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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

cover of Sunshine

So far as I am aware, this is the first book by Robin McKinley to be found in the Horror section of the bookstore (I know because I had to look it up in the bookstore computer when I went to buy my copy and couldn't find it). No doubt Sunshine is classified as horror because of the strong presence of vampires-- but in spite of this, there is a clear continuity with McKinley's earlier books, which include mostly fantasy and a few re-tellings of fairy tales-- and there is a definite connection with McKinley's two previous versions of the story of Beauty & the Beast.

I love this book and the characters-- even though Sunshine's world is a dark one I might not want to live in, it is a very believable world. This is partly accomplished through the minute details that flesh out Sunshine's world, in particular the slang. If there is a slang word for vampires (they call them "suckers"), then you know that they've been around for a while and people have sort of gotten used to the fact. The same goes for all the different kinds of magic and charms and the like that are a part of Sunshine's everyday world-- there is an incredible level of detail and logic to how these things work. Sunshine herself is also such a matter-of-fact narrator, with a very individual, believable, and even humorous voice.

In the past, when I've discovered a new book by Robin McKinley in my local bookstore, I've purchased it immediately without knowing anything about it (this actually happened with Spindle's End). That is how much I love McKinley's work (I own most of her books-- I think I probably have every full-length novel she's written). But when I first found out about Sunshine, I read some unflattering reviews on, which made me doubt this book. As a result, I didn't immediately pursue getting a copy, and forgot about it for a while. Somehow I was reminded about the book, but since I still had my doubts, I actually read a public library copy of Sunshine the first time... But I tore through the book, and I could hardly wait to get a copy of my own when the paperback edition came out.

I haven't read a lot of vampire fiction (in fact-- I'm not sure I've really read any besides Sunshine), but I'm familiar with Buffy & Angel, and I like the way McKinley spins the vampire tradition-- again, McKinley has thought things through and the details are completely fleshed out and logical. The character of Con, of course, is fascinating, and I love the idea that there are different ways of being a vampire. I think I prefer McKinley's descriptions of vampires-- It seems like vampires ought to look obviously different from humans (unless they are "passing"), although I can imagine that would be much more difficult and expensive to do on film or TV. In this world, vampires are clearly creatures of the night who are inimical to humans; their senses work differently, they travel differently, even though they are also very wealthy, powerful, and clever (they even have their own technology that hooks into this world's version of the internet).

The whole book is a treat to read, and even though it's a decent length book, it reads pretty quickly. The ending is perfectly suited to the rest of the book... but it also leaves me with some hope that perhaps McKinley will return soon to this fascinating world and the wonderful characters of Sunshine and Con.

Author:Robin McKinley
Date published:2003
Number of pages:405
Notes:Third reading.


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