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Will Outlander be the next big thing?

Epic book series set to premiere on STARZ

Created date

July 14th, 2014
Outlander book by Diana Gabaldon
Outlander book by Diana Gabaldon

In 1991, a scientist and comic book writer named Diana Gabaldon published her first novel, a 640-page amalgam of literary genres called Outlander (Random House). The book became a bestseller, winning legions of fans all over the world. Slate magazine called it “the smartest historical sci-fi adventure-romance story ever written by a science Ph.D. with a background in scripting Scrooge McDuck comics.” 

Since then, there have been seven additional Outlander books, each nearly a thousand pages, and the series has sold more than 25 million copies. The latest, Written in My Own Heart’s Blood, was released in June and is on the current New York Times Bestsellers List. 

Mysterious time travel

Outlander focuses on Claire Beauchamp Randall, an English combat nurse who cared for wounded soldiers during World War II. When she and her husband Frank take an excursion to Scotland in 1946, Claire mysteriously falls through time, landing at the same location in 1743. While desperately trying to find her way back to her own time, Claire encounters a colorful cast of characters, from her husband’s evil, four-times great-grandfather, to a sickly but powerful laird, a conniving witch, and a sensitive young Highland warrior named Jamie Fraser. When romance blossoms between Claire and Jamie, she finds herself torn between two very different men in two very different times. 

Outlander’s characters are well drawn and the story is exceedingly well researched. It’s amusing to see Claire, a rather brash modern woman, navigate her way through the genuinely old-fashioned society where females simply didn’t exhibit the kind of feistiness and independence that define her.  

Gabaldon calls on her background in science to present a realistic portrait of the burdens of daily life before the advent of modern medicine and sanitation practices. It’s fascinating to see how Claire relies on her nursing background and plain ingenuity to tend to the sick at a time when bloodletting was the definition of state-of-the-art care. At the same time, squeamish readers should be cautioned that Gabaldon accurately depicts the brutal and barbaric customs of the time. There are scenes that contain graphic violence and sex that are not for the faint of heart.

Originally published 23 years ago, there’s been a recent surge of interest in the Outlander series due to the upcoming 16-part Outlander television program premiering on the STARZ cable network August 9, 2014. Produced by Ronald D. Moore, who is best known for his work on Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek, Outlander was recently named “Most Exciting New Series” by the Critics Choice Television Awards.

To satisfy all those who want to read the book before seeing the show, Random House has re-released the original story with a special STARZ tie-in cover. At 640 pages, you might not be able to finish the book before the show premieres, but then again, it is a page-turner!