Rumors and ads for this book and TV series reached me long before I actually cracked open its pages. My sister loved the show, bought the book, got bored with the book, and then gave me the book. I wasn’t concerned, as there are only three novels she has actually finished, and those are the three installments of The Hunger Games (which are fantastic, by the way). Her complaints of Outlander being “overly detailed” were swept aside in the theory that I shouldn’t trust the review of a novel by someone who rarely reads novels.
However, in this case, she was completely right. The detail that works to immerse the reader in 1700’s Scotland often crosses over to being cumbersome and unnecessary. The author, Diana Gabaldon, clearly researched her setting thoroughly and invested a lot of passion into that research and into here characters. For that, she deserves respect, though I wish she had not deemed it necessary to share every single detail with us.
Then there is the issue that plagues most of the romance genre – the fact that plot is so often replaced by the sex. Is it not possible to have both? Other genres seem to know how to include sex without it obstructing the plot. It’s as if Gabaldon (and every other romance writer), sits down, writes every imaginable sexual situation on a slip of paper, draws them out of a hat, and calls this a plot. The resulting plot line follows no discernible arc, but rather moves like a heart monitor, with a regular rise and fall that fails to build to a climax. Ironic that a sex-based plot never reaches a satisfying completion.
In spite of “plot-us interruptus” taking place constantly, there is still much to admire about Gabaldon’s debut novel. She creates an immersive and believable world for her story, all based on her extensive research. Her characters are varied and somewhat complex. She gets her readers invested in the characters. The premise of the story proved so interesting that I expected it to unfold in an intriguing way. This expectation compounded my subsequent disappointment.
Overall, Outlander is an ambitious novel.
If you already like the romance genre, this book will perform admirably.
If you value a plot line that builds to a satisfying climax, this may disappoint you as much as it disappointed me.
Either way, be ready to push through a 200 page story interspersed with 600 pages of unwanted details.
Have you read or watched Outlander? I’m curious to hear your thoughts on the story.