All the Time in the World

My taste in reading material is wide and varied: SF/fantasy/"speculative fiction", mysteries (police procedurals, mostly), history, fanfic, straight fiction, smutty vampire books, biographies, poetry, cereal boxes, assembly instructions, the fine print, and your mind.


Sunshine - Robin McKinley I have read pretty extensively in the vampire genre - have read Dracula numerous times, starting when I was about 10, then Interview with a Vampire/The Vampire Lestat/Queen of the Damned (I didnt' go any further in Anne Rice's series); Suzette McKee Charnas' The Vampire Tapestry, about the first 10 Anita Blake books, thus far the first four of the Sookie Stackhouse books, Guillermo del Toro's The Strain, Stephen King's Salem's Lot, Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian. Probably others as well, but that's what I can recall right off the top of my head. I've also watched all of the 1960s' Hammer movies with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, as well as most of the film adaptations of Dracula, plus of course Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Moonlight and other TV series. (I have not read the Twilight books, nor do I plan to [the author apparently knew absolutely nothing about the vampire genre prior to writing her books - that is, she was familiar with none of the tropes of vampire literature. What kind of writer writes a genre novel without knowing at least basically what has gone before? Or else why bother to make it a vampire novel?] Nor do I plan to get into any of the other 374 vampire series that have been spawned in the past 10 years.)

My point with all of this preamble is this: I like it when an author takes one of those tropes and spins it a little - explains why it's true, or gives a more modern, scientific explanation for its existence, etc. Like why a vampire doesn't cast a reflection in a mirror, or why you can't take a photograph of one: both have to do with silver - the silvering on the back of the mirror, and the silver emulsion on film. Ah, except now (according to Mick from TV's Moonlight) you can take a pic of a vampire, as long as you're using a digital camera.

In Robin McKinley's Sunlight, the existence of such things as vampires, demons, and magic is known, but they exist only on the periphery of society (even more so than in Laurel K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series. No citizenship for these vamps.) Rae lives a comfortable life surrounded by family and working at a job she loves, as a baker for the family diner. She also has some odd relatives, including her father, who is a major magic-worker. Rae herself knows a few tricks, taught to her by her grandmother, but for the most part she goes about her business and doesn't concern herself with those issues.

Unfortunately, one day she finds herself the captive of a band of vamps who plan to use her as bait for an old and powerful vampire. Here's where the fun spin comes in: in Rae's universe, the older a vampire gets, the more susceptible he becomes to sunlight, including being unable to go out at night when the moon is full or nearly full, because the amount of reflected sunlight can kill him. So on a full moon night, Rae ends up chained in a room with a starving vampire. He's an ethical vampire, and he doesn't want to drink her, but he's losing control. Being a smart woman and not one to panic, she employs some of the magic her grandmother taught her - and some skills she wasn't quite aware she possessed - to save herself and the vampire, who has impressed her with his non-evil nature.

Let's just say from there on out, Rae's quiet life is pretty well shot. Now she has ticked-off vamps who want to know how she got away, her family's history is obviously much more complex than she was ever led to believe, and there's a super-secret police unit that would like to pick her brain.

Robin McKinley's one of my favorite authors. She repeatedly takes something you think you're so familiar with, no one could possibly say anything new about it - Robin Hood, The Beauty & the Beast, Cinderella - and turns it inside out. If you don't know her books, you should.