Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Exile - an Outlander graphic novel

I have the same mixed feelings about this book that I expect I will have if a video/film version is ever made of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. In the afterword, Gabaldon warns that readers who love her books carry their own images in their heads of what her characters look like and that no drawings, even those collaborated on by the author, will mesh exactly with what a reader carries in her/his mind. I found this to be true, however my primary issue with this book was not the drawings but the storytelling itself.

In her foreword, Gabaldon talks about how she used to write comic scripts for Disney. Given that experience and her superb storytelling skills in the Outlander series, I was surprised by how weak the story was. Of course, I got the parts that were lifted from Outlander, but I had a hard time connecting the dots and seeing the story for the trees with the new parts. The cover says that the book will enable the reader to "experience Jamie's side of the story," but again in the foreword Gabaldon says that she wrote the story from the point of view of Murtaugh, Jamie's godfather. The problem was that she didn't stick to one pov--sometimes Jamie's, sometimes Murtaugh's, sometimes even Claire's. Given the complexity of the plot--time travel, clan issues, English/Scottish issues, family issues--it was easy to not follow what the heck was going on.

The drawings didn't really do their part either--I found most of the men ended up looking alike, and so got confused by the new characters since they weren't clearly differentiated from the others, in particular, Dougal, Murtaugh, and Kevin, another time traveler and cohort of Gellis Duncan, seemed interchangeable to me. Strong jawed, clad in plaid, snarling, middle-aged...

I'm glad I own the book--it was actually a fun, quick read, and it will remain on my shelf with my Outlander collection--but I really don't think this is the right medium for Gabaldon to work her craft and tell her stories. Give me another 800-pager over a slim graphic novel any day of the week.

With the holidays upon on this week, I would say that if you have a Gabaldon fan on your shopping list, this would be an excellent gift. On the other hand, if you are looking to introduce someone to Gabaldon, I don't think this is the way to go.

Bottom line: A good, fun, collectible book but not a stick-to-the ribs story experience for moi.

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