Wednesday, February 27, 2013

172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad

I was looking for the perfect snowstorm read while also trying to pick my second book for the 2013 Translation Challenge being hosted over at Curiosity Killed the Bookworm, when I finally settled on Johan Harstad's 172 Hours on the Moon. This YA sci-fi/horror has been getting pretty great reviews from a lot of the bloggers I follow and it's been on my radar for a while. It seemed perfect for both counts on this snowy weekend.

In the decades since man's first steps on the moon, NASA has all but abandoned moon landings. Until now. Three teens, randomly selected from around the globe, will have the opportunity of a lifetime: participating in a brand new lunar mission. Once they're selected, they'll undergo months of training before heading off with a team of astronauts to DARLAH-2, a modular station built in the Sea of Tranquility in the seventies. The station has never been used. In fact, this team will be the first to ever set foot in DARLAH-2. But the mission isn't so straightforward. These teens and their team are about to find out the real reason man hasn't returned to the moon. 

I was a little concerned at the outset with this one. It seemed to start a bit slow and I wasn't hitting it off with the characters. Mia, who never had any interest in the moon in the first place, is entered by her parents. She's down right rotten to them and only agrees to go after learning that her bandmates would die for the opportunity themselves. Antoine is hurting over a bad break up and signs up while obsessively mourning his relationship. And Midori is a bit of an outcast amongst her schoolmates in Japan. She dreams of escaping to a place where she'll fit in. For all of them, the fame and notoriety of being involved with the moon mission is the perfect opportunity. Once we get past the somewhat awkward introductions and into the meat of the story, 172 Hours on the Moon gets really good.

I loved the creepy factor! The "truth" about DARLAH-2 when it's revealed, Midori's weird urban legends, the warnings before the mission begins, all of it is great! There were parts that were more than a little reminiscent of Apollo 18. Fortunately for us all, Harstad does a much better job with his moon horror.

I don't know why we don't have more space horror. Alien is phenomenally popular. I loved Pandorum. Just about every Mars movie has been pretty terrible, though, and while I was stoked about Apollo 18 in theory, in reality it didn't live up to expectations. 172 Hours on the Moon gives me more hope. I'd like to see more like this!

And a nod to Tara F. Chace for her translation here. Harstad's teen debut was originally published in his native Norway. Harstad's style overall is very Scandinavian - there is a starkness that I notice with all the Scandinavian fiction I read and it's very much present in Harstad's book. Had I not known this was a translation going in, however, I don't think I would have noticed. The translation is completely smooth and seamless.


Jenn's Bookshelves said...

I LOVED this one! I listened to the audio and it was phenomenal!

Jen | Book Den said...

You are right - we need more space horror! I'm off to go get this book. :)

Becky LeJeune said...

Jenn, your review was one of the ones that convinced me I absolutely could not miss this book!

Unknown said...

I really loved this one too. Can you recommend your best 3 novels of all the time.