Review: 172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad

Tuesday, July 10, 2012
Author: Johan Harstad
Genre: young adult, horror, sci fi
Series:  N/A
Pages: 368
Published: first September 2008
Source: publishers for review
Rating: 4/5

It's been decades since anyone set foot on the moon. Now three ordinary teenagers, the winners of NASA's unprecedented, worldwide lottery, are about to become the first young people in space--and change their lives forever.

Mia, from Norway, hopes this will be her punk band's ticket to fame and fortune.
Midori believes it's her way out of her restrained life in Japan.
Antoine, from France, just wants to get as far away from his ex-girlfriend as possible.

It's the opportunity of a lifetime, but little do the teenagers know that something sinister is waiting for them on the deso
late surface of the moon. And in the black vacuum of space... no one is coming to save them.

In this chilling adventure set in the most brutal landscape known to man, highly acclaimed Norwegian novelist Johan Harstad creates a vivid and frightening world of possibilities we can only hope never come true.

The United States, hoping to breathe some life back into its space program, holds an international lottery for three teens to take a trip to the moon. Ostensibly for mining resources, there is more to this voyage than meets the eye. A journey to the moon might become a real life nightmare for this small crew.

Mia, Midori, and Antoine are chosen as the lucky teens who get to spend 172 hours on the moon. All have very personal reasons for going, which are well fleshed out by the author. Those backstories, though, are one of the book's few weak points. Nearly half the book is spent explaining the lives of these three young people. Regardless, the pages will fly by, as the writing style is easy to read and doesn't waste time bogged down in unnecessary details.

The relationships between the three teens is very well realized. Author Harstad creates a true to life microcosm of teenage existence in the small space he has to do so. Love interest, jealousy, and companionship are addressed in a satisfying manner.

Once on the moon, things quickly take a turn for the worst. Harstad pulls out all the stops here. Events move rapidly, and readers will find themselves on the edge of their seats. Unexplainable, frightening things are happening, and soon it is a race against time for the three young heroes to discover why and find a way out of their hopeless situation. Beware, reader: you might find the dark a little uncomfortable while reading this.

The book's biggest flaw is in its lack of explanation. We come to understand what is going on, but the why and how remain elusive. A look into this universe through the eyes of the antagonists would be a great idea for a sequel. But are there even antagonists, really? Or is what is going on just a natural phenomenon, a reflection of a collective unconsciousness' fears? The addition of just that little bit of information could turn this very good book into a great one.

Overall, 172 Hours on the Moon delivers on its promise of a rising star in young adult fiction. The ending especially packs quite a punch. A slightly slow buildup as well as the aforementioned lack of explanation are relatively small flaws in an otherwise well told, downright creepy story. A strong 4/5 stars.

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