(copied and pasted from Goodreads, with some edits)
Six down, however many to go. If you find the tone of this review sardonic, more appropriate for panning the book, please believe me that I enjoyed this, even when there were lulls in the plot and emotionally difficult passages. Do not read this title without reading its five predecessors.
Snow and Ashes is, IMHO FWIW, the best-written of the series that I have read thus far. Dr. Gabaldon, fondly known as "Herself," truly solidified her writing style and her sense of narrative space by Book 6 of the Outlander saga. She also ratcheted up the sex and the violence for this one, as well as the sexual violence. The extended Fraser family's kill count increases dramatically—we Ian Murray, for example, has absorbed a shall-we-say very different view of life and death from his brief time as a Mohawk—and there's some wrenching rape and post-rape recovery narrative.
The paperback copy that I read came with a most ironic flaw: In addition to its 1400+ pages, in its middle third it has two clumps of 32 pages each that are repeats of pages already read. It's almost as if someone in the print room said, "Damn, this book just isn't thick enough. I know a way to fix that."
In my mind as I read, the soundtrack to this book consisted entirely of 10cc's "Things We Do for Love" on endless loop. Why did 20th century surgeon Dr. Claire Beauchamp Randall want so badly to return to the 18th century back in Voyager, gambling that she might not become Claire Fraser again, knowing the perils of the times? Oh yeah, that love thing. If it can make people kill, torture, steal, build elaborate webs of lies, and sacrifice themselves the way Gabaldon's characters do, love must indeed be the most powerful force in the universe. If that isn't Gabaldon's intended message, indeed of the entire series, I reckon it should be.
After 7,000 pages of the Outlander saga, I can usually tell shortly after a character's introduction whether that character will survive into the next installment or die in some grisly way. I will not tell you which of these types my two favorite minor characters are:
Easy to overlook, amid all the chaos in the run-up to the American Revolution, is the wickedly Faulknerian subplot involving Jaime's relatives at River Run and their 150-odd slaves who almost never run away. I really didn't want to mention the Starz TV adaptation in this review, but...here goes. If you're watching Seasons 4 and 5 of the miniseries, and you have grown to despise the ever-genteel Aunt Jocasta MacKenzie Cameron Cameron Cameron Innes, prepare to get your hate on even more. Jocasta isn't willfully evil, but she is a most unfortunate product of her times and her family tree.
And then there's the whole Stephen Bonnet mess, about which I'll say only this: The psychopaths and narcissists in this saga always show their human side and gain a smidgeon of sympathy from the reader; nonetheless, the reader still wants them dead.
Gabaldon's real strength is weaving history into the tapestry of bodice-ripper romance and sci-fi trappings. Unless you grow up in the Carolinas, you probably don't get much information in your history classes about how the Revolution went down in the southern colonies. We mostly learn of Boston and Philadelphia, not much else. Just as in the other twelve, North Carolina had its share of nasty colonist-on-colonist violence between the War of Regulation and the siege of Boston. Declaring yourself for one side or the other could be not just a death sentence but a "whole family tortured and killed plus your servants and your livestock stolen" sentence. But staying neutral didn't improve the situation. A group of settlers on a 10,000-acre plot in the Carolina Piedmont in the 1770s could take nothing for granted and had to remain on armed alert. Herself doesn't hit us over the head with a history lesson, but lets the characters interact with the history in intensely believable ways.
I am glad that my wife encouraged me to read this volume while we've been taking in Season 5 of the TV version, mostly because Season 5 borrows rather heavily from Book 6. What it borrows, I'd rather not spoil for you.
This entry is adapted from my review of Drums of Autumn on Goodreads. From scanning other reviews there, it appears to me that a sizable percentage of Outlander series consumers hit the wall in the fourth volume. It's not an easy-breezy read, and it doesn't reward the reader sufficiently for the effort, says this non-reviewer. Most likely, I will plow through the remainder of the series, mostly on the strength of Diana Gabaldon's character depictions and development, and watch Season 4 when it drops in November.
One of the benefits of painstaking accuracy in historical fiction is the richness of the imagery that makes the reader feel there. One of the risks of painstaking accuracy in historical fiction is that the interest level of the plot may suffer in sacrifice to that accuracy.
Dr. Gabaldon's Drums of Autumn is big and sweeping enough to provide ample examples of both the benefit and the risk. Despite its size and scope, I don't have a lot more to say about it.
One downside of this large multi-volume saga, now that I'm four volumes in, is that I'm having trouble remembering what happened in which of the volumes. What, you mean I need to have my copy handy in order to review it, or risk moaning about a sub-optimal plot point that actually happens in Voyager? Do tell!
Yesterday I left work early due to a flare-up of a chronic digestive disorder that either induces or results from sinus pain. No practicing physician has ever been able to explain it, much less treat it successfully. But that isn't the topic of this entry.
After I got home, I soaked, slept a bit, ate lunch (probably still not fully digested the today), watched the latest episode of Outlander a second time, and then channel-surfed a bit. In my surfing, I stumbled across a speech on C-SPAN 2, catching it 20 minutes in, that stirred up no small amount of hope for humanity in me.
The speaker was Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of the Scottish Parliament, leader of the Scottish National Party. It was more than a tad serendipitous that I found this speech after spending an hour with Claire, Jamie, Bree, Roger, and Claire's officemate Dr. Joe Abernathy. In Sturgeon's address to the SNP's annual conference (about 51 minutes), there was just enough of the flavor of Geillis Duncan/Gillian Edgars's "We are Bonnie Prince Charlie!" speech from Outlander episode 2.13 to elicit some knowing giggles.
This is Volume III in the continuing saga of How My GF Convinced Me to Read the Outlander Series without Trying Very Hard. The first two volumes are here and here.
I will freely admit that the video adaptation on Starz played a big part in getting me to dive into the books three whole years after Kayleen first raved about them to me.
For the record, Voyager, the third novel in Diana Gabaldon's series, was first published in 1994, a little before the Star Trek franchise spawned its series that was also entitled Voyager. In the year following its publication, the book won an honor from Entertainment Weekly for Best Opening Line in a novel. Even if the opening doesn't make you chuckle, know that there are chuckles aplenty, and even a few LOLs, in this sweeping tale.
The next feat of literary endurance will be to tackle the third book in the Outlander series, entitled Voyager, preferably before the Season 3 premiere of the Starz Original Series®.
Add me to the pile of readers who think Drag-On Fly would have been better minus 200-300 pages. Normally I don't hold it against an author when the book is full of padding that doesn't advance the narrative, extraneous "character moments," even Moby Dick–style long-winded explanations. The Harry Potter series has some of the best padding I've ever encountered, stuff that would sink the page-to-screen translation like a lead weight—e.g., the subplot involving Hermione's Society for the Preservation of Elvish Welfare.
Gabaldon's extra padding in D in A does us readers the great service of making 18th-century Scotland that much more real, through all the senses, right down to the smells of the malnourished and malprovisioned Jacobite Army. But there's too damn much of it. Nonetheless, that multi-sensory approach is one of the aspects in which the quality of the writing took a quantum jump over the first Outlander volume.
I'm reading Outlander and enjoying it. And I'm a guy. So there.
I'm just over 300 pages into the first novel of the series, which weighs in at about 800 pages in paperback.
I'm also concurrently watching on DVD the Starz video adaptations of Diana Gabaldon's best-sellers. Each season covers one of the books; so far, Starz has broadcast its treatments of Outlander and Dragonfly in Amber. The video version of Voyager is due this fall.
Blogging Sporadically since 2014
Here you will find political campaign-related entries, as well as some about my literature, Houston underground arts, peace & justice, urban cycling, soccer, alt-religion, and other topics.