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Epic by Conor Kostick

y Conor Kostick

Publishing Information: Viking: New York, 2007
ISBN: 9780670061792 / 0142411590 (PB) / 0739379380 (Audio)
: 416 p.
Ages: 12 & Up

On New Earth, a colony world far in the future that has based its whole society on a video role-playing game, 14-year-old Erik pursuades his friends to help him in some unusual gambits in order to save his father from exile and safeguard the futures of all of their families.

Book Talk:
We've all wished that we were someone else. Games like Second Life and World of Warcraft allow us to design how we look and what we can do with digital avatars. What would everything be life if we could do that full time?

Now, imagine living in a society where violence was banned generations ago and the penalty is banishment. The only way to succeed in life is to succeed in Epic, the fantasy computer game that is used to govern the society. Eric finds himself in just such a society. He’s been practicing in the game for years and knows if he can find wealth or fame in the game, his future is secure

Now, he has created this hot and talented new avatar, and he is ready to try to be the best hero New Earth has seen in a generation. Unfortunately, the game becomes all too real when his father is banished for a long-ago crime, and Eric must convince his friends to risk everything and help him slay a dragon in order to win some influence with the leaders. Instead of solving all his problems, this merely creates more, and before he’s done, Eric ends up taking on the game itself with only his friends to help. Will he prevail, or will he end up exiled or dead, like his parents?

Subject Headings & Major Themes:

Fantasy Games
Role-Playing Games
Video Games

Awards & Reviews:
Beehavie Award Nominees, 2009
Black-eyed Susan Award Nominees, 2009
Capital Choice List, 2008
Isinglasas Award Nominees, 2009

Lone Star Reading List, 2009
School Library Journal
Best Books (Older Kids), 2007
Soaring Eagle Book Award Nominees, 2009

Booklist¸ March 1, 2007, p. 103 (Starred Review)
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, April 1, 2007
Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2007
Publishers Weekly, May 21, 2007, p. 57 (Starred Review)
School Library Journal, May 1, 2007,  p.136 (Starred Review)
VOYA: Voice of Youth Advocates, June 1, 2007

Discussion Questions:

    1. What kind of game is Epic? Have any of you ever played a similar game? Have any of you played non-computer related games such as this?
    2. Based on their names, most of the people living on New Earth seem to have a Nordic heritage? Did you find the names difficult to follow? Why do you think the author chose to do this?
    3. Why do you think Erik designed an avatar that's skills lay outside of strenght? Are you surprised that Erik's avatar is a female character? Do those of you who have played similar games find that it is common?
    4. Erik considers himself to be an honest and good person, but his parents' behavior brings such beliefs into question. Do you think it is common for people to judge others based on their parents? Siblings? Friends?
    5. Why do Erik's parents want him to stop playing so much even though they think he does it just for fun?
    6. If your future depended upon success in the game, would you play slow and steady for gain like Bjorn or would you risk it all for a major gain like Erik?
    7. Would you like to live in a world, such as New Earth, that did not permit physical violence? How do you think it would be different from our own? What would be better? What would be worse? Do you think it would be possible to live in such a world considering some of the horrible things that happen?
    8. Do you think people could adequately release their frustrations by fighting in a game like Epic? Do you think people would settled disputes in such a game?
    9. Why does Central Allocations cheat in the disputes int he game?
    10. Do you think computers will ever become advanced enough to play non-player characters such as the ones in the game that are able to think and act independently?
    11. Why do you think Bjorn did not want to challenge Central Allocations? Why do you think he has decided to help out with the duel even though he had these concerns?
    12. How is the vampyre, Count Illystivostich described? Why do you think it is so ornate and detailed? Do you think the description works for the non-player character and the idea of a vampyre?
    13. Count Illystivostich seems to have the ability to seduce most of the human characters. Why do you think B.E., Svein, and Anonemuss were so easily charmed? Even Bjorn, who had some resistance was charmed. What innate weakness in human players do you think made this possible?
    14. Why do you think the vampyre could not tell that Cindella and Anonemuss were player characters, particularly when such an error allowed him to tell them how to end Epic?
    15. Why did a majority of the Central Allocation members vote to get rid of Svein? How do the members of Central Allocations differ from Erik and his friends?
    16. What promises does Svein make? Would you trust him if you were Erik?
    17. Anonemuss strongly believes in Machiavelli's statement that "the ends justify the means." How do you feel about that? How would a hero view this statement? Is it more realistic than heroic?
    18. Thomas Hobbes, who wrote the original Leviathan, argued the humanity existed in a state of war against all and that life was nasty, brutish, and short. Do you think Ragnorak looks at humanity in the same way? Why do you think the other members of Central Allocations underestimated him?
    19. What role does Injeborg play at the end of the story? Why do you think she describes the arean to the reader rather than Erik? Which of the two of them do you think is more articulate?
    20. Central Allocations tried to stop the duel. Why do you think Ragnorak's argument failed with the audience in comparison to Injeborg's?
    21. How has the relationship between Erik and his parents, particularly with Harald, changed?
    22. Why do you think Kostick chose to present the battle from the perspective of Ragnorak? Do you think it was a good choice? How would it have been different if we read it from Erik's perspective?
    23. Could you see this as a movie? Would you play the scenes within Epic as a digital cartoon? Why or why not?
    24. How do you think Erik and his friends will be after the end of the book? Will they be different than the former members of Central Allocations? Do you believe in the idea that "absolute power corrupts absolutely," a quotation by John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, first Baron Acton?
    25. How do you think New Earth will change with what has happened?

Related Websites:
Author’s website:

Interview with Conor Kostick about Epic:

Conor Kostick Tells Where He Got the Idea for Epic:

Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game:

List of Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games:

Musgrove, Mike. " Virtual Games Create A Real World Market," The Washington Post:

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Other Books by the Author:
Saga, 2008
(sequel to Epic)

About the Author:
Conor Kostick grew up in Chester, the county town of Cheshire in North West England in the early 1960s, and attended Queen's Park High there. In 1982, at the age of 19, he helped design the world's first live action role-playing game, Treasure Trap, at Peckforton Castle in Cheshire. He moved to Dublin in 1990, and studied for a history degree in Trinity College Dublin from 1997, which eventually resulted in a doctorate. He currently teaches medieval history at Trinity. Dr Kostick is also the editor of Socialist Worker, a reviewer for the Journal of Music in Ireland, and has twice been chairman of the Irish Writers' Union.

His first novel, Epic was published by O'Brien Press in 2004, and was awarded a place on the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) Honours list for 2006. Its sequel, Saga, was published in 2006. His next book, provisionally entitled Move (O'Brien Press, 2007), attempts to synthesis quantum mechanical theories of alternate universes with Buddhism.

Conor has also written and edited other books, including Revolution in Ireland (Pluto Press, 1996), The Easter Rising, A Guide to Dublin in 1916 (O'Brien Press, 2000) (with Lorcan Collins), and Irish Writers Against War (O'Brien Press, 2003), (co-edited with Katherine Moore).

| ©2004 - Rhode Island Teen Book Award Committee | Aaron Coutu, Chair