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An ‘Epic’ book review

Even in a society of peace, where violence has been eliminated, corruption can find its way into those with power, degrading society to a broken world. In Conor Kostick’s novel, “Epic,” video game battles are used to resolve all disputes.
In “Epic,” Erik, the underside of bottom rung of society’s ladder, discovers how to defeat a dragon in the game, its death promising him unprecedented wealth. It also makes him richer and more powerful than the even the so-called “Central Allocations,” which functions as an oligarchic government running the video game.
Kostick weaves a masterful plot in his debut novel, “Epic.” The premise of dystopian worlds is generally overused – as humans want to think there is a world worse than our own – but Kostick takes the dystopian premise and lights it anew by removing violence instead of overinflating it like many popular dystopian-based novels.
By introducing video games as the only medium of violence, “Epic” is able to disconnect itself from creating an overly violent world and make the conflicts either overly unrealistic and extravagant or by keeping the violence predominately political.
It is a brilliant move to make a dystopian world devoid of violence, causing more philosophical readers to ponder if it really is violence that is destroying our world. It also forces readers to look at other aspects of the world that need to be improved.
Even with this powerful premise and fascinating plot, Kostick struggles to deliver an elaborate setting to build his plot upon or bold characters to bring his plot to life. It’s almost heartbreaking. Significant effort is made to strengthen these aspects throughout the book, and as one gets closer to the end, the reader begins to care, but the characters and setting do not set a strong enough base to keep readers interested enough to continue to the stronger parts of the book. Read outloud, the word characters contains care, but with “Epic,” it’s hard to care about the characters. There’s just too much of a disconnect. The characters have no care, so they are just metaphorical richters; they show up in an earth shattering revelation, but mean nothing to anyone who is not physically in the exact situation themselves.
Can a book have a strong enough plot and premise to overcome a significantly weaker setting and character development? “Epic” could have been expanded into a seven book series, strong enough to rival that of J.K. Rowling, but the lack of strength in the writing itself makes the book read more like either a semi-final draft or an extremely long plot description. “Epic” is just proof that no matter how strong the premise of a novel, the character development and setting are the difference between novels and masterpieces.

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