Book Review: Buzz Aldrin, What Happened To You In All the Confusion by Johan Harstad

Buzz Aldrin, What Happened To You In All the Confusion? by Johan HarstadThis is the second book I’ve read by the Norwegian writer Johan Harstad. My review of Hässelby, his other book, is also on my blog. Both books deal with a young man trying to find a way to live their life as they want it.

Buzz Aldrin is out in the English translation this month, but I read the Dutch translation earlier this year.

Buzz Aldrin: What it is about

In this book, Mattias, in his early thirties, loses his job at the garden center ánd his girlfriend almost at the same time. When his friend Jørn has to go to the Faroe islands with his band, he asks Mattias to come along as sound man.

He does, but after getting onto the ferry, the next thing he knows is that he’s laying in the middle of a desolate road in the rain with a lot of money in his pocket. He’s taken in by a man called Havstein.

Mattias great example is Buzz Aldrin, the second man to set foot on the moon. Mattias was born the night of that great event in 1969. Aldrin never got to be as well known as Neil Armstrong, who was the first person ever to walk on the moon.

Mattias has been trying all his life to be one of a crowd, not to stand out, to be second, never first. In the Faroe Islands, he hopes to be an unimportant person in an unimportant place. However, in the book he realizes that for some people, who care for him, he will be first, no matter what.

This book is reasonably realistic, unlike Hässelby, in which events take place that are decidedly surrealistic. However, the plans that are made (and carried out) at the end of the book are rather odd (but possible). They are more likely to happen in a children’s book than in a contemporary fiction novel for adults. An intelligent adult would immediately doubt the feasibility of the plans.

Buzz Aldrin: What I thought

The book is the story of Mattias, first person, from just before he loses his job until the events at the end. There are few flashbacks, most is “live”, happening while we read. There are some parts that resemble stream of consciousness, sentences that go on for a whole paragraph. Most of the time, the book is easy to read.

Any book that takes place in a Nordic country has a bit of an advantage in my opinion as a reader. I’m biased. I love stories taking place in Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and, when I think about it, the Faroe islands and Svalbard too.

In case you’re not sure, the Faroe islands are situated between Iceland and the Shetland Islands, which in their turn are a group of islands above the Orkney Islands, which are situated just North of Scotland.

Mattias is having a difficult time while on the Faroe islands and this is described well. The story is slow-going but we learn a lot about Mattias and the people around him in the mean time.

Mattias himself wasn’t the most interesting person in the book (how could he be, if he wants to blend into the background) but sometimes he surprised me. There were a few other characters that livened the book up, too.

In all, I enjoyed reading the book and I liked the fact it was set in an unusual place.

Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to You in All the Confusion? by Johan Harstad

Rating: 4/5

I got this book: from the library

I read this in: Dutch, the original language is Norwegian (Buzz Aldrin, hvor ble det av deg i alt mylderet?)

Number of pages: 480

The Nordic Challenge

First book read for the Nordic Challenge

First published: 2005, English edition June 2011

Genre: contemporary fiction

About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

11 Responses to Book Review: Buzz Aldrin, What Happened To You In All the Confusion by Johan Harstad

  1. Zee says:

    This sounds like quite an interesting book. Do you think it would suit teenage boys? or is it more of an adult book?

    • Leeswammes says:

      Zee, I think it would be OK for a teenage boy that has read some adult books before. It’s a little depressing (because Mattias is depressed) but otherwise, I can’t remember anything untoward in the book. It’s not an adventure story, though.

  2. Cindy says:

    Didn’t know about the Faroe Islands 🙂

    • Leeswammes says:

      Cindy, yes, they are high above Scotland, towards Iceland, but they actually belong to Denmark. I would love to go there sometime, but it’s a lot of island hopping to get there (well, you can only get there from Denmark, in practice).

  3. Lena says:

    Great review. I like the title, it’s unique. And it is always nice to read book about a place I have never visited or heard of, sparks my imagination and it helps my own creativity in writing. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful review.

  4. Erna says:

    I read a review of this book when it first came out in Holland and wanted to read. Still haven’t done that. But I saw there’s now also a paperback and an e-book available, so maybe I will get to it in the end.

  5. Pingback: Johan Harstad's Buzz Aldrin, What Happened to you in all the Confusion

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