Three teenagers are going on the trip of a lifetime. Only one is coming back. It’s been more than forty years since NASA sent the first men to the moon, and to grab some much-needed funding and attention, they decide to launch an historic international lottery in which three lucky teenagers can win a week-long trip to moon base DARLAH 2.
Oh where oh where can I begin? First off, I recognize this book was originally written in another language, so the translation to English is probably why some of it felt stiff and cold. I’ll excuse that, especially since I liked the premise behind the story. It’s a great idea… but the execution needed a little work.
A friend of mine suggested this to me because I loved the Martian. Now I’m torn between thanking her or recommending a book I absolutely hated in return. Cruel, huh? I use that as an example because I’m torn about the book. It has such a great idea and while it appears to be science fiction, it’s actually horror. That was a pleasant surprise for me. I enjoyed the fact it wasn’t what it appeared to be.
Now for the things I had a problem with: I feel like there were parts of the story that were explained accurately and made it clear the author did some research. I even enjoyed the fact he used historical things to inspire this book. For example, there really was a signal 6EQUJ5 and the story of Emilie Sagée is a recorded story, though it’s not verified by multiple sources. The problem with these connections is how they correlate. Without spoiling it, they don’t and I don’t know if it’s a matter of something being lost in translation or the fact that just because you are trying to convey something, sometimes a plus b doesn’t equal c. And with the Sagée reference, it didn’t belong in this story and it just left more questions instead of “answers.”
There were a lot of other things that were said and done that didn’t make sense. Sure, the idea for a lottery was an interesting one. But what’s the likelihood that the three teenagers they pick are all able to pass the required physical testing that most people (including a lot of the people who strive to become astronauts) cannot pass? It would have made more sense if they would have chosen a group of 20 – 40 kids and chosen the best three. That actually would have been interesting…. except for the book’s biggest issue is how completely unbalanced it is and this would have made the actual time on the moon even shorter than the lead up to it. How was it that magically they chose the three foreign teenagers who all speak English well enough to be taught everything you need to know by NASA in a matter of weeks? A book like this, it’s all about the details… or at least in the beginning of this tale.
Once the book begins to turn towards the ominous thing that’s been hinted to off and on in the beginning, it feels like the pacing just goes full speed ahead. This isn’t anything to complain about, because it reminds me a horror film or even Predator or Aliens, where once things start to happen, there’s little breathing time before the next thing happens. The only thing I found truly unbalanced comes with some of the attacks/events. For example, astronauts can do an EVA and have enough oxygen to last six to eight and a half hours. One of the attacks has these suits lasting roughly an hour, if that. Another attack happens with two of the group far away from Darlah 2 hub. But one of the others is able to walk just as far without a single occurrence happening? In fact, that particular person is the only person who never has anything happen to them. So either it’s a setup and it’s not the person you think it is, or someone made a big oops. And then there’s the final report at the end of the book, in which a crew of 8 return to the moon in 2081 and discover what evidence is left behind. They refer to an event that happens after one of the crew returns to Earth, but nothing is explained past that. Their crew is on their way to explore Europa and just stop by Darlah 2 to make a report. This leaves even more unanswered questions and it’s almost a smack in the face.
The book for me was both a hit and a miss. There are several things I really appreciated about it and a lot of little details I noticed that didn’t make sense. I also do not like having so many unanswered questions, when a book offers a final “report”, which is supposed to give you answers. I guess I just wanted more clarity with the ending and a better explanation about what was really happening. I enjoyed the horror portion of this tale and I can see it being turned into a movie and being a hit. Would I recommend it? Maybe. I would say read the summary and if it sounds like something you may like, check it out.
Pick up your copy on Amazon: 172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad