Author: Matthew Reilly
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia/St. Martin’s Press
418 pages (Paperback)
Dr. Stephen Swain is a radiologist in New York City. He has had some exciting moments in the hospital he works in, but nothing could prepare him for what is about to happen. He is thrust into a gladiator style competition in the labyrinth of the New York City Public Library with no way to get out. His competitors are beings from other planets. They are tough, mean, and are willing to do whatever it takes to be the victor in the competition. To complicate matters, Swain’s daughter Holly has been transported into the library with him so he has to fight for his daughter’s life as well as his own.
I am so thankful for this book and to the friend who loaned it to me. Let me start out by saying that I am needing some fast and fun reads now because I’ve been kind of bogged down with things for awhile. Contest is exactly what I needed. I read this book largely in two sittings because it is pretty exciting. I felt like I was watching a movie like Die Hard the entire time I was reading it. It was pure action from beginning to end. Was there a lot of character development? Not really because the characters were too busy trying to survive the tournament. I have never read a book like this before, and I’m really glad that I picked it up because not only did I expand world in terms of what I’ve read, but I quite enjoyed the experience.
There were moments in the book that I had issues with and was like, “Well that’s not realistic,” but then I realized that the entire book wasn’t realistic because it’s a sci-fi thriller! So, disbelief suspended, I blew through this book and was holding my breath through quite a few parts of it. The aliens were pretty fantastic and in my mind, fairly original. I wasn’t even bothered by the lack of character development because the book was just so much fun to read. There was no time to care about Stephen Swain’s life outside of the library because his experience was so intense that I really didn’t even have time to think about anything else.
Swain’s guide in the library, Selexin, was a really good character as was Swain’s daughter Holly. There was a good balance of her being a child who was afraid of her situation and a survival instinct that was pretty neat for a kid. She reminded me a little of Tim Murphy (the little boy) in Jurassic Park. He was a go for it kid and Holly was for the most part as well. The guide Selexin was supposed to be a passive observer but after observing Swain’s behavior, he became more than that to the group. He put himself in the line of danger to help Swain and Holly and showed himself to be a man-alien of integrity. The characters (even the bad guys) were infinitely likeable in this book. The entire time I was rooting for them to win even if some of their situations seemed a little too easy for them to get out of.
There were a few weak points in the book like I said above. Some of the moments where I said, “That’s not realistic,” kept me from giving it four to four and a half stars. There were several situations that were a little bit too easy for the characters to get out of, but those same parts made me reluctant to give Contest four stars. Still, this was a great effort for a first novel by Matthew Reilly. I highly recommend it if you are in a reading funk and looking for an action-packed book that is a quick read. I will definitely be reading more Matthew Reilly in the future.
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