Sunday, 15 June 2014

Review || 172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad

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.

I'm still a little torn about this book. Because I liked it--parts of it, anyway. But it never really quite delivered in the ways I thought it was going to.

I'd heard a lot of good things about this book going in. Most of all that it was terrifying and creepy. I was ready to be thoroughly scared. But those terrifying moments never really came. The atmosphere was never developed the way it would've needed to be to really scare me. The writing was awkward at times, but I'm willing to let that go with a "lost in translation" explanation.

I'll be honest, the concept here is fabulous. And Harstad drops enough ominous hints, like breadcrumbs, throughout the set up of the plot. Especially as things started happening on the moon, I was ready to know what the heck was up there and what was going on.

When the big reveal happens though, it's sort of disappointing. Again, the concept here is great (and terrifying!) but the execution just didn't deliver. A lot of the explanation for things was really awkwardly hand waved away, which lead to the appearance of some glaring plot holes. And more than that, it was just genuinely disappointing.

I like my explanations. I like to know how and why. What little we got was basically just info-dumped on us--with a monologuing character. I guess this was just lighter sci-fi than I'd been expecting.

I could have maybe forgiven the hand waving explanations if there had been a really solid cast of characters. And again, the potential was there. Especially given that we spend a large chunk of the beginning of the book getting to see who these people are. But then the book decides to do some awkward and bizarre time skips. Like, we spend quite a bit of time seeing the three teens and their lives before they win, but then we completely skip over all of their training at NASA. We never see the relationships develop between them, or them getting to know the rest of the crew. They're just thrust into space.

But more than that, I found all the characters flat and underdeveloped. I never really found myself attached or caring about anyone. Not until the very end.

(Here be spoilers!)

Mia's letter on the last page of the book almost reduced me to tears. It was the first time I'd actually felt something for any of the characters and I think it was one of the parts of the book that was just brilliantly executed.

The vagueness of the whole ending sort of aggravated me as well. What actually happened on Earth afterwards? How did they stop the doppelgängers? I need to know more! I'm okay with open endings, but this wasn't even remotely closed as far as I'm concerned.

Though, I will give the book this--I was totally impressed with the body count. I did not expect everyone to die. I thought that was a bold move and I really respected this book because of it. (I felt a little like a psychopath thinking about that though, "Oh, this was a good book--everyone died." Oops.)

One thing I really did enjoy about the book, though, was the mixed media. Throughout the book there were ads, schematics and even real photos from the moon. It was a nice touch and added some atmosphere to the lackluster writing.

At the end of the day, I feel like this was more a 2.5 star book than 3 stars. I liked parts of it, but most of it was just okay. I think it's worth a try, if that means anything, but for me it fell short of my lofty expectations.