Monday, November 12, 2012

Review: '172 Hours on the Moon' by Johan Harstad

It’s 2019 and NASA has decided to send another manned mission to a secret space station built years earlier on the moon. To sway public opinion, a worldwide lottery is held among all eligible teens, three of whom will be sent with a crew of trained astronauts to spend 172 hours on the moon. Now Mia, a Norwegian teen looking for free
publicity for her punk band; Midori, a Japanese teen obsessed with moving away from her traditional family; and Antoine, a French teen recovering from a bad breakup, must train and complete the mission while the world watches. Unfortunately, the moon holds one secret the crew wasn’t prepared for – a secret that is bent on killing all of them.

Science fiction horror novels aren’t my usual reading fare, but this book was so hyped, that I thought I’d give it a try. Unfortunately, the hype was undeserved and the book suffered from a number of problems. First of all, this is the English translation of a book originally written in Norwegian. I have read translated books before that worked really well; this was not one of those. The translation seemed rushed, the sentences felt stilted, and the overall feel of the book was clinical. It was also obvious from the writing style that Harstad primarily writes scripts. The benefit of this was that I could practically see the second half of this novel as a movie, but I had
hard time appreciating it as prose.

Harstad also spent far too much time on set up, introducing the characters and the training program. The crew doesn’t even land on the moon until halfway through the novel. This would be fine if I actually felt like I knew and sympathized with the teens by the time the landed, but I didn’t. In fact, there is hardly any character development and none of the characters are likeable. Even though the book is told from all three teens’ points of view, Mia is arguably the main character. She is also the least likable and the least believable. It is hard to get pulled into the suspense of a horror novel when the set up takes so long and readers don’t sympathize with
the characters.

The horror and suspense elements were also lacking. It is hard to get pulled into the suspense of a horror novel when the set up takes half the book and readers don’t sympathize with the characters. The other problem is that the “bad guy” is never fully described and explanations about why or what was happening were left vague. Whether that was intentional or not, it made it difficult to understand what was actually terrorizing the crew. In the end, the book just wasn’t scary and the twist ending didn’t seem possible based on known plot events.

172 Hours on the Moon had so much potential and could have been a unique, thrilling, terrifying YA read. Instead it stumbles at every turn and, ultimately, leaves readers unsatisfied.

Book Source: my local library
Reviewer: Kimberly

Recommended Ages: 16+ for violence and horror elements

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