Friday, November 16, 2012

172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad

Librarian Rachel H, our sci-fi afficianado, brings us her review of a brand new trip to space:

172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad

When I picked up the science fiction novel 172 Hours on the Moon by Norwegian author, Johan Harstad, little did I realize I’d chosen a perfect pre-Halloween spine tingler.  From the ominous book jacket to the sinister prologue, you know that NASA’s return to the moon is going to be anything but simple… or safe.  If you are a fan of the movie Prometheus, this may just be the book for you. 

The last manned mission to the moon took place in 1972.  No more were undertaken due to lack of money… or so the public was told.  In 1977, the Big Ear radio telescope in Ohio detected what is now referred to as the Wow! Signal which was described by the unique, as in never heard before or after, alphanumeric code 6EQUJ5.  In 2010, a group of government officials decide it is time for NASA to launch another manned mission to the moon, and this time to include three teens.  In 2018 a lottery is held to choose the three lucky teens to take part in this opportunity of a lifetime. 

Music-obsessed and rebellious Mia, stifled Midori and love-stricken Antoine are all amazed to be chosen for the historic event.  But even before arriving at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas strange things start to happen.  Midori and her parents are directed to Gate J5 at Narita International Airport in Tokyo, a gate no one seems to know about.  As she waits for her father to get directions, a strange, unseen woman in the restroom warns Midori not to go to Gate J5, to never go there.  On the coast of the English Channel in France, Antoine and his family have one last day together before he flies to America.  As he thinks about what is ahead of him and surveys the Channel, he sees an airliner crash into the water.  An airliner with the letters QU on its tail; an airliner no one else in the world seems to know anything about.  After arriving in New York City before going on to Houston, a restless Mia sneaks out of the hotel late at night to experience the city and to call her friends in Norway. She meets up with homeless Murray who inexplicably has 6E sketched on the back of his tattered coat.  Are these warnings or taunting from an unknown entity?   

In Miami, an elderly man, a former NASA employee with a mind fog-shrouded by dementia, has a moment of blinding clarity when pictures of the launch flash across his TV screen.  His deteriorating body keeps him from the warnings he so fervently wants to convey, and all he is able to do is scratch a cryptic 6EQUJ5 into his mashed potatoes moments before he dies.  The one person who notices, doesn’t care. 

What awaits Mia, Midori, Antoine and the other five astronauts on the moon? 

Throughout this book I had the sense that I was watching one of those old horror movies with menacing music that crescendos to a terrifying finale, with closed doors which should never be opened, and with the feeling that you want to yell at the characters, “No, don’t go.”  But as in those movies, the characters never listen. 

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