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Book Review: 172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad

“It’s been decades since anyone set foot on the moon. But three ordinary teenagers are about to change that – and their lives – forever.” (Back cover blurb)

A secret meeting is held and it is determined that in order to help generate new interest in the space program there will be another trip to the moon and this time, 3 teenagers will have the chance to participate. But in this meeting it is also clear that something horrific happened in a previous moon trip.  A secret station exists on the moon that has never been used, and there are good reasons why.  There are concerns, but those concerns are pushed aside and the plan goes forward.

First lines: “Gentleman, it’s time,” . . .

It would be the opportunity of a life time: the chance to travel to the moon.  Millions will enter, but only three are selected.  Meet Mia, Midori and Antoine.  Mia is in a punk rock band and a trip to the moon just may take her band to the next level, if she makes it back alive.  Midori is a teenager living in Japan and she wants out, desperately.  Well, you can’t get farther away from home than the moon.  And Antoine has a broken heart and wants to get as far away from his ex-girlfriend as possible.  Again, the moon = pretty far away.

But in a nursing home somewhere a man sits trying to remember why this trip is a bad idea.  He wants to warn them not to go, but he can’t remember why.  And he can’t speak so the words don’t come.  As each teen prepares for their journey, they too have portents of bad things to come, if they only knew how to see the signs.

When the group finally lands on the moon, the tension really starts to build.  There are broken hatches. Power failures.  And that slowly creeping feeling that they may not be alone.  Will they be able to find a way back home?  And if they do, what will they be bringing back with them?

172 Hours on the Moon is a classic sci fi story with a Japanese horror movie twist.  The tension is at its peak when the teens are on the moon, though it takes a little while to get to that point in the story.  It has an interesting twist that some readers will like and others won’t know what to do with.  In many ways 172 hours reads like an outer space version of The Ring or The Grudge, it has that slow build of tension with the little tidbits of terror dropped in to keep you invested.  Then they land on the moon and all proverbial hell breaks loose and the terror really amps up.  The question of what exactly is happening was not at all what I was expecting, and days later I am still not sure how I feel about it.  Although I am not sure how I feel about where the story went, I enjoyed the journey as many teen readers will.  At some point in our lives many of us dream of being astronauts and going to space and this is like a fantasy come true; well, more like a nightmare as it turns out.

This book was originally written in Norwegian and is translated into English and I wonder if that accounts for some of the – lack – that takes places in the first half of the book. There is just something missing in the first part, an excitement and tension that should be present. I have very mixed feelings about this book and reading through the Goodreads reviews I find that I am not alone. In the end I give it 3 out of 5 stars, although it certainly fills a collection need for those looking for more traditional science fiction that actually takes place in space.


  1. Interesting; it sounds like a topic I'd like. I've stuck with books that have dragged in the first half so I may give this a chance.

  2. Wow – the title/cover image would have never given me a clue that this was more like a horror story. Thanks for the info!

  3. Man, what a lot of nothing this book turned out to be! i liked the disparate characters at the beginning and I was really willing to just go with it, but it never went anywhere…and what a shifty-eyed dog ending! Lame. It felt like a B-movie where nothing had to be explained…which is okay for B-movies and, i suppose, B-grade books, but the author seems to go out of the way mention specific things that just never come back up again. ah, well. so it goes!

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