Format: Paperback
Published by: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
ISBN: 978031299046
Pages: 424
Price: 399 INR

‘Reilly hurls readers into an adrenaline-drenched thrill ride … impossible to put down!’
– Orlando Sentinel

What many people are not aware of is that ‘Contest’ is Matthew Reilly’s first novel. The inspiration for him to pen this debut down came from his love of sports and his admiration for Micheal Crichton’s works, especially ‘Jurassic Park’.

I think there is drama in any competition. So all I did was make this the ultimate one: if you win, you live; if you lose, you die,” says Reilly. One can only wonder that if the Jurassic-park-inspired debut was this page-turning, then what is in store for us with ‘The Great Zoo of China’ that is set to release in a weeks’ time?!

ContestThe book originally appeared in 1996 in a self-published form, where only a thousand copies were printed by him and put in select bookstores. Luck was on his side however as a representative from Pan Macmillan chose to give it a go-over and the rest, as they always say, is history.

The New York Times bestselling author’s thrillers have tantalized readers time and again with their unique storylines and their grab-you-by-the-collar-and-not-let-go explosive bits of suspense. ‘Contest’ is no different.

Dr. Stephen Swain has found himself locked in the after-hours darkness of the New York Public Library. It isn’t a mistake. He has been entombed in the historic sanctuary for a reason- as the guest of an unknown host, chosen for a night of fun and games. Only their definition of the latter isn’t something Swain agrees with. Six other contestants roam the black halls, room by room, floor by floor, in the dead silence. Should someone choose to leave the library and escape, an explosive strapped to their wrists is set to detonate and turn them into chowder. The rules are simple: seven contestants enter, only one will leave.

The way Swain navigates thought the labyrinth of a library, finding allies in weird corners and outwitting the unknown, is truly remarkable. He is clever, resourceful and quick at most times. At the same time, we never forget that at the end of it all, he is a civilian with a daughter to take care of.

The one complaint with this book however is the lack of believing narrative between the Swain and his daughter, Holly. While the storyline goes on uninterrupted, the occasional, not to mention randomly-inserted dialogues between the father and the daughter seem almost forced. Reilly could have shown him as more caring, but then one can’t expect too much from a debut and this has exceeded all my expectations each time I read it. Be as that may, the action is non-stop and the slam-bang story is great for reading on a quiet Sunday afternoon, where the peace is only interrupted by the roar of the creature Rachnid or sometimes the lovely Reese, both of them who want to kill Swain the human over petty things, such as survival.

Says the author of his debut,

“I think the story in Contest is easily the fastest of all my books. It is like a sports car stripped down to its raw components- wheels, frames, engine. No fancy paintwork. No fancy upholstery. Just raw nonstop energy.”

And one can easily notice all the tiny things that later add on to make him the master of action in the Scarecrow series and ‘Temple’. Add to that the fact that you only get one first book and it seems as if Matthew Reilly has done a spot-on job with his chance. For ‘Contest’ is just what the doctor ordered!

Rating: 9/10

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