I found out about the novel Sunshine, by young adult fantasy writer Robin McKinley by visiting McKinley's web site. Upon reading the excerpt I found there I discovered that Sunshine was about vampires, which in effect punctured my usual enthusiasm for the latest McKinley book. Those of you who like vampires can picture blood spurting from the jugular, and the rest of you can imagine a tire sadly deflating. Far be it from me to deny anyone the visual of his or her choice.
A reading of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and a half-reading of Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire exhausted my limited interest in sucker lit some years ago, and it has not revived. However, I’ve read and loved all of McKinley’s books published to date and it would likely be a few years before there was another and so… I popped over to the Toronto Public Library site and placed a hold on it. I’m glad I did.
Sunshine is funny, involving, and suspenseful. There’s the usual wry, reluctant McKinley heroine, her next-to-impossible yet inescapable quest, and a complex, beautifully imagined alternate universe, complete with homely details such as how a vampire looks in a borrowed bathrobe. Aside from the vampires, there are other ways in which this book is something apart from the rest of McKinley’s oeuvre. It’s set in a modern environment with cars, sneakers, and video games such as McKinley has only used in some of her short stories, and written in the first person, which as far as I can recall she hasn’t previously done at all. She’s invented her own slang for the 25-year-old heroine to use and her own terms for computers and the Internet (a wise choice, since real slang and technology date faster than anything else). The resulting modernity and immediacy gives this alternate universe a coolness and an edge Damar never had. Moreover there is an abortive sex scene that is so incredibly erotic that its abrupt termination left me nearly as frustrated as the heroine. McKinley has been holding out on us—there were no sex scenes in any of her earlier books.
I remain uncoverted to all things vampirish, and am going to let Interview with the Vampire remain half-read (as I wish I had done with the horribly bloated The Witching Hour), but I enjoyed Sunshine as much as any of McKinley’s other novels.