Paperback, 368 pages.
Release date: April 5th 2013.
Rating: 3 out of 5.
Source: Received from publisher for review.
Reviewed by: Arianne.
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.
In this chilling adventure set in the most brutal landscape known to man, highly acclaimed Norwegian novelist Johan Harstad creates a vivid and frightening world of possibilities we can only hope never come true.
In a world where dystopian fiction rules the roost, it's easy to get lost in the sea of apocalyptic sci-fi pretenders that litter our shelves these days. This book puts those wannabes firmly back in their place.
Filled with tension, terror and troubles of a very extra-terrestrial kind, it's a thriller through and through - but while it succeeded in rendering me paralyzed with fear long after I'd flipped the final page, it's not a book I can say I enjoyed.
It started out really well. There was mystery, suspicion and the covert motive of a huge industrial corporation to keep the story flowing. The premise isn't all that fanciful when you think about it - is anyone else envisioning the recent Lynx Space Academy adverts here? - and this gives an extra thrill to this spine-chiller before the first chapter is even over.
However, the science fact behind the novel is where the author really shines. Speculation is carefully layered with research, giving it all a very plausible feel. The use of documents, pictures and the famous Wow! signal in particular add a multitude of pleasures to the stark, bleak backdrop otherwise provided.
There are three main characters - Mia, Midori and Antoine - but it's Mia we follow and root for most. She's the hope in the face of the dreadful fate that appears to await all who dare set foot on the surface of the Moon: death, by hideous monster creatures nobody really seems to know much about.
I liked Mia, but I have to say, the characterization (and this was a feature of the writing in general) wasn't brilliant. There was a romance, but it's hardly worth mentioning. I didn't connect with the characters - perhaps due to the fact the author skipped over a massive chunk of time where they could have been developed beyond the mere sketches we were left with in the second half of the novel. Equally, perhaps it was because their reasons for entering the moon-lottery weren't very strong. The adult characters were written best, but I was left unsure if the real spark of the book was simply lost in translation or if YA is really the author's forte.
Because, in essence, this is a horror story. There was so much more horror than I expected that it left me unable to enjoy the concept or the plot progression. I'd expected a creepy, spine-chilling read, but this book took it way too far! Maybe I'm being unfair, but I think I'll stick to Wallander for my share of Scandinavian drama from now on.
I should talk about the ending, though. I did not see it coming, and that's taking all the bloodshed and horror that came before it into account, too. It was one of the novel's main redeeming factors for me - I won't spoil it for you, but let's just say this book really does come with a sting in its tale!
In short: I didn't hate everything about it, but this book's uninspiring writing and excessive gore cancelled out its shocking premise which caught my attention in the first place. If rebranded it could perhaps find an owner in a true horror fan, but overall, it just wasn't for me.