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Publishers Weekly Review
ETs with a mordant sense of drama turn the New York Public Library into "the labyrinth" for an interstellar survival game show in this ungainly thriller from Australian Reilly (Ice Station). Seven players, each from a different world, compete for their lives, combating not only each other but also a monster called the Karanodon. The earthly representative is Dr. Steven Swain, chosen for his courage in successfully fighting off a gang of thugs who invade his operating room. Unfortunately, Swain happens to be holding Holly, his plucky little daughter, at the moment he's transported into the labyrinth, so she goes with him. The most devilish trick the "sponsors" provide is an unremovable digital bracelet, whose face shows how many opponents remain, and will commence a deadly 15-minute countdown should its wearer manage to escape the library's electrified confines. Derivative of Michael Crichton's techno-thrillers as well as Stephen King/Richard Bachman's The Running Man, the book offers constant, nail-biting action, but not a lot of reverence for one of New York City's greatest public institutions. (Mar. 10) Forecast: As the author admits in a note, this was his first novel, originally self-published in Australia. It should sell well to established fans who won't mind being disappointed to discover it's not up to the standard of Reilly's later work. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Australian thriller writer Reilly--Area 7 (2001)--self-published this debut novel in 1996. It now appears, with a retooled story and some new characters, in its first U.S. edition. The premise is wild: an intergalactic contest, the Presidian, is held once every thousand (Earth) years. This time it's taking place on Earth, and seven contestants from across the universe--including Dr. Stephen Swain, our human hero--have been teleported into New York Public Library, where they will hunt one another until only one remains alive. The narrative is rough, bogged down by long passages of backstory designed to transmit great wads of information, but the pace eventually picks up nicely, and Reilly generates a great deal of excitement. It's all riddled with enormous logical flaws, of course, but somehow it works anyway: the novel's sheer audacity pulls us in and keeps us flipping pages. An interesting look at an established novelist's humble but energetic beginnings. --David Pitt
Kirkus Book Review
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. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.