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Sunday, 19 June 2011

Review: Sunshine by Robin McKinley

I am going to do something I never ever do. I am submitting a DNF review. Yes, a Did Not Finish.

I normally refuse to review a book I haven't finished. I think it's wrong and unfair to write a review unless you have read it. I've always held on this – but this book broke me.

In my defence, this is me here. Seriously, I read 3 LA Banks Vampire Huntress novels and intend to read the rest. I even read LJ Smith's Vampire Diaries. I got through Cassadra Clare's over written mess and Yasmine Galenorn's florid florid prose, I even read through Anya Bast's interminable sex scenes. I read Vampire Academy that gets a special award for slow start (the story starts at 80% in). I read Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series – ALL of it, every last minute of the drek and that should have been banned by international law. I'm even STILL reading Anita Blake when everyone else has declared themselves done with the fuckery 10 books ago

In short, I have a high high high tolerance for crap books. But this broke me. The very idea of reading another word makes me cringe.

It began from the very beginning of the book. The protag is a baker. She bakes bread and buns and rolls in a coffee shop. We know this because she describes herself, her daily routine. She describes her co-workers, she describes her regular customers. She describes all of these not just at length but also repeatedly. I actually stopped and double checked to make sure I was actually reading a book that was supposed to have vampires in it.

It's a problem when you're less than 10% into a book and you already want to gnaw off your own wrist and run away from it. Normally I have to be at least 20% in before cleaning the bathroom sounds like a much more fun way of spending my time, but no, with this book I hit the “why am I doing this to myself?!” level waaay faster.

So having dredged through interminable pages about baking, her relationship with her mother, her step father, her boyfriend, more on baking Her *yawwwwwn* oh, where was I? Ah yes, vampires! Hellelujah!

Except, no. Because we then hit 2 more major problems this book likes to shoot your eyes with. Problem 1 – random world building monologue. The flow of the story, even the flow of the action, will suddenly be derailed as we're treated to several pages of internal musings on the history of the world. It's like someone pauses the vampire attack to have a history lecture. While we have these long lecture we also have random irrelevant asides. Like there are a hundred types of demons. So every now and then she'll say something like “I'm breathing like a Puffer demon. Let me tell you something about Puffers.” “I'm tired, I wish I were an X demon. They don't have to sleep. Let me tell you some trivia about them” AAAAAAAAAARGH! PLEASE WE DO NOT CARE!

The second annoying problem is description. Now I've read books with annoying unnecessary description (yes Cassandra Clare, Yamine Galenorn, that would be you) but this book has a record. It's not just the excess description – it's the repeated description.

A vampire says something, we get a description of vampire voices. Then he says something else. We get a description of vampire voices. Then he says something else, we get a THIRD description of vampire voices. He says something else- for the love of all that is holy please stop describing what vampires sound like! We know. And then as a bonus we get a description of how the voice makes the protag feel. Over and over and over and over and over.


And then in between the action we come back for more descriptions of the bakery, the staff of the bakery the neighbourhood the bakery is in (seriously, I kid ye not, we get a multi-page essay on the bakery's neighbourhood) and the residents of the neighbourhood...

And as an irritant, the swear word of choice in this world is “Carthaginian”. No, really. As in “Carthaginian hells” and “oh the Carthaginian thing!” A worse swear word has never been used. It's too long, it doesn't roll of the tongue – there's no way you could consistently say it right while having an enraged rant. It breaks all the rules of swearing. Add in that I keep sitting here frowning “Carthage? Whut? Is this another history ramble?”


I got to the point where they were gently moseying their way back to the vampire lair (with more description) I'm about 40% in and I just couldn't do it. I caved, I cried uncle. I was literally staring into space because it was more interesting than reading one more page. I don't know if it were mood, distraction, other factors or because I'd just read Hexed and it's painful to go from a book that is toweringly awesome back down to drek but I could not do it.

So I gave up, this is my DNF review. It's possible that the book leaped from the awful to the sublime in the last 60%, it could have happened. But I just couldn't get there. I could lie to myself and say I'll return in the future, but really, I'd rather read some of my old law books.