Posted by : atcampbell | On : February 2, 2009

Sunshine by Robin McKinley

Ten of us gathered at A. T.’s house to discuss Robin McKinley’s Sunshine. The title character is a young woman who works as a baker. One night she gets kidnapped by vampires, and she discovers unexpected abilities that allow her to free herself.  She also discovers that some vampires are less evil than others.  This kicks off an intriguing story of personal discovery, set in an alternate world startlingly different from our own. None of us had read McKinley before. All of us started the book, and three finished it.

One person commented that Sunshine is an ideal girl: hard-working, conscientious, talented, affectionate, and brave.

We liked the family restaurant where Sunshine works. The place is fully described and much of the action takes place here, and it’s filled with a rich supporting cast of Sunshine’s family and coworkers. The restaurant is almost a character in its own right. It reminded one reader of Chocolat.

One reader disliked the book because she felt that it was written for a teen audience. She disliked the book’s vocabulary and tone, plus the frequent infodumps.  She also felt the book reused the tired “woman as victim” trope from vampire fiction. Mainly she’d expected and hoped for this book to be an urban fantasy aimed at adults, and this is not what she found.

Another had mixed feelings. He felt that the nature of exposition was more like science fiction than fantasy. He disliked this book’s absence of chapters. However he did like that this book’s heroine makes a living baking cinnamon rolls.

We generally found that the author had a clear prose style and put together interesting turns of phrase. However, several of us found this book hard to read in large chunks, and felt that it was too easy to put down. One person felt that the author did not pull off first person narrative as well as might be hoped.

A couple of us were simply tired of vampire novels. It was not clear from the cover what the subject of the book was. These readers started the book, but as soon as they encountered vampires, they stopped.

A few of us were intrigued by the alternate America in which this novel takes place. Although we don’t see much of the world in this story, it’s interesting and it imparts of feeling of science fiction to the story. There are several species of humanoid species, and a government agency enforces segregation between them.

The reader who recommended to the book to our group was an enthusiastic fan of Sunshine. She felt the characters and setting were charming. And while she does not usually like vampire books, she liked this one.

Overall this book provided us with a nice discussion. After the meeting, many of us had a nice dinner at Culver’s.

— A.T. Campbell, III