So, I just finished An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon, the 7th (and, as-of-now, final) book in the Outlander series. And, I enjoyed it. But…
I really loved the original book, Outlander, and my expectations began high as I set out to read through the series. And, per the usual, those hopes diminished slowly as I progressed. (To be clear: I would still recommend the series as a whole. But, in its entirety, I find it somewhat frustrating).
There is no endgame in sight. Thousands of pages and we are drawing no nearer to a conclusion. The opposite is true, in fact. Gabaldon introduces more characters, more developments, more twists. To excess unfortunately. I take personal issue with this. Unfounded or not, I am deeply, suspiciously critical of said excess. In a situation such as this, the author does not appear to have a well-delineated story outline from the onset. Rather, she is churning out material for the sake of churning out material… and, likely, for profit. That’s gross. I am personally affronted that I may be just another cog in the money-making machinery.
The fact is: I am sensitive to the ability to maintain my interest over a series. I think it’s a profound gift to generate a successful story over hundreds and hundreds of pages. I may have mentioned that the short story is my favorite literary type. It requires unparalleled talent to complete a tale succinctly. But, the opposite is true also. If you’ve required the amount of script that a series might, you have a profoundly intricate story to tell. Or, you don’t. And it is those series that fall flat in my estimation.
Some other recent series and my thoughts on them:
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, 3.5 of 5 stars. As stated, I have enjoyed this series. Regardless of my dismay at being potentially exploited, the story is well-written. The dialogue is an original and inventive component. Gabaldon also masters technique in her settings. She captures memory and emotion well. And, she has an exceptional grasp of several genres including history, medicine, and language.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, 2 of 5 stars. Yeah… I do not like them. (Sue me). Some people may argue that the subject matter is inappropriate for young adult reading. I disagree. “The Lottery” is actually one of my favorite shorts. But, I agree that The Hunger Games lacks in content. I also do not think it was written particularly well. Collins does not impress me with her writing style (or uninspired plot). The only real talent that she possesses (in spades, I might add) can be found in her descriptions. She quite ably illustrates grotesque scenes. It is this, however, that I find inappropriately mature for her readership. The series reads to me as though they are meant to be films. However, I cannot equate the images from the book with a PG-13 movie, the target audience. Mayhaps I’m prudish with gore but… ew.
Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James, 1 out of 5 stars. I’m truly embarrassed that I read this. It is so contrived. If James wanted to write erotica, she shouldn’t have tried to complicate it by supplementing a plot. A poorly executed attempt at porn in print. As to the “love story” aspect? Read a classic if you truly want your heart to be inspired.
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling, 5 out of 5 stars. I cannot expound upon the value of this series in any coherent way. It. Is. Amazing. Read it.
A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin, 4 out of 5 stars. While the series remains unfinished, it has thus far captured my attention. Furthermore, there is a definite sense of Martin’s endgame. Readers should enjoy the plot intricacies and look forward to their (hopeful) resolution. My only complaint relates to the complication of such a multi-veined story. It is difficult to track the numerous story lines, particularly in the manner in which they are written. However, once you devise a means to track individuals, it becomes less cumbersome. This series definitely benefits the reader who is willing to read and overlook detail; awaiting the eventual conclusion. It can be somewhat tiresome for those of us who try to identify every plot clue.
The Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris, 1 out of 5 stars. Since I had enjoyed the television adaptation, True Blood, I wanted to read the books. Big mistake. I can mostly overlook the books as inane-magic-vampiric-fluffery. Mostly. The real shame of the series comes in the finale; which grossly ignores the development of the rest of the books and concludes in a most disappointing fashion.
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, 0 out of 5 stars. Ugh. Setting aside the fact that Bella Swan is the most aggravatingly dumb character ever. And the fact that, again, the subject matter is arguably adult in nature for a suggestible readership. (Vampire babies violently ripping through teenage wombs? Blech). The vampires sparkle. They sparkle. ‘Nuff said.