Diana Gabaldon
Outlander Cover



Man, I have fallen behind on my reviews. These are gonna be a bit short.

About two weeks ago I read Diana Gabaldon's Outlander, because I had been a bad book nerd and watched the television show first, and the television show was awesome. It is about a World War II combat nurse named Claire who accidentally time travels back to eighteenth-century Scotland and drinks a lot and has a romance with a slightly silly, very handsome young Highlander warrior named Jamie. There is a lot of politics and a lot of sex and a lot of drinking and a lot of weird gross medical stuff and very little magic except for the time travel, which, interestingly, seems to be an established thing in that universe, in that there are a lot of stories of women (always women) time-traveling two hundred years away and eventually returning.

The first half of the book I basically knew what was happening, because the TV show thus far has covered it. The second half was all new material, since the second half of the first season of the show doesn't start for another few weeks. I'm really curious if they'll keep quite everything the same, since Jamie in the show is a bit nicer and dorkier than Jamie in the books, who is a bit of a jerk, but definitely is more of a jerk in the second half now that he is an eighteenth-century husband. Much of the second half of the book deals at great length with the ethics of beating people, especially dependents, in the context of But It's The Eighteenth Century. It's a bit disturbing, not even in the ways that I'm used to romance novel-y crap being disturbing--it's not glamorized or handwaved away as OK Because It's Love, but it makes it look reasonable by actually discussing it thoughtfully and with a lot of analysis of responsibilities, power dynamics, and what it is that is supposedly being accomplished. It's so creepy.

Additionally, the stuff that is supposed to be creepy succeeds spectacularly at being creepy too! Mainly, Black Jack Randall. I can't actually discuss anything about him here because everything is a giant trigger warning. I will say I am very curious about how a certain thing that happens to him at the end of the book affects the future.

While the book has strong elements of being a romance novel, it's definitely a good romance novel for people who are me, because it's packed full of high-intensity stuff-besides-romance, interspersed with actual humor. (God save me from romance that insists upon being dead serious all the time.) This is not to say that the book was without its things-I-experience-as-flaws; it is a very stuff-packed book and it does not skimp on anything, including stuff I'd rather it skimped on. I am the worst at reviewing romances. I'm just like "Ugh, OK, I guess Claire really loves Jamie or whatever, I guess that's as good a motivation as any... for DARING PRISON BREAKS AND WRESTLING WOLVES WOOO" and then once the wolves are wrestled I'm like "Heartfelt reunion blah blah, is there anything in the world more boring than other people's boobs, who's gonna get kidnapped next?" which means my standards for judging a romance are like "How daring were the prison breaks?" I will say, this book has some astoundingly intense prison breaks; they are not for the faint of heart.

I definitely want to read the sequels, but I may reserve them for beach reading.

Originally reviewed at http://bloodygranuaile.livejournal.com/62011.html