Review: 172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad

Cover of 172 Hours on the Moon

172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad. Little, Brown & Company. 4/17/2012

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. *

Back in February, I blogged about receiving a big batch of ARCs in the mail from whatchYAreading? and promised to review each ARC as I read it (as close to the publication date as possible). Earlier this month, on April 17, 172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad was published in the United States.


What a spine-chilling read! If you don’t remember, I wanted to read this novel because I thought sending 3 teenagers to the moon in an attempt to jump start the NASA space program was easily the worst idea in the history or future of ideas. As it happens, according to Harstad, sending teenagers to the moon is the worst idea of all ideas ever. While I did expect this novel to be creepy — hello, check out the glossy eye & reflected moonscape on the cover! — I did not at all expect this to go from just plain creepy to completely chilling. I’m so incredibly happy it did. Everything that can go terribly wrong in this book does so, and there is absolutely no coming back.

I don’t want to say too much about the plot for fear of spoiling something, but let me leave you this small suggestion: read Harstad’s novel during the day time in bright sunlight. The sun will become your best friend during this read, and the moon . . . well, I was scared of the moon for a week.


This novel is told from the 3rd person perspective, and while each chapter is told from a limited, singular point of view, the point of view does change between chapters. The majority of the story-telling is done by the three teenagers — Mia, Midori, and Antoine — but at times other astronauts pitch in for a unique perspective on the events unraveling. This narrative quilt lends depth & intricacy to the story, while at times also jarring the reader out of a particular narrative style or focus. This was actually very well-done, and I rather enjoyed the narrative styles of each character.

Mia wanted to go to the moon to bring some fame to her band — this cover summary is actually a little misleading, and I think Mia in the novel is much more interesting than this snippet might have you believe. She is definitely fame-centric, but she’s also bitter and spunky and determined. The story around how Mia gets to the moon & then how Mia handles the moon is a very engaging one in its entirety, though she did get on my nerves some at the beginning.

Midori wants to escape her restrictive Japanese lifestyle — this is spot-on for what Midori’s doing on the moon. In Japan, she was a Harajuku girl and she really believes she’s instantaneously more grown up the second she wins a spot to the moon in the lottery. She’s got a spark of modern feminism & a dash of pride about her culture — Midori brings into play a feminist independence, but when she desires comfort, she shares a Japanese folk tale with Mia & Antoine. The folk tale, as it happens, might be the most disturbing part of this entire novel.

Antoine wants to get very, very far away from his ex-girlfriend — which is probably a good thing because he starts the book off stalking her and it’s totally creepy. Antoine is a quiet, kind of watch-what’s-happening person, and while in the beginning that’s channeled to some mild-stalking-creepiness, it’s channeled to a more observant, self-sacrificial goodness once the first disaster strikes on the moon. Antoine’s storyline is sweet, subtle, and subdued, which gives it extra creepy points as the plot unravels.


I can’t quite decide if I missed some things while reading or if there are gaps in the story line. The end felt a little rushed to me, but I expect this is because it was 2 am and I couldn’t stop reading because I was so disturbed by what was happening & just needed to reach the end. There are bits & pieces of romance throughout, and they are both expected and not overbearing. The familial ties & dramas between the three teenagers and their respective family units might be my favorite on-Earth bit of development. I plan to reread 172 Hours at a slower pace (and in the sun!), but that might be a while yet because this book really did freak me out. And I loved that, but I don’t need to revisit the moon anytime soon.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

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