wizard’s Holiday, Diane Duane, if you are curious).