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Epic (The Avatar Chronicles)


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About the Author

Conor Kostick is a writer and historian living in Dublin. As a novelist he was awarded the Farmleigh writer's residency for the summer of 2010 and a place on the nominees list for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award 2012 and 2013. At their 2009 awards, the Reading Association of Ireland gave him the Special Merit Award 'in recognition of his significant contribution to writing for children in Ireland'. Epic is Conor's most successful book, selling over 100,000 copies worldwide. It was awarded a place on the International Board on Books for Young People "White Ravens" list for 2006 and on the Booklist Best Fantasy Books for Youth list for 2007. As an historian, Conor Kostick's holds a PhD and a gold medal from Trinity College Dublin. He won first prize in the 2001 Dublinia Medieval Essay Competition, and has held fellowships from the Irish Research Council and the University of Nottingham. In 2013, he was awarded a Marie Curie research grant from the EU. Conor was twice chairperson of the Irish Writers' Union. His facebook readers page is here.


Irish author Kostick's powerful debut imagines an agrarian world where violence is illegal, except within a massive computer game that provides the economic and governmental structure for society. When they're not working in the salt mines of New Earth, everyone spends their time in the online game, Epic, accumulating resources and completing quests. Erik is frustrated both with the game and with his father, Harald, who refuses to play. Harald does eventually appear in the arena to demand more solar panels for his community, but his appearance unearths a secret in his past, and he is sent into exile. Erik finds a loophole that allows him to defeat a red dragon, making him one of the wealthiest players in the game; suddenly he is a threat to Central Allocations, a team of powerful players that are the world's de facto rulers, even though they do not fully understand the system they are manipulating. As the game becomes self-aware, there are whispers of a revolution among those who would use the game's technology for conversations and elections rather than endless fighting. Kostick manages to aim his allegory at two separate targets: the pointless wastefulness of a government too big to correct its course or even know its true nature, and, on a slightly more trivial note, the waste of time gamers spend in their online "second lives." The elegant conclusion will linger with readers. Ages 12-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

It is moral without moralising, the distinctions between good and bad are blurred, as it suggests that everyone has the capacity for both. Its inherent existentialist philosophy gives the reader something to ponder, long after the book has been completed.

-- Books Ireland * Books Ireland *

Four stars: 'Call your first novel Epic and you run the risk of being thought, at the very least, ambitious - not that such a description will carry anything but the most favourable connotations when the book in question is something such as Kostick's. This is a fantasy novel which, while retaining many of the stock elements of the genre (dragon slaying, a magic ring, cataclysmic battles, treasure chests, fearsome weapons, inter alia), moves well beyond these conventional bits and pieces to allow for the incorporation of a challenging intellectual dimension. This, concerned essentially with political systems and the role of violence in such systems, may at time prove (especially in the earlier chapters of the novel) rather demanding and dense for younger teenage readers. For them, however, there will be other rewards: there will be the two interlocking parallel worlds of the novel and the cleverly devised 'Epic' role-playing computer game which the young Erik Haraldson and friends ultimately attempt to turn to their advantage when opposing the dictatorship of the 'small, self-selected elite' known as the Central Allocations committee. We are now ready for epic confrontations, in various senses, and for the vivid portrayal of a society (with some oblique allusions to our own) on the edge of disintegration. 'Epic,' as one of the committee remarks at one point, 'is a strange game with greater depths, more than perhaps we realise.' Like game, like book: 'clip on', as the characters say when play begins, and enjoy!

-- Robert Dunbar - Books for Keeps

I think the book was good because it is futuristic and it doesn't drag. I would recommend the book for the 10-13 age group.

-- Andrew Burrows, Cork - Evening Echo

This is, in my view, the most important Irish novel of this year

-- Celia Keenan - The Sunday Independent

A fictional masterpiece, my only regret is that the game doesn't exist. Eagerly awaiting a sequel. I was surprised to get a book that i had heard nothing of. But I think all people over 12 should read your book. Especially if they are interested in Sci-Fi.

-- Shane Hunt (13), Chester

a triumph of control, focus and a truly dazzlingwriting style that takes us through a world of avatars and ogres, orcs and dwarves, of human concerns and human feelings; a narrative that itself jestly deserves the word 'epic'. It succeeds on so many levels without ever resorting to the asinities of allegory but cannot fail to present resemblances to the nascent imperialism of our own world. Yet the book remains first and foremost an attention-grabbing, action tale in the new genre that might be called 'cyber-fiction'.

-- Tony Hickey - Village Magazine

I think that your book is brilliant. It is among the best books I've read and they include books by J.K. Rowling, Darren Shan and Eoin Colfer. 'Epic' really captured my imagination -- I loved the descriptions of the characters. The book is a real page tuner and I couldn't put it down. I've recommended it to the school librarian, local Scottish bookshops and my friends! Good luck with the next book. Send me an e-mail as soon as it is finished.

-- Jamie (aged 12), Aberdeen

It isn't all questing knights and hideous monsters ... A well-crafted novel ... It will appeal to older teenagers and adults who enjoy computer games

-- Audrey Baker - Inis Magazine * Inis Magazine *

Humanity has migrated to a new Earth. The social order is tough and weird. Citizens progress in society by winning points in a gigantic interactive computer game, and Erik's parents are losing badly. Erik applies his unconventional mind to winning. And why stop there? Why not go after the Committee that runs the game? A thoughtful, exciting science-fiction epic, with strong interpersonal and political resonances. The author is a games designer, and it shows. This book will appeal to computer-games zombies, and makes a good introduction to science-fiction.

-- Sam Llewellyn, Author of Little Darlings

kids in this country would love this book, as video games are a big component in kid life these days, and some even come to question gaming's place in the world at large. Can we really siphon off the all-too-human desire for violence and adventure through gaming? This book takes that idea about as far as it can go, and gives us some honest answers, while entertaining us right to the finish line.

-- Sherwood Smith - sfsite.com

this is a fantastic novel. The story has both depth and action. Buy it.

-- Sue Ellis - Writeaway.org.uk

Amid so many books in which the loss of knowledge seems inevitable and the tearing down of society a given, it was wonderful to read a book in which each movement was part of a set of sane, sensible, but fundamentally unpredictable chains of decision. More please.

-- Farah Mendelsohn - The Inter-Galactic Playground

These are highly-praised sci-fi novels for the 10+ age group ... would have appeal for readers who love their games too!

-- Woman's Way

a swiftly paced episodic structure faithfully renders the experience of the online game through which conflict in the novel is resolved ... takes Irish children's fiction into a number of new arenas ... justly celebrated.

-- Inis Magazine

Conor Kostick's science fiction novels pose ambitious questions about the nature of existence, representation and experience ... Three breathtaking page-turners that quietly and subtly trouble the reader long after the novels have been put aside ... The three novels are firmly contemporary in their immediate engagement but universal I the questions they ask ... Just like the characters who populate the epics and sagas and eddas of mythology, the protagonists of Kostick's novels undergo physically and psychologically dangerous quests into terra-incognita that take place in space and time ... perilous explorations undertaken by carefully constructed, individuated characters with unique, complex lives, loves and motivations ... It's the updating of the notion of genre and character, together for a generation of technological natives that places Kostick's novels firmly in the bracket of children's literature ... The connection between the deeply serious and the highly playful is in some ways homage to the Horation dictum that the purpose of literature is to teach and to delight ... The success of the books internationally is another measure of their universal appeal ... important novels precisely because they propose contemplating the present by examining an imagined future through the lens of a carefully considered past.

-- Amanda Piesse, Inis Magazine

Kostick's writing is consistently marked by a deep respect for his young readers and their ability to respond to complex and dense ideas ... exploration of the digital figure of the avatar and its postmodern challenge to conventions of the body, gender and culture.

-- Patricia Kennon, Inis Magazine

an ideal choice for a teen boy or girl with an interest in computer games, science fiction or fantasy ... Without preaching or being moralistic, this book encourages young adults to get interested in the world outside of computer games through illustrating a world where computer games do have real-life stakes ... This science-fiction book also shows how one person's thoughts and actions can make a difference, while also illustrating the importance of teamwork.

-- Best Teen Book Review, hubpages.com

Full of beautiful, detailed imagery, Epic is a great ride with something for everyone, a thoroughly developed, well-written exploration of virtual reality and the morality behind many laws and regulations ... Recommended for fans of Orson Scott Card's new book Pathfinder, among others.

-- Our Time in Juvie

Gr 8 Up-Where fantasy and video games meet, there is Epic. In a society where violence is banned, people must settle their disputes in Epic, at the same time that they are trying to stay alive in order to accumulate wealth and status in both the game world and in reality. Impulsively, Erik creates his new Epic character to be female, and spends all his allocated start-up funds on beauty and attitude for Cindella rather than weapons, but something tells him that this is the way to go. She and his friends' characters use a succession of unusual methods to save Erik's father from exile and to challenge Central Allocations, the representatives who run the game, and thus, the society. Believable and realistic characters take readers through a thought-provoking story that juxtaposes a simple life working the land with the technology of a society simultaneously operating in a virtual world. Frequent turns of events that teens will know are coming, but not exactly when and how they will play out, keep the story moving along at a steady pace. There is intrigue and mystery throughout this captivating page-turner. Veins of moral and ethical social situations and decisions provide some great opportunities for discussion. Well written and engaging, Epic will easily draw in avid readers and video-game players. Appealing to fans of both fantasy and science fiction, it is destined to see limited shelf time.-Dylan Thomarie, Johnstown High School, NY Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

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