The Contest

Following up on last year's smash success with the Island trilogy, Scholastic has contracted with Gordon to write another three book trilogy for release in the summer of '02. Titles for the three books are The Contest, The Climb, and The Summit. In Gordon's own words, "Everest tells the story of a teenage expedition to conquer the world's tallest mountain -- a treacherous climb to an altitude so high that it has been nicknamed the Death Zone."

Book one is titled The Contest, and chronicles the tremendous competition between a couple dozen kids to be selected to fill one of the four slots on the team which will make history as the youngest to ever climb Everest -- if they make it! And if you think there can't be all that much excitement when they haven't even reached the mountain yet, just read and see!

The pace is fast, the story is very enthralling. It makes for a very exciting read, and thankfully, Gordon has provided another well-thought-out story, and not simply a clone of his work in Island. This one is well worth a read!

From the book:

Dominic lay for a long time after the disturbance, trying to empty his mind and will himself back to sleep. This was weakness -- on an expedition the ability to rest was as important as a good ice ax. Look at Chris. In the other bed, his brother was out like a light -- and had been since thirty seconds after his head had hit the pillow.
The dim red glow of the digital clock on the nightstand read 2:11. Resolutely; he got out of bed, pulled on jeans and a sweatshirt and shrugged into a down ski jacket Carrying his boots, he tiptoed out the door and down the hall to the darkened equipment room. He didn't risk a light - the locker room was directly across the courtyard from the security desk by reception. He felt around behind the door until his hand closed on a helmet lamp. He pulled it from its wall peg, then sat down on the floor, laced on his boots, and let himself out the side entrance into the frigid night.
Had Dominic turned on the light in the equipment room, he would have seen that there were Post-it notes -- washout notes, they now called them -- on four lockers. One of them was his.
He made his way over the rise and, when he was out of sight of the building, switched on the lamp. Light flooded the snowy terrain ahead of him. The trees cast unnaturally long shadows, like eerie pointers, showing the way down into the valley where the great mushroom stood. That had been his destination all along. When Dominic was restless, the answer was always the same:
Go climb something.
All at once, he halted in his tracks and switched off the torch. Ahead of him, the mushroom was bathed in light. Someone was up there.
Staying in the cover of the trees, Dominic moved slowly forward. The ATV was parked thirty feet away. On the back of it was a portable floodlight, its bright beam illuminating the "problem." Suspended there, dangling from the handhold on the underside of the crown, was Cap Cicero.
Dominic's first impulse was to turn on his heels and run for the complex. Instead, he stayed riveted to the spot. This was one of America's top alpinists,
He watched in awe as Cicero managed to gain a boot in the fissure. Then, hanging upside down, he literally created a hold out of thin air by wedging the side of his hand up against a quarter-inch ridge in the rock.
Dominic let out his breath and realized he'd been holding it. It was a brilliant move that required amazing wrist strength. Maybe one climber in a hundred could even have seen it was possible, let alone pulled it off. But, he noted, Cicero was still too far from the edge of the mushroom to have a shot at the top. Spectacular as it was, this wasn't the move that would solve the problem.
Cicero retreated to the stem and began to climb down. Suddenly, he froze.
"Who's out there?"
Escape crossed Dominic's mind only briefly. Surely, he had no right to be here in the middle of the night. But somehow he had the feeling that a true climber would understand.
He stepped out into the light.
Cicero was surprised, and not pleasantly. "Alexis, are you crazy? It's two-thirty in the morning -- " Then it occurred to him that there might be a confession coming. He descended the sloped pedestal and leaned against it to catch his breath. Dominic approached him, squinting against the powerful beam of the floodlight.
"So what's on your mind, kid?" Cicero prompted.
"I couldn't get back to sleep," Dominic admitted. "Sometimes my brain just goes wild, and I think about a million things one after the other. Tonight it kept coming back to this rock. So I thought I could -- I don't know -- study it or something."
Cicero flushed with anger. "Not on my watch! You're supposed to be in training, Mister, and -- "
He stopped himself. Dominic
wasn't in training anymore. Cicero himself had placed the Post-it on the kid's locker. What was the point of being mad at him? Even if it turned out that Dominic was the SummitQuest vandal and responsible for leaking information to the National Daily, he was leaving tomorrow. It didn't matter if he was guilty of insomnia or a whole lot more; he was gone.
Cicero inclined his head toward the boulder. "It's a tough one," he agreed."But to tackle it solo, in the dark -- "
In answer, Dominic clicked on his helmet lamp. "And
you came here alone," he pointed out.
Cicero had to laugh. "What, you don't think I've got the credentials?"
Dominic quoted from memory. "
Summer, 1998. Cap Cicero climbs every important peak in the Alps in six weeks."
"I had good weather," the team leader said, embarrassed.
Dominic clambered up the pedestal and worked his way over to the stem of the mushroom.
Cicero looked at the sky in exasperation. "I thought I was speaking English. It must have been Cantonese." Yet he couldn't help but watch as the young climber moved efficiently up the problem. "You won't make that handhold," he predicted. "You haven't got the wingspan. Here -- " He shinnied up the stem to Dominic and positioned himself to provide a platform to get the boy within reach of the fissure.
With a grunt of thanks, Dominic was able to make it to the cleft in the rock, using Cicero's knees as a stepping-off point. Then, carefully but with confidence, he duplicated the team leader's move. As he hung there, upside down, the helmet lamp fell off his head and shattered on the pedestal below.
"See?" said Cicero. "If it wasn't for my light, you'd be in the dark right now. Alone. Wait a second, and I'll give you a hand getting down."
"I can do it." The voice was not even strained. Slowly, exhibiting remarkable muscle control, Dominic reversed the move. But instead of swinging back down to the artificial ledge provided by Cicero's knees, he launched himself directly at the stem, catching on and sticking, Spiderman-style.
Cicero replayed the reverse move and dismount with wide eyes. Of course it wasn't impossible; he had just witnessed it. But someone of Dominic's size should not have that kind of strength, not to mention the guts to try something like that.
"Get in the car!" he said gruffly.
As they drove off in the ATV, Cicero noticed that Dominic didn't face front until the boulder was out of sight.
Cicero fretted over the steering wheel. Dominic was cut, finished, gone. And yet the team leader couldn't get the kid out of his head.
He thought,
is it wrong to let this boy stay in boot camp when he has absolutely no chance of making the team? Is it fair to keep him around just because I like him and I want to see what he'll do next?

The next morning, the nine candidates awoke to find only three Post-it notes in the equipment room. Three more Everest hopefuls were going home.
Dominic Alexis was not one of them.

Copyright © 2002 by Gordon Korman, used by permission