Monday, May 14, 2012

Review >> 172 Hours On the Moon

172 Hours On the Moon by Johan Harstad

172 Hours On the Moon by Johan Harstad -- April 17, 2012 -- Hardcover, 355 pages, Little, Brown (9780316182881)

"'Gentlemen, it's time,' Dr. ---- said, eyeing the seven men in suits seated around a large conference table. They were some of the most powerful people in the country, together in the largest meeting room at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C."

The year is 2010, and the people of NASA are desperately looking for a way to acquire funding to send astronauts back to the moon and man, what was top secret up until this point, a research station built on the moon itself called DARLAH 2. The solution: garner media attention and public support by holding a contest to select 3 teenagers the opportunity of a lifetime to accompany these astronauts to the moon. However, the research team is not being entirely truthful about their true intentions for lunar habitation, and the secrets they hold may prove deadly for not just the crew, but for humanity itself.

It seems like an incredible opportunity when 3 teenagers win a trip to the moon to celebrate the 50 year anniversary of Armstrong and Aldrin's infamous first steps upon the lunar surface. Mia Nomeland, a young girl from Norway, hopes this trip will provide the media attention her band, Rogue Squadron, needs to make it in the music industry. Midori Yoshida from Japan wants nothing more than to escape the strict tradition of conformity in her culture and become her own person. Antoine Devereux from France has just had his heart broken when his girlfriend leaves him for another guy, and desperately wants to get as far away from his life on Earth as possible. Three different people with three different reasons to forever have their lives changed meet after winning the lunar expedition contest, but what secrets lay hidden on the dark side of the moon?

In space, no one can hear you scream.

172 Hours On the Moon is an incredible nail-biting science-fiction/horror story set in the isolated location of space. The story itself is told from a third person perspective, which switches off between not just Mia, Antoine, and Midori, but also with an assortment of minor characters currently residing on Earth. This mode of writing really added to the mystery of the story, and believe me when I say completely amplified the fear factor by disorienting the reader as to who exactly is who they say they are. Because when one is participating in a decoy mission to space, you have to believe that not everyone can be trusted. As it turns out, not everything is as it seems.

"'This picture was taken on the moon by Apollo 15's James Irwin. The astronaut in the photo is David R. Scott.' 'But...who's the other person in the background?'"

What I loved most about this book was that, in addition to the ominous cover and title, right out of the gate starting with chapter one, the reader is told that all is not right with the planned expedition. In addition to the researchers informing others that they found...something on the moon that cannot be explained, they also plan to use the lunar contest as a ploy to get funding for a second mission to space. This lack of the concern for the lives of others is what set the stage for the dark tone of the novel. Cut to 9 years later, the three teens chosen to take part in the mission are all facing their own dilemmas. Mia is a rebel who simply wants to live her life playing music, Midori wants to avoid the structured life of a traditional Japanese woman, and Antoine seeks solace after the love of his life leaves him. There is a bit of foreshadowing to the ultimate "reveal" presented with each of the characters, and I'm not going to give anything away, but pay close attention to the cause of each person's strife and you may notice something a little further in the story!

"WHO IS THIS? New characters appeared on the screen. THIS IS 6EQUJ5."

Harstad does an incredible job of building up to the actual space expedition, however there is a bit of time jumping that causes some questionable lack of character development. I found this made for a much more fragmented story when the plot was driving the characters and not the other way around. In a well developed story, the characters should be the drivers, not the story itself. In retrospect, however, I noticed that this provided an interesting parallel to the secrets that should have stayed hidden after the first expedition. Once the story made it to the moon, I found I couldn't stop reading until I knew how it would end. As you may have guessed, not all goes according to plan once our characters make it to DARLAH 2, and it really is just one horrific incident after the next for the duration of the book, culminating in a plot twist that even I didn't see coming.

"We should never have come. We should have stayed home, with the rest of the world."

Yes, 172 Hours On the Moon had its flaws, but this did not detract from what is otherwise an excellent horror novel and a fresh new tale for the young adult market. Although I can see how this kind of story may not resonate with everyone, I thoroughly enjoyed it and find myself thinking about this book long after I read the final pages, the mark of an excellent novel. Don't forget to check out the Youtube channel created specifically for this book, featuring videos from each of the main characters, perhaps some of the last footage we will ever see from the moon.

"The bellhop pushed the button to call the elevator and glanced up at the lighted display, which indicated the elevator was on its way down to him, something he's seen hundred or thousands of times before. It would be the last time."

If you liked 172 Hours On the Moon, you might also like:

Across the Universe (Across the Universe #1) by Beth Revis
Living Hell by Catherine Jinks
Burn Bright (Night Creatures #1) by Marianne de Pierres

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