Thursday, 19 July 2012

You Tell Me | Getting In On Outlander

Via Deadline, Dark Horizons - my go-to source for movie news and reviews - reports than Battlestar Galactica and Carnivale showrunner Ron Moore is set to adapt Diana Gabaldon's bestselling Outlander fantasy saga into a series for cable TV.

I first heard this news on Tuesday, but it came up again yesterday, and then for a third time today. So that's the charm, and I simply had to ask: should I be paying more attention to Diana Gabaldon than I am?

For once, I can tell you exactly why I've steered clear of her work before now, though I'd be the first to admit my reasons apply only to me. Quite simply, I've never read Diana Gabaldon because, for all the wrong reasons - at least from my particular position - my mum used to love these books. Given the chance, she'd go on and on about Claire and Jamie, long past the point that everyone had started idly pushing their cuticles, and I got the distinct sense that she was reading the Outlander saga for the romance, rather than the fantasy.

Which was - and is - perfectly fine, but not what I was interested in either then, or now.

Methinks reason number two is more damning. You see, at some point, my mum went from an attitude of undying devotion to the series to one of utter disinterest. I think A Breath of Snow and Ashes put her off her coffee, because she still hasn't read An Echo in the Bone, nor - and I've asked her - does she plan to. Presumably six books of will-they/won't-they sexual tension was as she had in her... which I can kind of get behind.

But if I'm honest, I've never been able to determine if there's more to this series than that. So in light of the Ron Moore news, you tell me, good people: is the Outlander saga any good? Are its early novels self-contained and satisfying enough that I could read Diana Gabaldon's debut without feeling compelled to continue on, ad infinitum? Because that's what I'm inclined to do, assuming my mum isn't completely out of her wheelhouse on this one.

Meanwhile, who's keen to see a cable TV adaptation of the epic tale? And from the man behind the divisive modern-day interpretation of Battlestar Galactica, no less.

Is Ron Moore a good choice to bring this story into our living rooms, do you think, or are alarm bells ringing with anyone else?


  1. Outlander is VERY good, but it is very much a love story - however, it does incorporate fantasy and historical fantasy as well, with associated battle scenes and whatnot. I do think that it has reached more of a female audience, but men who aren't averse to a good love story will find much to enjoy. The researching is meticulous.

    I adored Outlander (published as Cross Stitch here in the UK) and devoured the first four books. The fifth was harder going. I lent the sixth to my mum and didn't care quite enough to get it back. I bought the seventh and obviously haven't read. At some point I do want to read all of them again from beginning to end, but there was a degree of diminishing returns with the series.

    The first isn't *really* standalone. I think, if you enjoy the first, you will have to read the second.

    I do think you'll know pretty quickly whether you like it, if you read the first five chapters or so - in fact, this is one of those occasions when the Amazon excerpt that is available will be incredibly useful!

    I'm a bit meh about the idea of series, but I know a LOT of people have been waiting for this or a move since the first time they read it :-)

    Hope some of that garbled reply helps!

  2. I love these books, but I admit that I do tend to read them more for the romance than the fantasy aspects. That said, the characters are really well done, there are some interesting philosophical musings on time-travel and foreknowledge, so I think there's a broader appeal than just romance fans. I'm very interested to what Ron Moore does with this series.

  3. I was reading this book quite recently as part of a read along, but I gave up about half way through. Why?

    Let’s start with the research into Britain in 1945. I am British so the glaring errors in her portrayal of the post-war Highlands were very annoying. For example, their B&B landlady in a tiny village near Inverness has a car: yeah, right! Claire and her husband are both in the military, a nurse and an intelligence officer, but even before the end of 1945 they are both de-mobbed and on holiday: possible, but not likely.

    Then there are the Scottish accents, though I imagine you will have a better idea about this than me. I lived in Aberdeenshire for 20 years, so I have heard a lot of Doric, and her dialogue was very hit and miss to my ear. However, she did include some nice Scottish words like ‘slaters’ and ‘oxters’ (woodlice and armpits for the non-Scots-speaking). Also, all the Scots had exactly the same accent, which was not at all believable knowing how they are so different from one another even now with modern communication.

    But my biggest issue was that of Claire’s infidelity. She married Frank in 1937/8 and they have been apart for 6 out of the 8 years because of the war. She had infatuations with other men during the war, going so far as to kiss some of them. Then she goes back in time 200 years and is rescued / captured by a group of Highlanders. For unbelievable reasons she HAS to marry Jamie and it HAS to be consummated, but, although she is still planning to return to Frank, instead of bouncing on the bed and making sex noises she actually does the deed with Jamie. Repeatedly. In fact, so much that I was amazed that she could get back on her horse. However, she is marginally conflicted about this and has moments of regret and twinges of guilt. She then runs off to try to return to Frank.

    Most of the read along group were more than happy for Claire to forget about Frank and team up with Jamie, but I found it very difficult to stomach. If she had grieved for Frank and decided that she was stuck in the past and then ‘moved on’ emotionally, I could have accepted her decision much more easily, but she didn’t and I couldn’t. The whole issue of her infidelity was glossed over so that she could enjoy her time with Jamie, which made me wonder why on Earth Ms Gabaldon decided to make her married in the first place.

    My second big issue was the portrayal of the bad guys. I am going to gloss over the fact that they are both English, and I was not even overly offended by the fact that Captain Randall, the main baddy and Frank’s great- great- ancestor, tried to rape Claire at every opportunity, although I did find the book’s attitude to casual rape very offensive indeed. No, it was the fact that he was not only a raper of women, but also of men. Both he and his patron, the Duke of Sandringham, were homosexuals, renowned for their pursuit of young boys and men. We are told of the Duke’s attempted rape of Jamie and that Randall offered to cancel a beating if Jamie would have sex with him.

    You see, the Scots are depicted as ‘good’ rapists: they only rape women who do not have the sense to stay out of their way. But the bad guys are gay, so they will rape anything, and, they are pedophiles as well, because that is all part and parcel of being gay. What? Homosexuals are not pedophiles, nor do they necessarily go around raping other men. I know that rape is often used as a way to assert power and is often seen after military conquests, but this was not what was shown here. The Captain makes his offer to Jamie in private and the Duke is described as soft and having a high-pitched voice, attempting to grope lads at any opportunity. I know that the book was written 20 years ago, but it is still offensive.

    There was also some sadism thrown in to add spice to the many, MANY sex scenes. Plus the book itself is thick enough to hammer nails into a wall with and we had to have the obligatory meeting with Nessie. I think I have remembered everything that I didn’t like about it! :D

  4. Yeah, I almost picked this up, because I go in for just about anything to do with bonnie Scotland. After reading several reviews and attempting the first few pages, I gave up. The book just didn't have an air of authenticity to it at all. I found myself nodding along with Sue's statements above.

    Oh, and the romance part just made my skin crawl. Annoying shit there.

    Again, mine is not a wholly formed opinion based on a thorough reading. But my impressions after the first few chapters were enough to put me off of it.

    Hope you're doing well, Niall!

    The Sound and Fury of Kristopher Denby