``Opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone.''
Listed on Blogwise
WARNING, WHOPPING SPOILERS AHEAD. I write these pages as notes, records and reminders to myself of books I have read. You are welcome to peruse these reviews, but be warned that they will spoil your reading pleasure if you have not already read them.
<<< Return to review list | ^^^ Go to local list

Contest   by Matthew Reilly

Read: 2004-03-28 Reviewed: 2004-03-28
Re-read factor:
At the outset, Matthew explains that this is the first book he wrote, and is the one that set off the others. Thus it is not as big or as good as the others. With these words I was ready to forgive any mistakes he made.

This is an absolutely rip-roaring page-turner of an adventure. It starts with a small amount of unchallenging sci-fi which sets the story off (a little conspiratorially with some of the devices it introduces), and then it is action all the way.

An alien race sets up a tournament to the death between specimens of the seven most intelligent races in the universe, inside the New York state library which is cut off from the rest of the world by a visible electric field. As the story gets going I felt like I was a small child again watching a particularly scary episode of Dr Who from behind the settee, waiting with agonizing expectation for a scary animal to come around a corner and threaten the hero (and me) with death. As the story unfolds it becomes a bit more like following Bruce Willis around in Die Hard, smashing up a building and crawling about its gutters and service channels.

There are a number of problems with the book. The first is the difficult one of how to kill an animal which has been billed up as something terrifyingly invincible. There are many points along the way where the hero or his allies come face-to-face with such situations, and manage to walk or run away. Matthew tries hard to make it believeable, but sometimes things happen that just wouldn't.

Then there is Matthew's annoying habit of spelling a situation out in italics. Just annoying, that.

Then there are too many cliffhangers, which go just too close to the edge. All the time the hero is walking about with a bomb strapped to his wrist, and at certain times it starts counting down from fifteen minutes. It goes right to the last second - every time - before the hero manages to get himself to safety. This just gets too predictable after so many goes.

And then there's that wrist-bomb. All through the book it is immoveably strapped to his wrist. At the end, during a fight with the ultimate contestant (actually not a contestant at all, but that's a small detail), his wrist is bashed against the ground and the bomb falls off. Give me a break. At one point the hero contemplates shooting the bomb off with a gun, but that will blow his arm away as well. I'm sure in that situation I would have sacrificed my right arm for the rest of my (and my daughter's) life.

Finally there is an unforgiveable flaw. At one point in the book it states clearly in black and white that the hero dies. Two chapters later he re-appears. To make things worse, the way that he does it is predictable (there are too many obvious clues earlier on - can you believe a small girl is carrying a disconnected handset of a telephone around with her, and openly demonstrates that the magnet repels the surrounding force field!)

As I said earlier, I'm prepared to forgive Matthew some faults, but not that last one. That's half a star lost. Otherwise it is a superb book (and not as long as it looks - it is thick but there are not very many lines on each page).

You may comment on this review by filling in this form.

Your BookBlog URL: 

Comments (max. 300 characters, no HTML):

These book reviews are copyright © 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2012, 2014, 2015 Dale Mellor
All rights reserved.
Comments are due to their respective owners

This page was generated by bookblog version 1.1.1
The BookBlog software (not the contents of this page) is copyright © 2004, 2008, 2012, 2014, 2015 Dale Mellor
All rights reserved