Review: 172 Hours on the Moon

172 Hours on the Moon 172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad

When a librarian on the YALSA listserv said this was too scary for them to read, I knew I immediately would have to read it… luckily I had an ARC from the publisher in my stash!

Summary: It’s the year 2019, and the powers that be want to return to the moon, ostensibly to mine some rare mineral, but also to investigate something that happened during the Apollo 13 mission. Also, there’s a base called DARLAH-2 that no one knows about, but the plan to distract people from this is to hold a lottery to select three very lucky teenagers who will travel to the moon for 172 hours.  Even before the mission begins there are some strange happenings. Then they land on the moon, and everything goes to hell in a handbasket.

Everyone has assumed that equipment built or left on the moon for 40 years is going to be in perfect, working condition. It isn’t, and not only that, there seems to be other people on the moon with them…

Character Rundown:

Mia: A 15-year-old Norwegian who wants to be a famous rock star.  In an effort to be different and cool, she listens to the Talking Heads.  What, you’ve never heard of the Talking Heads?

Antoine: A 17-year-old French boy who spends his days spying on his ex-girlfriend through a viewing machine on the Eiffel Tower.  This is all we ever really know about Antoine.  That he’s a stalker.  And he apparently likes Mia, because he likes to be in close proximity to her (there is absolutely no chemistry between them).

Midori: A 14-year-old Japanese girl who escapes her strict family by hanging out in Harajuku and dressing Gothic and Lolita style.  She’s most excited to go to the moon because she wants to snag Buzz Adrin’s boots that he left on the moon 40 years ago to wear back to Harajuku.  I think Midori was totally underutilized.

Awesome Taglines:

“It’s the opportunity of a lifetime… but little do they  know that something sinister is waiting for them on the dark side of the moon.  And in the black vastness of space, NO ONE IS COMING TO SAVE THEM.”

Plot Holes Big Enough to Drive a Lunar Rover Through (SPOILERS AHEAD)

“Gentlemen, what if we send some teenagers up there?”

So every moon landing mission – which includes Apollo 13 as a huge government cover-up – encountered these doppelgangers hanging out on the moon waiting to kill everyone.  The government has vowed never to return to the moon, lest these doppelgangers somehow hitch a ride back to Earth.  So let’s send three completely random teens up there, nothing could go wrong!  It never felt like the 4 astronauts manning this moon mission had any clue, even though one of them had been involved in the original coverup.

(Don’t ask me why one of the original guys is still spry enough 40 years later to go to the moon, while another of the original guys is in a nursing home suffering from Alzheimer’s).

“In space, no one can hear you scream…” (or, Horror Movie Cliches!)

(Mia thinks this line to herself, without ever attributing it to the movie “Alien.”)

Aside from all the characters being cliches in themselves, there were plenty of other cliches to be had.  The entire idea of returning to the moon and finding something there, something covered up from other space missions – it’s been done in “Apollo 18” and “Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon.” (Both of these came out after this book was originally written in 2008, but still).

Most randomly, Midori tells her fellow astronaut teens the legend of the Slit-Mouthed Woman.  I’ve seen this Japanese horror movie from 2007 based on the legend, “Carved.”  There was not really any reason for this, aside from doppelganger Midori making a joke at the end.

If you are a horror movie fan, you’ll probably like this book

Basically, this was an awesome idea that could have been so much more. What did happen to the first mission? Maybe if the characters had found some kind of captain’s log from that mission we could have learned more, or maybe if the one person who knew anything wasn’t an Alzheimer’s patient and could actually remember something. Maybe if we got to know and feel the characters’ terror instead of making all the real terror happen off screen. The photographs throughout were a nice touch, and there was a definitely creepiness about the doppelgangers.  If you love horror movies, you’re probably used to laughable plot holes, and even enjoy them (like I do).  I’d say this book is worth a read just for a fun ride.

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