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Johan, Harstad. 172 Hours on the Moon. Trans. Tara F. Chace. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2012. Print.

Plot Summary

In 2018, it’s revealed to the public that the original lunar mission of 1969 culminated with the construction and subsequent abandoning of a research station, DARLAH 2, in the Sea of Tranquility. NASA, looking to gain new visibility and funding for the space program, decides to undertake a massive PR stunt: a worldwide raffle is held. The prize—a week on the moon; a chance for three lucky teens to undertake a mission with the crew sent to recommission the moon base. The competition winners are Antoine, looking for a way to get over his ex-girlfriend; Midori, searching for a different life, somewhere far away from Japan; and Mia, entered without her permission by her parents, who accepts grudgingly, hoping to use the fame to promote her band. As the teens embark on a whirlwind publicity tour and are whisked away to start their training, a retired NASA custodian living in a retirement home struggles to remember the secrets surrounding the first moon mission. Shortly after arriving at moon base DARLAH 2 things start to go horribly awry, and Mia, Midori, Antoine, and the rest of the crew find themselves struggling for their lives as one thing after another goes wrong. As the truth about the first moon mission comes out, they start to realize that these disastrous events are no coincidence, and that up in the vacuum of space there is no one coming to rescue them.


A combination of science fiction and horror, the book begins with little traces of the terror to come. The first two parts of the novel are rather tame; they serve as part of the build-up and a chance for the reader to get to know the characters. Despite the lack of action during these two parts the story remains compelling as it subtly lays down the frame work for the events to come while simultaneously inviting the readers to ask questions that may or may not ever be answered.

The novel is written in the third person narrative, and told by a rotating cast of characters but focuses more heavily on Mia’s point of view. The book is not overly-descriptive, but has a quiet and stark voice reminiscent of the moon itself. It’s not certain if this is what was intended by the original author or an after-effect of the translation process, but either way it sets the tone for the story and lends itself well to the eerie atmosphere.


Overall Hastard doesn’t spend a lot of time on the setting; for the first two parts of the book it isn’t necessary and in the third part of the book his minimal descriptions work well towards illustrating the vast emptiness and isolation that the crew are experiencing. The text of the book includes pictures and diagrams, such as the blueprints of DARLAH 2, and the inclusion of black and white photos of the lunar landscape adds to the atmosphere of the novel.


While it might be expected that using multiple viewpoints would make it more difficult for each character to be fleshed out, Hastard did really well in getting across the characters personalities and ambitions in a small amount of time. Some of the characters were more fleshed out than others; for example Mia is the undeniable protagonist of the story, so the reader hear her point of view more often and as a result she comes across as a more complete character. There have been some complaints from readers that Mia, Midori, and Antoine come across as stereotypes or tropes, since their personalities are set up quickly at the beginning, to be maintained through the novel, but this should not immediately be dismissed as a serious drawback: for readers with knowledge of the tropes, the familiarity can be an invitation to further develop the character’s themselves, or for new readers

Appeal Factors

Compelling storyline, suspenseful, surprise ending, horror genre

Intended Audience

172 hours on the Moon is most commonly considered to be a young adult novel. Novelist’s recommended range is between grades 6-12, and while The Guardian reviewed it as a book for those between the ages of 8-12, they noted that they wouldn’t recommend it for those who don’t like scary books.


Johan Hastard is an award-winning novelist from Oslo, Norway. 172 hours on the Moon is Harstad’s first foray into both the YA and Sci-fi/Horror genres. It won the Brage Award in the young adult/children’s literature category in 2008, and the English translation by Tara Chace was published in 2010. Hasard has written more than seven novels for adult audiences, in addition to a number of plays and other writings such as prose and short stories.


ellathebookworm. “172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad – review.” The Guardian. 04 August 2012. Web. March 9 2014.<http://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/2012/aug/04/review-172-hours-moon-johan-harstad&gt>

“Johan Hastard.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 22 July 2004. Web. 10 Aug. 2004. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johan_Harstad&gt>

Harstad, Johan. 172 Hours on the Moon. Trans. Tara F. Chace. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2012. Print.


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