Series: Midnighters #1
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Pages: 297 (paperback)
Published: March 1st 2005
Published by: Eos
Nobody is safe in the secret hour.
Strange things happen at midnight in the town of Bixby, Oklahoma.
For one secret hour each night, the town belongs to the dark creatures that haunt the shadows. Only a small group of people know about the secret hour -- only they are free to move about the midnight time.
These people call themselves Midnighters. Each one has a different power that is strongest at midnight: Seer, Mindcaster, Acrobat, Polymath. For years the Midnighters and the dark creatures have shared the secret hour, uneasily avoiding one another. All that changes when the new girl with an unmistakable midnight aura appears at Bixby High School.
Jessica Day is not an outsider like the other Midnighters. She acts perfectly normal in every way. But it soon becomes clear that the dark creatures sense a hidden power in Jessica . . . and they're determined to stop her before she can use it.
A story of courage, shadowy perils, and unexpected destiny, the secret hour is the first volume of themesmerizing Midnighters trilogy by acclaimed author Scott Westerfeld.
Jessica Day moves to Bixby, Oklahoma, when her mother gets a new job at the local aeroplane science centre or whatever. Small-town Bixby is a bit of a shock to the system after living in Chicago, but what is an even bigger shock is finding out she is a 'Midnighter' - one of those rare people who were born on the exact stroke of midnight, and who can access the secret hour claimed by the technology-hating dark creatures. But the big question is, what is her ability?
This book is pretty cool for many reasons. The idea that days are in fact 25 hours long, but that the darklings reclaimed the 25th for their own protection after humanity began developing technology (fire, initially) and fighting back is really inventive. And actually has something to it...if left alone without cues from daylight or clocks, the body falls into a 25-hour-day rhythm. Cool, huh?
Then there's all the maths stuff, just 'cos I'm a bit geeky like that. But in all honesty, I think most people would be impressed with the level of detail reached in the maths-y stuff going on in this book. Everything revolves around numbers in the book - most often the number thirteen. In fact, I was often disappointed when things didn't add up to the number thirteen. Like he'd missed a trick when everybody's names didn't have thirteen letters. Come on, Westerfeld, if you're going to do something, take it all the way! Though I still had a couple of pretty serious geek-out moments when he revealed some things.
But cool background stuff aside, there were some things that let this book down. Namely the characters. Jessica is the lead, and is just a normal girl. She's under pressure from her parents to do well and school, is constantly infuriated by her younger sister and just wants to fit in at her school. This aspect was nice, but my problem was that she wasn't fleshed out any. She was just those things. There didn't seem to be anything to her past that. Maybe we'll get more of a feel for her in the next two books, but that's not really a good enough excuse.
Then there were the supporting cast - the rest of the Midnighters. Rex was pretty good, and you kinda get that the whole Midnighters and their lore thing is pretty much all he is about. He obsesses over it and is constantly thinking about it it seems. Then we have Melissa and Dess - one's a polymath and one's a Mindcaster, and I honestly can't remember which is which. I struggled throughout the book with differentiating between them, because although their powers are very different, they themselves are pretty interchangeable I thought.
The story itself was easy enough to read, but it never really grabbed me. Some books, you start and you never want to stop. Some pick up towards the end, racing to the conclusion and pulling you along with them. Some books you just read, intrigued to find out what happens but not driven to. Unfortunately, this book was one of the latter. This book served well as an introduction to the world of Midnight and I think the other two books in the trilogy will probably benefit from the firm base this one provides. But building that base has unfortunately left the story lacking a little umph.
Really cool idea which hasn't been taken to it's full potential due to other issues. An interesting book, and a series that I may continue with eventually, but I'm by no means certain.