No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Thursday, March 31, 2005

#20: Sunshine -- Robin McKinley

This novel has restored my faith in the vampire genre. The cover quotes Neil Gaiman as saying Sunshine "exists more or less at the unlikely crossroads of Chocolat, Interview with the Vampire, Misery and the tale of Beauty and the Beast." He also says it's 'pretty much perfect': I'm less sure about that, but it's a very good read.

Good reads, around here, score highly on three scales: plot, character and setting. The plot, essentially 'battle evil and get in touch with your dark side', isn't really anything new -- it's vaguely reminiscent of Buffy, Anita Blake, Tanya Huff's books, various Anne Rice etc -- but it's handled well and has some clever twists. The eponymous Sunshine -- real name Rae Seddon, or maybe not -- is a delightful character: a high school not-quite-dropout who works in her stepfather's bakery, dates the cook, and enjoys making up new dessert recipes. Unusually for this sort of book, I don't think there's more than a very brief description of her looks -- and she is far from fashion-obsessed. She's sharp, funny and takes no nonsense. She's the girl next door.

Except that, as the setting is gradually revealed (McKinley’s pacing is superb) we realise that this isn't our world, and that Rae isn't exactly normal. This is a world where Others -- demons, angels, vampires, weres etc -- wage varying levels of Cold War with humanity; where one-fifth of the world's wealth is in undead hands; where people routinely buy or make charms, wards and cantrips to ward against all the evil around them; where SOF (Special Other Forces) are an omnipresent 'war against terror' police force ... Where the waitress at the coffee-shop has peri blood, and whenever she pours coffee it's always hot. That's the sort of detail that I adore about this book.

I think the novel's aimed at young adults. McKinley doesn't flinch from the dark stuff (sexy or gory) but she doesn't dwell on it either, with the result that when she does go into detail it's all the more effective.

Without going into details, I especially like the ending of the book, which some readers seem to regard as horribly unfinished. On the contrary: the best sort of ending.

reposted here from LJ in order to keep all my reviews in one place

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