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29 Apr 2010

Contest by Matthew Reilly

This is my first Matthew Reilly book. Like so many other books and authors I've read, influenced by fellow-readers, I picked this up because a friend of mine has read this author. Curiosity. I was pretty sure that the husband would like it, even if I did not. He read the book before me and guess what? I was right. He liked it. So did I. 

I am looking for a picture of the book, for my blog, as I write. Why is it that I can never find a cover page like the one I actually own? Is it because it is printed in India? Annoying! I hate deviating from actuals. 

Moving on to the book. It is a very visual story. It has lots of big creatures, running, chasing, explosions and loud noises. It reminds one of the movie Jurassic Park. Rightly so, because when I read an excerpt from an interview with Reilly later, he says he was inspired to write by the book Jurassic Park when he was younger. He also says that he likes writing books with huge animals (animal-like creatures) and lots of adrenalin-pumping drama, including chases and survival. 

The book starts off with an introduction to the New York State Library. Then, an introduction to the Presidian (although, you will not recognize it until later). Next is an introduction to Dr. Stephen Swain. Once it gets here, the story leaps forward as Dr. Swain is teleported in to the NYSL, where a dangerous, universal (and I mean universal i.e. including aliens from other worlds) contest is about to take place. Dr. Swain is the chosen one from the human world, to take place in the contest, and the NYSL is the chosen location. The location is heavily protected by a large electric field which no contestant can pass through, to get out, after being brought into the arena. 

Once inside, the surprised Swain learns the rules of the contest from a 4-foot alien, dressed in white. Reilly does not introduce all the contestants at one go. In fact, he does not wait to introduce them all, before he proceeds with the story. As you turns pages, you encounters participants, scenes, deaths, survival and all the experiences associated with the Presidian. Dr. Swain's fight for survival is a challenge for various reasons other than not being aware of or prepared for the Contest. That makes the adventure more exciting. Nail-biting. 

Reilly also covers various aspects of the contest, in a gripping fashion. All that is explained to Swain is covered in the book. And more. Surprises! The book is one of those unputdownable ones. It is like watching the Jurassic Park and not wanting to take a pee-break because you might miss something important. Of course, you can always come back to where you left off because it is a book but I simply could not do that!

There are some unexpected turns and 'contaminations' to the integrity of the contest, the library and the original plan charted out for the contest. That is what makes it even more interesting. Does Swain emerge as survivor of the contest? If he does, how does he manage it, with his ignorance of the game against the well-prepared opponents? If he does not, then who does? What happens next?

The book is a good read and one that I might read again later, even though I know the end result. I cannot wait to pick up Reilly's next book. His introduction says Contest was not his best book. Maybe so. It may also have been influenced, in some ways, by similar stories from Hollywood. I wonder what his later books have. For now, I have picked up Sophie Kinsella's Shopaholic Abroad. I need to finish my stack of unread books before I buy another one. Some speed reading in progress now...

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