In which I ramble about reading the first book in the Outlander series (and complain a fair amount too).
I’m not sure how I wound up reading Outlander after all I went through to avoid reading it. Normally, if there’s a big series out I’ll at least give it a try. Even if it’s not in my genre of choice.
Not this one though.
I think ages ago, when I found out about how much Diana Gabaldon hated fanfiction and dismissed its writers, I wrote the series off before I even started it. I had a grudge and I held it well. That was years ago, before I actually knew what the series was about. Recently (within the past year), I decided that I wouldn’t be reading or watching the series because of the sexual assault in both as it is a major trigger for me.
But then last week I noticed a link to a discounted ebook verion in one of BookRiot’s deal emails. And I’m a sucker for deals. For two bucks I could get the first book in the Outlander series? Hell yes I was interested.
I bought the book but then didn’t touch it until yesterday. I wanted to make sure I was prepared. I tweeted about starting the book and how I was worried about the content. My tweeps were awesome and told me what to expect.
Starting it yesterday was probably not my best idea. I read the first fifty pages on my way to work. I read another hundred pages while at work. I stayed up until one in the morning reading last night and Outlander was the first thing on my mind when I woke up a few hours ago.
So I’m done and well… I have a few thoughts.
First of all, I’m not reading the rest of the series. Historical fiction (fantasy or otherwise) is not really my thing. It’s a quibble that goes in hand with being a history major and a history buff. Little details that I didn’t think would bug me, bug me and while this books seems well researched, I know myself. I know that I’ll end up doing more than my fair share of research on the time period and location and pissing myself off for it.
Okay, it’s a good book. It’s a really good book. I can see why the series became popular because for something almost as old as I am, it holds up really well. The dialogue is neat and often funny, emotions are shared properly and it all feels layered and nuanced. It’s a really good book and while I’m not mad about that per se … well I’m a bit grumpy over the fact that I’m only now reading it.
Something though that I had a huge issue with that isn’t limited to Gabaldon’s work at all is the whole thing where gay men or men who are attracted to other men in any significant capacity are portrayed as rapist (or future rapists) in fiction. Randall is a horrifying villain in this book and he’s certainly evil, but a lot of it is portrayed as correlation. Because Randall can’t have Jamie or love or whatever, he’s a monster.
I’m just saying that I think it could’ve been done differently and done better. Two characters were shown as interested in men (Randall and that duke right before Claire gets taken by the mob) and both of them are shown as not respecting consent in the slightest. The duke is a joke and they all laugh about his desperateness when compared to Randall’s awful everything but either way this isn’t cool.
I don’t tend to have this issue very often when reading romance novels because they tend to go for LGBTQIA erasure over everything else but recently (within the past two-three years) I’ve been noticing a lot of historical fantasy/romance books that introduce queer characters and have them being predatory. It’s annoying and offensive and disrespectful.
What’s weird is how that one thing is what messed the book up for me.
Not the rapes. Not the murder.
Not the history I was trying to understand.
Not the weird magic that makes no sense.
The reliance of our dear author on this damaging trope that portrays all men in the book that are interested in other men as dangerous and/or damaged is just… it was the thing I couldn’t take. It got me that messed up to where I kind of made myself power through the last hundred pages or so because I just couldn’t handle it anymore.
I know the show is much worse because where the POV tends to stick with Claire in the books and we’re not witnessing what happens firsthand in the show well… I’m assuming it’s like Game of Thrones where all of the horrifying things happen on screen and in front of the viewer for greater effect.
I’m so full of complicated feelings because one thing has messed me up with regard to the book. I liked Outlander well enough, but I could’ve loved it if not for the gross trope aspects to it.