Review: 172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad

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.
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Review

Stories fascinate me because you never really know when it will be a hit or miss for you. I see it as not mattering if a book has high ratings or not, although the more it has the more curious I am about it, but opinions of stories should come down to personal preference and enjoyment. I feel very fortunate to come across many hits, which is why 172 Hours on the Moon was an unfortunate miss for me.

I’ve come away from 172 Hours feeling as though I’ve read three different stories that all crossover. The majority of the narrative follows the perspective of the three adolescents who win the moon lottery. None of them are truly enthusiastic about it, all having some sort of ulterior motive for going, and I’m not sure if their attitude towards their prize contributed to how much the story dragged; I’m sure it didn’t help.

At first I understood the approach of introducing each of the three characters and telling the story from their perspective. If the story is about them, and whatever crazy conspiracy they’re getting sucked into, then it makes sense to be engaged with Midori, Mia, and Antoine At some point though, the P.O.V. morphed into mainly following one of the characters. This bothered me. I felt duped after spending so much time getting to know the other characters and then being lumped with one. Not that the other teens weren’t present, but the story came to focus on the one character.

I found it difficult to care about any of the characters and what conspiracy there was not only bored me, but confused me. I kept being distracted by questioning why a strong government and a well-known space agency would send teenagers off to somewhere they knew danger was lurking? It was one thing to move past teens being sent into space, but it was something else to try to move past teens being sent to the moon when a threat was present. When I got to that point, the story fell apart completely.

I will say this about 172 Hours on the Moon; several times I was definitely creeped out and had to stop reading at night. While this does come across as a science fiction, in the end it turns into more of a horror/thriller type of affair and the horror aspect of it is done well. It wasn’t enough to save it for me, but I was grateful for it.

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