Outlander

Monday, November 29, 2010


Outlander
Diana Gabaldon, 2004

This was a Kindle freebie, and the longest book I've read on my Kindle yet.

Premise: Claire Randall is visiting Scotland with her husband in 1945 when she tumbles through a time-portal to 1743. Unable to return home, she falls hard for Jamie, a fugitive Scotsman. 

This book felt uncomfortably caught between genres. The time travel aspect was somewhat clumsily added to the romantic plotline, and so I was left unsure how much fantasy is possible in that world. Some things, like time travel and possibly the Loch Ness Monster, are real, but witches are an obvious myth? Really? It just feels like it wasn't completely thought through.

Claire bugged me as a heroine at times, because she was sometimes clever, and sometimes PAINFULLY dense and naive.

Outlander: with Bonus ContentMaybe I'm just used to YA style world-travel, but she comes from the 40's, after the start of science fiction, after the publication of The Time Machine and Princess of Mars. If I fell through a freakish screaming hole in space-time, I would assume there was a chance I'd time traveled. Given the obvious nature of her first encounters with the Scots, I have no sympathy for how ridiculously long it takes her to figure it out. Or how hard it is for her to really grasp the ill intent of other characters, no matter how many times it is demonstrated.  She served in WWII, and she has trouble with the idea that someone might betray her or do her violence?  Really?

All that said, I read the whole book, and thought it was overall pretty good. It was well written, with good pacing, exciting scenes and well-drawn minor characters.

On the other hand, reading it knowing nothing about it except the promotional description, I was surprised and bothered by the ending. Nothing resolves, and it goes on far longer than it needs to. Then I realized that it's a series. A really long series. I see. I don't care enough about what happens to read all those other books.

There was an interview with the author at the end of the Kindle book, in which it was confirmed that the time travel was incidental to the story, that she stuck a modern(ish) woman into her planned historical romance because she wanted to write a spunky heroine. This makes it a bit more forgivable that the time travel itself doesn't resolve in the book, but it really annoys me to use a great device like that but not actually make use of it, to not even explore the question of the repercussions of what she does in the 'past'. There's a moment here and there, but for the most part it's ignored. That's a squandered opportunity.

There were characters that I liked (some who were not in enough of the book, like Gelilie. I really wanted more of her story) and overall the book was fun to read.

So on balance I'm going to have to go with:

3 Stars – A Good Book

But it isn't one I liked enough to seek out the sequel.

See more about Outlander for the Kindle

1 comment:

starshinedown said...

One of my parents found this series a year or two ago, and loves it. Has been trying to get me to read it ever since. I keep reading the back-of-the-book blurbs, though, and feeling uninspired.

Your review just shored up my resolve to get through the stupidly long list of books I already want to read before I get around the Outlander series. Thanks for that!

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