3 Hours (To Read) On The Moon
May 13, 2012 § Leave a comment
Week 18: 172 Hours On The Moon, by Johan Harstad, translated by Tara Chace.
I made a big change and left Russia behind for…Norway. Yes, I know Norway is very, very far away from Russia, so this is appropriate, no?
I can only assume so. Eastern Europe is loosey-goosey with names at times.
Also, I really want to get away from YA for awhile, but I keep getting stuck for time and need a short book to finish by the end of the week. The thing that annoys me the most about YA is that even the best stuff doesn’t have much depth, and I want to sink my teeth into something more substantial. That said, I like being on a schedule because it keeps me focused, but it sucks to look up and realize that it’s Thursday and you’re only 10 pages into a heavy 300-page book on Crusader history.
That said, I really like Crusader history. Deus vult!
I picked this book because I had had my eye on it for awhile. It’s a YA psychological horror where a group of teens go to the Moon and, well, bad things happen. It’s kind of rare to see psychological horror in YA, and I had high hopes for it.
Those hopes were, sadly, not realized. One of the problems when reading translated works is that it’s never a perfect interpretation. I know I’ve talked about this before, but language is a difficult thing to massage into shape, especially when those languages (Norwegian and English) are very different. For example, there were several sentences that began with “As you know,” which is a cardinal sin in English writing, and for all I know, means something completely different in Norwegian.
The story itself is a cool idea and it has a wonderful opening (shadowy redacted figures are talking about menacing things in a boardroom), but it makes some….interesting choices later on. I’m not going to highlight everything I didn’t like, but I will point out one thing that really grated on me.
The first half of the book was a good set-up, but once they get on to the moon, disaster after disaster stacks on top of each other. That’s fine, but the first disaster involves two astronauts that aren’t the main (that is, the teenaged) characters. For some reason, the author had that chapter focus on the two astronauts that:
- We hadn’t met before,
- Were only around for a total of fifteen pages,
- Would have been a great scene (to me) if they had focused on the powerlessness of the teenagers as they sat in the station listening to the others die over the radio (MUCH LIKE WHAT HAPPENS TO REAL NASA AGENTS WHEN TROUBLE HAPPENS)
Now, this is a bit of “my style versus his style”, but I was left a little unsatisfied. I’m here to read about the kids, dammit, and if I wasn’t, then I’d probably be reading adult fiction. In this particular case, YA’s lack of depth bit the author in the ass. Horror needs time, it needs depth, and it needs to build and build and build. A book that is maybe 50,000 words in length is simply not long enough to build up to an appropriate horrifying climax. Sure, there are really good short horror stories (go read Knock right now!), but this wasn’t built like that.
Horror is one of my favourite genres to write (even though I don’t think I’m quite that good at it yet), but it’s incredibly difficult. I sympathize with horror writers out there because you need to reach into the heart of a reader, squeeze it, and then usually rip it out.
That’s in no way easy. Everyone is different and everyone reacts to different stimuli. Here’s my favourite example, and a story I once heard on the internet (so it must be true):
There was a group of Soviet soldiers who were charged with keeping the peace in the Ukraine during the collectivization (and famine) period. Their job was particularly easy, as entire villages disappeared off the map and any survivors were too weak to organize armed resistance. They went from empty town to empty town, finding nothing but dead farmers and the bodies of their children. Most bodies were found either in their beds or a few hundred feet outside the towns, where the soldiers assumed that they were trying to find some food in the wilderness before they collapsed from hunger. In one village, however, they found a healthy-looking woman who was lucid, able to answer all of their questions, and, all in all, seemed pleasant and cheerful. She invited them into her house for a meal. Up until that point, none of the soldiers, so amazed at finding a survivor, thought to question why there were no bodies to be found in the village. After eating the meal, the Captain, his suspicions aroused by the amount of meat in the soup, ordered his men to search the house. One of them ventured into the cellar.
The soldiers shot the woman and burned the village to the ground.
This story is, despite the liberties I took with it, almost certainly true. There are eye-witness reports of butchered corpses found during the siege of Leningrad, and the famine in Ukraine was exceptionally bad, even by horrifyingly twisted Soviet standards.
I told this story to a friend of mine who was so creeped out that she didn’t want me to finish. I’ve spent years studying the violence of Eastern Europe, so this doesn’t elicit such a visceral response from me. Sure, I don’t like it, but I’ve become somewhat deadened to stories of horrific violence like that.
That said, I’ve read Stephen King’s Cujo, wherein a woman and child are trapped in a car by a rabid dog. To me, it was terrifying. There wasn’t much in the way of violence, but that idea of powerlessness, of sustained terror, of the inability to protect your child, and the fact it was something so common as a dog just bothered me.
Horror, ah horror. I do so love it, and it’s such a strange thing isn’t it?
In other news, I met a movie star last night after watching Transmigration, a show that my roommate is in (and an excellent one, might I add). We then went to a bar nearby where I not only got to share some stories with him, he also bought me a beer, rode the subway (the subway!) with us, and then hugged me and my roommate when we parted ways.
I’ve gone out with my roommate and some of his dancer friends before, and let me tell you that there is nothing more intimidating that going about town with beautiful people in their physical prime. Now I like to think that I’m not ugly, but these people are pretty much like Greek statues of gods. Much like hanging out with a movie star, it’s pretty damn scary.
But every time this has happened, I’ve been struck by how normal they all are. They’re all nice people who, despite being friggin’ beautiful, are people too. Dancers, though they seem like untouchable gods on the stage, are cool people to hang around with when they’re off-duty. I should have realized that a long time ago (being that I live with one and have been friends with him since 2002), but I didn’t. Plus, he’s a dude and ladies are ladies. Guys, you know what I’m talking about. Ladies, especially attractive, flexible ladies, are scary.
In the end though, I had fun and it was really cool to hear his stories. And it was totally not scary at all. I only freaked out after he left.
I consider that a bonus.