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 in order to improve his story.
The rules of the contest are simple; kill or be killed. A contestant can only win if all other contestants are dead. The library has been sealed so the contestants cannot leave. The only way out is through a portal that will activate once all but one of the contestants are confirmed dead. It is up to Swain to survive through this madness along with his daughter.
The other contestants are willing to do whatever it takes to win The Presidian and need to kill Swain in order to win. Hiding is not an option, due to the precautionary measure inside the library; The Karanadon. A huge, sleeping beast whose sole purpose is to make sure that, at the end, there is only a single winner - or nobody left alive.
|Stephen Swain||A doctor, main character of the story who lives with his daughter Holly. Swain alongside with his daughter is sent into the contest representing Earth.|
|Bellos||A Malonian, a species of trophy collectors widely regarded as the most lethal huntsmen in the galaxy. Is amorphic, being able to alter his physical shape, allowing him to appear as a tall, highly-developed man, so as to facilitate usage of door handles or potential weapons etc. made for the human form. Bellos also has a pair of horns. Bellos appears dressed all in black, with the exception of a golden breastplate taken from a Roman Centurion by Bellos' ancestor in a previous Presidian.|
|Reese||A huge black creature that uses its antennae to paralyse its prey and then kills them with its razor sharp tail. It has no eyes and a four sided jaw. It has a very good sense of smell.|
|Balthazar||A Crisean, a species of expert-blade wielding warriors. Is amorphic, being able to alter his physical shape, allowing him to appear as a tall, bearded man so as to facilitate usage of door handles or potential weapons etc. made for the human form.|
|The Rachnid||An alien that waits on the top of caves, then jumps down to strangle its prey with its eight long legs.|
|The Konda||An insectoid with claws that contain a powerful toxin. It cannot breath earth's oxygen, so it uses a breath mask.|
|The Codex||An alien with a floating triangular black head, with a tail of what seems like white pearls hanging down from its head.|
|Holly Swain||Stephen Swain's daughter, she was teleported inside the library along with her dad by mistake. She is not supposed to be a contestant, but she can't leave the library until the contest is over.|
|Selexin||Stephen Swain's guide through the contest, their race can't participate in the Presidian since they are too small so they serve as witnesses of the kills of the contestants.|
|The Karanadon||An enormous dormant beast located inside the place of the contest prior to its start, to be awakened in the case that the participants wouldn't or couldn't kill each other in a certain time.|