Contest is the self-published first novel by Australian thriller writer Matthew Reilly. In 1996, after being rejected by several Australian publishing houses, Reilly personally paid for 1000 copies of the book to be published privately under the label of 'Karanadon Entertainment', and sold them himself.
Before publishing the novel in North America, Reilly rewrote most of the novel, placing the contest in the New York Library, rather than a fictitious library, and added descriptions of and encounters with the other contestants to improve his story.
The story focuses on Dr. Stephen Swain, a radiologist, who manages to fight off two gang members despite having no combat experience. While at home, Swain and his daughter Holly are teleported into the New York City Library. A mysterious alien named Selexin explains that Swain has been chosen to represent humans in a contest called the Presidian. The rules are simple: seven different intelligent beings are teleported into a place such as the Library, and must fight to the death. The last being standing must then find the teleporter that will take them out of the labyrinth. However, an animal called the Karanadon will also be in the labyrinth. The Karanadon was teleported into the Labyrinth a day before the contestants and has already killed Ryan, a security guard at the library. Swain has been chosen to represent Earth because of his natural fighting abilities, as demonstrated in the gang fight. Selexin's species is too small to compete, so they serve as guides and witnesses to a kill. If a contestant says "initialize" a tiny teleporter will appear from a cap on Selexin's head, allowing officials to see what is going on.