Second Look: 172 HOURS ON THE MOON by Johan Harstad

*I should note that I need to give a warning for potential explicit content in this review. Not to mislead you… the book contained no explicit content whatsoever. I’m just so pumped about the book’s incredibleness that I might have to use resort to strong language to express my excitement. Just so you know.

The Story: “Do you want to go to the MOON? Are you between the ages of 14 and 18? Spend 172 hours on the moon at moon base Darlah 2.” In the year 2018, this ad is being internationally broadcast, calling out to teenagers to enter a worldwide lottery to be one of three teens to go to the moon along with five experienced astronauts. This excursion was conceived by NASA to drum up publicity, funding, and interest in space travel and lunar research. Well, at least that’s what they’re telling people. What NASA isn’t telling people is that there’s something unknown on the moon. Something sinister sabotaging the lunar missions. And it’s something that wants to come to Earth. Nia, Midori, and Antoine, the three winners of the lottery, will come back changed… if they come back at all.

The Characters:
Mia Nomeland: Stavanger, Norway, age 16. Hopes to attain independence from her family, and get fame and fortune for her  punk-girl band.
Midori Yoshida: Yokohama, Japan, age 16. Wants to escape the confines of her family and country’s expectations for her.
Antoine Devereux: Paris, France, age 17. Trying to get as far as possible from his ex-girlfriend and the pain of their recent breakup.

The Low Down: Remember that warning I issued earlier? If you are easily offended by foul language, I highly recommend you skip down a couple lines….. HOLY SHIT THIS BOOK IS EFFING CREEPY AS HELL AND SCARED THE SHIT OUT OF ME. Every now and then, I’ll find a book that I want to keep reading right up until I got to sleep because I can’t get enough of it. Such was the case with 172 Hours, and let me tell you, I haven’t been that afraid to turn out the lights since I read The Stand when I was 13.

Originally published  in Norway in 2008 and winner of the Norwegian Brage Award under the title Darlah, 172 Hours is an amazing blend of sci-fi and horror, and it delivers like WHOA. Much of the creep-factor comes from lots of ominous foreshadowing and suspense that intensifies with every hour spent on the moon. As crew members dwindle, it’s a non-stop thrill ride as readers wonder who will get out alive. The whole thing is very well written and the story as a whole moves swiftly and comes together nicely, expertly weaving pure science fiction with the historic facts of the moon landings in the 60’s and 70’s (including twisted versions of the truth). The conclusion was gripping and highly satisfying. I finished it roughly 12 hours ago, and the spookiness of it all is still creeping in the corners of my brain.

Movie rights for 172 Hours have not been acquired, and I don’t know if there’s going to be any interest, but I can totally see this translating well to the big screen. And it would be an armrest-gripper for sure.

Extra Goodies: The book has it’s own Twitter page (@172HoursonMoon), which contains links to transmissions from Nia, Midori, and Antoine before they lost contact with the Earth.

The Bottom Line: 172 Hours on the Moon is a freaky, intense, and glorious take on the sci-fi/horror genre. Just remember not to read it before bed… unless you like sleeping with the lights on. While not technically a psychological thriller, this is one story that can stick with you for a long time. Definitely one of my favorites for 2012.

OFFICIAL RATING: 9/10

*And if you still don’t believe me about its awesomeness, here’s a trailer to further pique your interest.

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