I think I stumbled on Johan Harstad’s 172 Hours on the Moon when I was looking for John Barnes’ Losers in Space; both novels share the plot element of young people trying to get off of Earth to boost their social standing. Aside from that, they could scarcely be more different. In the alternate history underlying Harstad’s novel, a secret moon base called DARLAH 2 was built during the Apollo years. A present-day mission will return to investigate the abandoned base. If this sounds a bit like elements from the TV series Lost, rest assured it’s hardly the only Lost-ish element — and like that show, 172 Hours on the Moon is probably more concerned with creating moody set pieces than with credibility or even coherence.
The thing is, even though 172 Hours on the Moon seemed at times shamelessly predictable and derivative, it basically worked for me. It felt a little like watching The Ring: knowing exactly what was coming didn’t make it less creepy. I give a lot of credit to Tara Chace’s translation; in her hands, Harstad’s prose has some of the irony and remove of classic Vonnegut, which only adds to the contrast of some very un-Vonnegutty moments of grue.
needs more demons? maybe, but leaves me curious to see more from Harstad.