Epic, by Conor Kostick

  Buy from Amazon.ca, Amazon.com, or IndieBound

Author’s blog
Publication date – May 20, 2008

Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) Welcome to a society governed through computer games!

On New Earth, society is governed and conflicts are resolved in the arena of a fantasy computer game, Epic. If you win, you have the chance to fulfill your dreams; if you lose, your life both in and out of the game is worth nothing. When teenage Erik dares to subvert the rules of Epic, he and his friends must face the Committee. If Erik and his friends win, they may have the key to destroying the Committee’s tyranny. But if they lose…

Thoughts: Combine .hack with a dystopia and you have what Kostick is setting up here. Violence is outlawed and punishable by exile, and everything is settled through interactions in an MMORPG, including legal disputes, appeals for more equipment for farms, lifesaving surgeries. Which means that those who have more time to play the game and gather more money and equipment get preferential treatment, and those who actually have to labour in the real world get shafted.

So when Erik gets sick of the system and starts over with a new character, he does things differently. He puts all his starting points into appearance and none into battle skills, and starts interacting with NPCs and engaging in randon quests instead of participating in the endless grind of fighting for pennies. And what comes of it is a quest that could change the world, unmake the fantasy world of Epic, and bring down the foundation upon which Erik’s entire society is built.

But the game doesn’t plan to go down so easily. Epic is a world that hasn’t even been fully explored, let alone understood, and over the years it has evolved a consciousness, and will to live, and an eventual understanding that player characters are not like the NPC denizens that inhabit it.

The real shades of .hack start coming to play when the game, or at least the part of it that wants to live and is being expressed, ironically, through a powerful vampire NPC, learns that it can kill the player by killing the character. The conscious game, the living entity within the code, the idea that a game can kill from within, none of these ideas are new, but it put me in the mind of .hack mostly, I think, because of the fantasy setting of the world of Epic itself. Everything combined to create a setting that felt familiar and comfortable to me because I saw in it something I’d seen and enjoyed elsewhere.

On a whole, Epic was not a perfect novel, but it was very enjoyable and made me want to throw the world aside and spend a few hours in a MMORPG again. It brought back a bit of the old gamer in me that hasn’t been seen for a little while, and for that, I can thank it and the author for that bit of inspiration.

Epic is the first book in a trilogy, and I think, all things considered, that I’m going to have to track down the sequels. The book ended at a point that makes me incredibly curious as to how things continue, and I can’t let this one lie.

Recommended to gamers and fans of gamer fiction. And maybe I’ll see you around Ragnarok or playing SMT:Online someday!

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