Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Outlander: Finally Read

To this day, I don’t understand why my favorite professor, Dr. Barrow will not read the Harry Potter series. He says he can’t get into them; they’re too unbelievable, etc, etc. I think he’s crazy. However, I also realize my experience of the novel, Outlander, is probably a lot like Dr. Barrow’s experience of Harry Potter (though I actually finished reading Outlander and he cannot say the same for Harry.) After reading—finally finishing—Outlander, I get it.

Not the Outlander experience or need for an amusement park or the fandom, per se, but Dr. Barrow’s experience. Some books just don’t work for an individual no matter how they’re written.

For instance, let’s take the fact that I love: time-travel, Scotland, history, hot men, angst, humor, sex, and all the varied other things that Outlander definitely included in its 800 some pages. But the arrangement didn’t, as a whole, work for me. I cannot deny that Diana Galbadon is a good writer; that she has an excellent grasp on the history, setting, psychology, and social aspects of 18th century Scotland; that her description is painstakingly flawless and as such, I never want to time travel to pretty much any time before the time I’m living in because I’m way too spoiled. It’s just in the end, it’s not a romance to me.

Maybe if I had read the series back when it first came out, I was at an impressionable enough age then to have appreciated it in all its gory glory, but now, not so much. Now for me, romance is HAPPY. I’m all about the happy. It’s not that I’m against angst; I do love me some angst, but in the end, I want me some HAPPY, not the kind of happy for the next five to ten minutes in which this book seemed to end. Yes, it ended with a HEA resolution of sorts, for the momentary second, but with all the promise of it all going to hell again in five seconds.

Which it did. Because there was another book that follows, right? And so on and so forth, and there’s a book coming out this year or so, right? She’s like the combined version of Nicholas Sparks and G.R.R. Martin. I wouldn’t say she writes romance, but she does write a love story; and of course, like Martin’s fiction, the ending still has yet to be determined.

Now, there were some pages of the 800 or so where I was like, “Oh, I would like to scan and send that to Deerhunter. That’s so beautiful!”—but I think the sum total of these pages were 3. They were beautiful, beautiful words; she completely captured the sentiment and emotion of true love. And then she followed it up with something gory and dark, and I was like, “Well, clearly winter is coming.”

This book falls into an odd category for me. It was readable and the pace picked up considerably where I was reading it all the time I had a moment last week, but it is not a book I’d keep. I don’t think I would read beyond this one, but who knows? So if people asked if it was a good book, I would say, “Yes, it was a good book.” But if they asked if I’d recommend it—or if it is a must read, not so much. And mind you, this book won a RITA. Apparently the RWA believed it was a romance (rather than a love story).

So what do you think of epic fantasy novels? A la Outlander…or Game of Thrones…or anything. Are there some you prefer over others? Or do you avoid them altogether?


quantum said...

Some books just don’t work for an individual no matter how they’re written.

Perhaps I should give this another go. I do find that my mood can sometimes have a big influence on whether I like a book. However there are some books that can change my mood and just suck me in to the story whether it's raining or shining.

Of the epic fantasies that I have read I would pick Terry Goodkind's 'The Sword of Truth' as the ultimate mood changer. I think it runs to something like 12 books and once I started I was totally enthralled by the magic. A bit like walking through a magic wardrobe into a new magical world (C S Lewis). I literally couldn't stop reading until the final volume.

I wouldn't describe it as a romance but it is most definitely a love story and it does have a HEA for the hero and heroine ... eventually!

Marnee Bailey said...

Game of Thrones was like this for me. I started it a hundred times. And I think he's a great writer. But I just couldn't get into the story. All those politics. All that... gray character shading. Just these people who aren't good. I had no hero to root for. It just wasn't doing it for me.

I haven't read Outlander, so I don't know how I'd feel about this one. I might get it out of the library, just to check it out.

Janga said...

I want the happy too, Hellie. I think that is one of the reasons that I’m a fan of epilogues and of series that show the HEAs of favorite couples in process in later books. I think there’s a place for ambiguity and for the merely hopeful ending, but that’s not what I want when I read romance fiction. I’ve tried Outlander more than once, but it’s just not for me.

I do like some high fantasy—The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, the Earthsea series, the Harry Potter books, the Dark Is Rising, Tamora Pierce’s Alanna books. I love Peter Beagle’s The Last Unicorn. Generally, I prefer children’s and YA fantasy to that targeting an adult audience. I admit that I have books by Diana Wynne Jones and Patricia Wrede on my keeper shelves. And Sherry Thomas’s The Burning Sky, the first book in her YA Elemental Trilogy, is at the top of my Kindle wish list.

MsHellion said...

Q, I agree, if I had read this at a different time--or even later than now, I probably would be all swept in it and not be so worried about the Happy. I've read books where I hated them and did not recommend them (loudly) to peers--but later I read them and was like, "Well, I suppose I was...a little hasty in my dislike of the book." *LOL*

And it's probably shameful to admit, but I haven't read Narnia. *LOL* (But to be fair, I haven't watched the movies either. *LOL*) Will have to look up the Sword of Truth...

MsHellion said...

Marn, same here with GOT. I have a bookmark in the first quarter of the first book and I'm like, "Well, it's definitely readable, but I don't like anyone." *LOL* I want to like people.

MsHellion said...

Janga, AMEN. Romance fiction=HAPPY ENDING. Nothing ambiguous. I don't like epilogues where other couples are featured that you loved that are now acting like they're on the verge of divorce. NO. It's fiction. I want the promise that everyone is still sickeningly in love with each other...that might be improbable too, but it's what I prefer.

I prefer YA/children's fantasy too to that of an adult audience--there's more promise of good triumphing over evil. More clear demarcation.

Terri Osburn said...

I've never read this and doubt I will. I'm not an epic reader. There were epic romances in the late 80s and early 90s that I adored. To Dance With Kings. Circle of Pearls. But these are epics in one sitting, not in five or six or more books.

Good on your for staying with it to the end. Much too dark for me. I'm guessing that's why the YA fantasy might work better for me. It's dark, but not THAT dark.

MsHellion said...

Terri, I *LOVED* Circle of Pearls and To Dance With Kings (and Through a Glass Darkly)!! Those were the kind of epics I really loved, but when they ended, I think the endings were more positive ending, sweeping romance, love reigns forever type!

The Hunger Games IS that dark. *LOL* But yeah...I'm more likely to read Hunger Games again than this one.

MsHellion said...

Though when I read COP, TDWK, and TAGD, I was young and impressionable...*LOL* Which is why I thought I might have liked Outlander eons ago back when I read the others...

Terri Osburn said...

Hard to tell about changing tastes. I used to devour Romantic Suspense. Now I'm just not interested in them. Will probably swing back around eventually.

irisheyes said...

You pretty much nailed it on the head for me, Hellie! I did read Outlander and got through it and thought it was good. On the other hand, I wouldn't read it again and I have no desire to continue the series. There wasn't enough happy to balance out the dark. I'm okay with dark every so often. Sometimes you're just in the mood for a real angsty epic and I guess I was when I read Outlander. But the thought of picking it up again is a "nah".

I thought it was funny what you said about the fact that if you read it when you were younger you would have appreciated it more. That is so true I think - especially when I was a teen. I would have been all over all of that pain and suffering for love! LOL

Now, I'm just like the rest of you. I need my HEA and I like it in abundance. I love epilogues too and series where I can see other couples living their HEA. I read somewhere that Elizabeth Hoyt is writing an epilogue to one of her Maiden Lane stories - I think the one that gets the most votes. Now that is a series that I would have a hard time picking which one gets the epilogue. I want one for all of them.

Maureen said...

I'm not so dependent on the HEA, but I do like books to end on hope. And the endlessly complex, which once enthralled me, waned in my later years. I think I don't have the memory for it.

P. Kirby said...

Outlander is on my keeper shelf, which is weird because I'm neither a fan of time travel nor historical romance novels. Go figure. Mostly I really like the way Claire and Jamie's relationship unfolds.

Dark doesn't bother me. I love morally ambiguous characters, so Game of Thrones is totally up my alley.

Not sure exactly what you mean by epic fantasy, but yep, Harry Potter is on my shelf, along with The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander and The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper. Also, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman's The Death Gate Cycle. Love Tad Williams's trilogy, Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, and the big ass tome that is The War of the Flowers.

If you like upbeat endings, with a minimum of darkness, Jeff Smith's Bone is absolutely wonderful. Yes, it's a graphic novel, but I think even if that's not your thing, you might enjoy it. I've got all the episodes in one volume, and whew, it's a doorstopper. It's in the same vein as many Pixar movies, in that it works for adults and kids.

Even though Lord of the Rings is what go me into fantasy, honestly...? Nowadays I think the narrative style would bore the shit out of me. Never got into the Narnia series at all, ever.