HomeAll posts172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad

172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad

a review by Rebecca Muir

Atom Publishing

172 Hours on the Moon was originally published in Norwegian, and won a lot of acclaim in Europe. It has now been translated into English by Tara F. Chase.

The book is set in 2018/19. NASA wants to return to the moon, and in order to gain public support and secure future funding, it is decided that they will hold a worldwide lottery to select three teenagers to go on the trip, along with five astronauts. The strategy seems to work as the world goes moon-crazy. However, NASA is not telling the whole story, and it turns out that there is more to this trip than a simple return to the moon. First, it is revealed that in the seventies NASA actually constructed a base on the moon, DAHLAH 2. The existence of this base has been kept secret until now. As the lucky teenagers land on the moon, questions keep surfacing. Why do some of the astronauts seem frightened? Was there a DAHLAH 1, and what happened to it? What is their real mission in the 172 hours they have scheduled on the moon?

As I have said, this book was apparently received with great fanfare in Europe, and was a “huge bestseller”. I have to confess that I can’t quite see why. As I started the book, it seemed fairly promising. However, I quickly become frustrated by the patchy character development. Just as I felt like a particular character or relationship was being explored or developed, the scene would change. However, the book would never go back and take that further. I felt like there was the constant promise of something deeper, something profound, but it was never quite delivered on.

As the book got to the section on the moon, this unfulfilled promise continued. The book constantly hinted at something sinister, but again it felt underdeveloped, and the explanation that was finally given was, in my opinion, unsatisfactory. At least, the explanation of what NASA was intending to do about it was unsatisfactory. It seems they went to the moon with the intent of doing something about the problem, but no one seems to be doing anything.

As for the way the book ends, I found it dark, tragic and confusing. I don’t mind a bit of tragedy in a book, but it goes down better tempered with hope. There was just the barest hint of that in this book. Maybe I just didn’t “get” this book, but the ending left me feeling confused, like the narrative had been a lie.

If you like conspiracy theories, chilling thrillers and a tragic ending, you might want to give this book a go. Otherwise, if you can read Norwegian, get a hold of the original. I can only suppose something was lost in translation.

Nalini is an award-winning writer and artist as well as managing editor of Dark Matter Zine.


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