Kirkus Reviews QR Code
CONTEST by Matthew Reilly

CONTEST

By Matthew Reilly

Pub Date: March 10th, 2003
ISBN: 0-312-28625-2
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

The Australian author of three breathlessly plotted action thrillers (Area 7, 2002, etc.) unveils what was his first novel.

You’d think a bunch of highly advanced aliens would find some other place in the galaxy to hold a gory death match than the 42nd Street New York Public Library, and that they’d pick someone other than radiologist Stephen Swain to represent the human race. A brainy, good-natured widower who quelled a violent disturbance a few weeks back (and thus gained the approval of extraterrestrial watchers), Swain finds himself teleported into the library, unwitting and unarmed, from his Long Island home, with his eight-old daughter, Holly, in his arms. There, a fussy, four-foot humanoid named Selexin spends far too many pages explaining the contest rules, which are, basically, that the last of the seven species to survive has to kill the Karandon, a big, stupid, hairy ape with claws, who has already shredded a library security guard. Oh, and Swain better not flee: the library is enclosed in a lethal electrical field and, even if Swain finds a way to disable it, a band on his wrist that he can’t remove will incinerate him if he’s outside the field for more than 15 minutes. Why 15 minutes? Why do all the creatures Swain has to fight resemble hokey Hollywood monsters from cheesy horror and science fiction shows? Why do aliens with such advanced technology use claws, knives, horns, fangs, mesmerizing antennae, or big ugly feet to kill their prey? Why does the National Security Agency send in a platoon of macho commandoes to investigate when New York’s Finest deals with illegal aliens all the time? Reilly has little concern for these and other preposterous plot holes, and, on page 89, he begins the inventive, highly contrived, breathtakingly executed mayhem that makes his thrillers such quick, mindless reads.

Reilly says he had to self-publish Contest “after every major publisher in Sydney rejected it.” Those editors should keep their jobs.