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I Belong

Review: 172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad

Title: 172 Hours on the Moon

Author: Johan Harstad (Tara F. Chace, Translator)

Genre: YA Sci-Fi/Horror

Series: N/A

Publication Date: September 15, 2008

Format: Hardcover, 355 Pages

ISBN-10: 0316182885 (LB Kids)

ISBN-13: 978-0316182881 (LB Kids)

Reviewed by: Jessie


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 desolate 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.

Quick & Dirty: Creepy! A science fiction novel turned horror film with stereotypical, helpless characters, incomplete plot development, and long dry spells, but some pulse-pounding action that still makes it a worthwhile read for the horror fan.

Opening Sentence“Gentlemen, it’s time,” Dr. _______ said, eyeing the seven men in suits sitting around the large conference table.

Excerpt: No

The Review:

This book totally freaked me out while reading it, perhaps because I read it on a windy, creepy night when I couldn’t sleep because there just happened to be a full moon shining through my window! If that was the goal of the author, than he succeeded, however, I feel the intention was more of a science fiction novel and I feel that it missed the mark entirely in that regard. I could go on and on with the problematic elements of this book, but I will try to list the things that I liked about the book as well, because there may be an audience for it that can appreciate the horror elements without relying so much on the characters or if everything makes sense as a whole. This seemed like a pretty cool idea for a plot, which is the reason I picked it up in the first place. If the author would have veered toward the science fiction side of things and made the book a little more believable, it would have made 172 Hours on the Moon both more enjoyable, and yes, even scarier as well.

This book starts out well, building suspense for the first chapter, and then nothing happens for the first half of the book, except some character introduction and development. The book is not too long, and the fast-paced second half of the book almost makes up for the first half, so it is still worth reading if you like to get goosebumps. The characters aren’t especially engaging in any way, they are more teen stereotypes trying to be individuals and not really succeeding. Mia is a Norwegian creative band type who cares more about music than anything, but whose band could live with or without her, Antoine is a heart-broken French teen who spies on his ex-girlfriend, and Midori is a Japanese teen who shops a lot for accessories to impress her new individualist friends. There is hope that with such a huge amount of the book devoted to character development, all of that will be important later in the story, but it turns out that nothing comes of it and a short chapter on each one would have been sufficient. The most interesting character, Mia’s little brother, could be used much more effectively. Like the rest of the characters, he is introduced and built up, and then underutilized.

There are some ominous happenings about halfway through the story, which are totally awesome and dramatic, and then we have another long lag before any action begins. These happenings are never really explained adequately, and as the most interesting part of the book, there would have been benefit to building them up even more throughout the novel. The adult characters that are introduced at this point are not even fully introduced, and turn out to be not just underwhelming, but as astronauts, completely helpless, which makes them totally unbelievable. The training and selection that an astronaut must go through does not make for an adult that just would give up at the first sign of defeat. We don’t just have one weak character, we have a full rocket of them.

Usually science fiction novels seem to have a superior grasp of science and fact. Although many elements are imagined, they still seem somewhat plausible with the setting, characters, time period etc. This novel has far too many totally unlikely events to keep up with the few facts that try to hold it all together. Without the plot or characters being somewhat believable, we are left with a horror element that is definitely creepy and even well thought out, but with no base to support it. Not only are minor details explained inadequately, but huge elements of the plot are just never explained enough to make the book realistic enough to be as scary as it could be. As a short read, despite the drawbacks, this book still has some value just because of its thought-provoking, what’s hiding in the shadows somewhat redeeming qualities.

Notable Scene:

“Are you dreading it?” Midori asked.

Mia paused. “I’m not really sure. Are you?”

“I think so. How about you, Antoine?”

Antoine nodded his head slowly a few times. “Yes. A lot.”

“Look at it this way,” Mia began. “We go. We hang out for a little while. We come back again. That’s all it is. The only difference is we’re going a little farther than usual.”

FTC Advisory: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers/Hachette provided me with a copy of 172 Hours on the Moon. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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