'Contest' by Matthew Reilly
"The New York Public Library. A silent sanctuary of knowledge: a hundred-year-old labyrinth of towering bookcases, narrow aisles and spiral staircases.
But for Doctor Stephen Swain and his eight-year-old daughter, Holly, it is a place of nightmare. Because, for just one night, this historic building is to become the venue of a horrifying contest. A contest in which Swain must compete — whether he likes it or not.
The rules of the challenge are simple: seven contestants will enter, but only one will leave.
With his daughter in his arms, Stephen Swain is plunged into a terrifying fight for survival. The stakes are high, the odds are brutal. He can choose to run, to hide or to fight - but if he wants to live, he has to win.
For in this contest, unless you leave as the victor, you do not leave at all."
‘Contest’ by Matthew Reilly is a science-fiction thriller set in New York City, where some unwilling human contestants are pitted against savage aliens in a fight to the death.
I first read ‘Contest’ around ten years ago when I was about thirteen/fourteen-years-old when a family friend loaned me a copy because he thought I would like it. He was right, I LOVED it! I think I read the whole book in two or three sittings (which was impressive at that age) and it is one of the books that really got me into reading. I thought I’d pick it up again ten years later to see if it was as fantastic as I remembered and I fell in love with it all over again.
The Presidian is an intergalactic contest held every one thousand Earth years in which seven contestants fight to the death. This book is the story of the seventh Presidian. Humans have only taken part in the last two contests, as human development was only considered to be advanced enough two thousand years ago. Both times the human contestants were the first to be eliminated. As humans are the only species that do not know about the existence of other worlds or the Presidian, the Earth contestant is selected by outsiders after a long period of surveillance.
The seventh Presidian is to be held on Earth, in the New York State Library. There is an electrical grid all around the library to stop any contestants from escaping or outsiders from getting in. Each contestant also has a wristband, which will detonate in fifteen minutes of being outside the electrical grid, if the contestants were to somehow find their way out. Each contestant also has a guide, a little man dressed in white who can give them information about the other contestants, and who submit information about the kills to the outside.
Stephen Swain is a doctor from Connecticut. One evening he is surrounded by a bright light a teleported into the library to be the Earth contestant. But Swain’s young daughter, Holly, who he is carrying at the time, is teleported with him. There are also two police officers inside the library who have no clue what is happening, but end up caught in the middle of it. One by one the other contestants are teleported in, and when Swain’s wristband reaches seven the contest will begin. Swain, Holly and their guide, Selexin, are suddenly thrown into a fight for survival against some of the most brutal killers in the galaxy!
I cannot express enough how much I love this book. The plot, the characters, the writing style… all are just perfect. The book was just as thrilling and captivating this time as it was when I read it ten years ago and I fell in love with it all over again.
Swain is your typical ‘unlikely hero’. A man who has all the odds stacked against him, but will not go down without a fight. I loved his determination and his intelligence really set him apart from the other contestants. Also, the fact that he was on Earth worked to his advantage. But I think the main thing that kept him alive and fighting was Holly. Swain has his young daughter to protect, and I loved how strongly their relationship came across in the writing.
This book is so incredibly fast-paced, and although it is pretty long at 488 pages, I flew through it and found myself stuck in a reading vortex where I would not be able to put it down for hours. I love Matthew Reilly’s writing style as it’s so easy to read. He describes the action so well that it’s like having a movie playing out in your head.
Looking back now, I wouldn’t recommend giving this book to your 13/14 year old to read as it is pretty gory in places and there is a fair amount of horror/death. But this book would be prefect for older teens and adults who love thrillers with a sci-fi/alien element. I actually think this book is one of the reasons that I really got into sci-fi, and now I’ll jump at anything that involves aliens and other worlds.
This is such a fantastic book! Maybe I’ll come back to it in another ten years and see if I still love it as much at age thirty-four :)
I would give this book 5 stars :)
I’d love to hear your thoughts on ‘Contest’. And let me know in the comments which book(s) got you into reading, and which books you like to come back to time and time again!
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