Saturday, December 25, 2010

Book Review: Sunshine

I've been following more YA authors on twitter recently so I actually know when most of them are putting out a new book. So I'd put Robin McKinley's Sunshine on the list after coming across it, it's not a new book but it was going to be re-released with a new cover oriented more for the YA audience so I guess that's why I kept hearing about it. I was a bit hesitant when I found it at the library (the older version, apparently there are no changes other than the cover, I'm amused that I still found the older version in the YA section anyway) since I've liked some of her works before (The Blue Sword, Beauty) but not liked others (The Hero and the Crown not so much and I have issues with the ending of Spindle's End, only with the later part of the book though). But i grabbed the book anyway, I'm on a vampire kick anyway so I might as well see if it's as good a book at others (authors) have said.

Sunshine by Robin McKinley
The cover seems cliched but in terms of literary cliches. Oh look, it's a gothic, shadowy chandler, on a high ceiling with elaborate, old world molding, and that red tint must mean it's a vampire book! Although, that is a bit of a visual cliche in the literary world, heck, if I saw that ceiling on HGTV my first response would be "...vampire ceiling?"

Summary: Sunshine is just your average baker in a world that is sometime after a great, apocalyptic war yet still a century or two before the end. She's utterly and totally convinced she's normal, family history and her own history aside, but is forced to confront that she's different from the majority of humanity after being the first person to escape from the "others," vampires, no matter how much she wants to deny it.

The Good: Well these vampires are the farthest thing from sexy I can think of. There's never a concrete description of what they look like but apparently they're monsters who just share the same general shape as a human, you don't see that variant of vampire that often. The story really goes back to the original vampire stories where they were nothing like humans, incredibly scary, and rather flat and evil characters. It's certainly a change and a change is always refreshing. Also unusual to see a character that's a baker and it was really nice to see so much of the story take place in the bakery, again it's something different and that's always nice.

The Bad: I really didn't like Sunshine at all. She has this habit of talking to people and then going on for a page long monologue in her head before continuing with the conversation (literally a page, even if this was a paperback that's really unsettling, off-putting, and simply confusing). She's also whining a lot in these monologues, some whining is expected and acceptable in any story but there comes a point where the character either has to gear up and deal with the story or they don't and why is the story even about them anyway if they're not doing anything about it? None of the other characters felt really fleshed out to me (and this isn't a short book either, it's right around 400 pages in paperback format), honestly none of them and I was wondering if I skipped a scene or two or if some were cut out because it was so glaring for some of the major supporting characters so I didn't get to love and adore any side characters in the story. One more thing, which I consider a rather large problem although not everyone will see it this way I suppose, is that McKinley has written herself into a corner with the vampires. On the one hand, she has very well established that these are not the sexy vampires of modern pop culture and that there is no way in hell that you want a relationship with them considering most people can't stand their mere presence. Yet she seems to be writing a Beauty and the Beast-esque story* with no explantion of why/HOW there can be romance. That bothered me, and the almost sex scene did as well but that was more because it came out of nowhere and I'm usually annoyed when I come across an unexpected and detailed paragraph about a guys dick**.

So, it's not a bad book per say, but I really didn't like the herorine, felt that by and large the setting wasn't developed well enough (it's not for a while that you even find out any details about the war) and neither were any of the characters besides Sunshine. So, no urge to reread, recommend, or buy the book, sorry guys!
And I remembered the other day that I forgot to review a manga so that'll be tomorrow's review, good thing too since I'll be swamped the next two days and not having to read anything else/shorter things to review will help.

*Again, this is at least the third time she's used that story variation, and when I think about it, all the stories I've read by her involve the opposites attract theory of romance, just the male lead happens to be at least a bit monstrous.
**Being serious there and, to make this clear, I have no objections to characters having sex in the stories, I just prefer it to be off screen. This is probably because I had to read some pretty detailed sex scenes back as a freshman in high school (even tvtropes agrees with me here: "Good People Have Good Sex. Not to mention excruciatingly detailed sex. ") so I reeeaaalllyyy hate reading sex scenes now. It won't detract from the whole book but it does leave me a bit grumpy if I didn't see it coming.