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Book Review: 172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad

172 hours on the moon by Johan Harstad Book Review: 172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad


Oddly enough, the day I began reading 172 Hours on the Moon'I also read that Neil Armstrong had agreed to give a rare interview, a coup wrangled by an accountant, of all people. The Armstrong interview was newsworthy in that he has been famously tight-lipped about his experience on the moon, helping to fuel conspiracy theories about whether weve been told the truth about the circumstances surrounding the moon landingor whether the moon landing ever happened in the first place. Its this sort of scepticism that 172 Hours on the Moon'exploits, positing that the various space programmes around the world have fallen by the wayside for reasons that we, the public, have never been told. But, of course, none of which can be benign.

In the novel, a lottery is held to send a trio of teenagers to the moon as a way of rekindling interest in the NASA programme and therefore securing further funding (which will in turn result in some moustache-twirling evilness, were told by evil Dr Blank at the beginning of the book). The teens have their various reasons for entering the lottery, but they generally fall under the heading of escapism, rather than, oh, actually wanting to go to the moon. Of course, given that the entire moon trip comprises roughly three weeks, the teens in question could probably have come up with a slightly easier way to run away from home. But anyway.

Fishy things begin to occur before the teens head off on their moon trip, with various telegraphed weirdnesses including the recounting of several Japanese horror stories pinched straight from the gazillions of straight-to-DVD Japanese horror films I watched as a uni student; a homeless guy with a shopping trolley offering thinly-veiled warnings; and various POV switches to people involved with earlier moon flights who had lived to tell the tale (but, of course, just barely).

When the teens do arrive at the moon, the point at which the book ostensibly begins, but which actually occurs more than half-way through, theres the disconcerting sense of reading a combined novelisation of Moon, Event Horizon'and Aliens. The government nefariousness suddenly turns into something much more eerie, and though its a chilling enough situation, it feels massively disconnected from the first half of the bookother than the prologue jammed on to the front to give some sort of validity to this awkward shift in plot. And I must say that Im getting a little tired of the ol getting-sucked-out-of-the-space-capsule death scene.

172 Hours on the Moon'is painfully awkward in a number of ways: the main conceit of sending teenagers to the moon as a PR stunt, for example, is a bit of a head-scratcher to begin with, particularly given the motivations behind it. Sure, Ill buy Laika the dog in space, but Im fairly sure that the idea of sending a bunch of minors up into relatively untested waters is fairly likely to be vetoed by any sort of sane government-sponsored body. Especially when we find out just why space travel has become a thing of the part.

The pacing and plot are all over the place as well, with, the aforementioned issues regarding the story kicking in late and the bizarre warnings that seem to be desperately trying to link the second half of the book to the first, but dont succeed in doing so. Even the tone of the book shifts dramatically half-way through, with an ending that feels a lot more like Invasion of the Body Snatchers'or 28 Days Later'than it does anything to do with a moon landing, and a key character who just kind ofvanishes.

On the more micro-level, the prose fails to inspire, and the dialogue is much the samealthough admittedly this may be a translation issue. The book is also littered with illustrations and sketches that distract from rather than add to the experience, and to be honest, its hard not to feel that theres something very amateurish about this entire production.

As a bit of a sci-fi buff, I have to say that I was disappointed by this one, and Im not sure that Id seek out anything else by this author.


These should work for up to fifteen hours, he said, handing a flashlight to each of them. The flashlights were big and heavy. They reminded Mia of small versions fo the theatrical lights her band used at concerts. They could only just barely carry them in one hand. Coleman took down two extras from the shelves and turned one of them on.

I need to tell you two something, he began. It might be important. It has to do with that code the machine gave you, 6EQUJ5. Thats not just any code or an error. Its a signature. A signal.

Rating: star Book Review: 172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstadhalfstar Book Review: 172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstadblankstar Book Review: 172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstadblankstar Book Review: 172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstadblankstar Book Review: 172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad (serious flaws)

With thanks to Hachette Australia for the review copy

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Other books by Johan Harstad:

buzz aldrin what happened to you johan harstad Book Review: 172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad

The book trailer for 172 Hours on the Moon

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  1. Wonderful review, but dreadful rating! :-)

    As you know, I loved the book. I think you have to see this as a childrens book and in childrens books, children often do things that normal children wouldnt do. They often have absent parents so they can pursue all kinds of adventures, they are made kings and queens (Narnia), really anything is possible. So, sending kids off to the moon is not so strange when you look at it from that perspective.

    I actually liked the illustrations for being quite novel not the standard drawings you see in childrens books but things that were genuine artifacts of the trip (maps, photos, etc.).
    Judith / Leeswammes recently posted..Book Review: The Secrets of Mary Bowser by Lois Leveen

  2. Stephanie /

    See, Im a huge MG and YA reader, and ordinarily love the genre and the suspension of disbelief it calls for. But I just felt the set-up for this one was all over the place, and that it never delivered what it promised. The beginning seemed to promise a villainous, moustache-twirling baddie, then the next bit was all about teen angst, and the final third was Body SnatchersI just found it really convoluted and confused. I love the concept, though, and really wished it had worked for me.

  3. Ack! I think this sounded SO INTRIGUING but then I read reviews where like yours, theres the horror element to it which Im not a fan of. Also, I spoiled myself for the ending (because unfortunately, I am that kind of person) and yikes!! This book sounds all over the place and not something I would enjoy. Very strange a key character just vanishes though, huh. Thanks for the very well-written and insightful review!
    elena recently posted..(the violet hour) review: a temptation of the angels by michelle zink

  4. Stephanie /

    My pleasure, Elena. I know, this one had the potential to be a great, solid SF adventure novel, but instead it was a messy mash-up. I think all of these elements could have worked separately in different books, but together it was all a bit much!

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