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Voyager, by Diana Gabaldon

Voyager, by Diana Gabaldon, is a 'To Be Read' book for my 2016 (Blended) Reading Challenge, and I'm also counting it as the 'book with a love triangle' in my yet-unfinished 50 Book Challenge. This thing is over 1000 pages and should definitely count where I can.


Voyager


I have mixed feelings about this. I'd felt kind of 'meh' about Outlander (liked the story more than the execution) but was blown away by Dragonfly in Amber. I really wanted to love Voyager. I ended up liking it despite myself.

There may be mild spoilers, but nothing too major. Some is necessary content warning, imo.

I'm okay with a whole lot of writers' license and even a great dash of craziness in fiction. I don't usually care for the 'One True Love' trope, but this one works – and adds depth to a great speculative story, focusing on a love so strong it can transcend time and more. Not my usual thing, but I like it here. I like magic, so I have no problem with the juxtaposition of penicillin and scientific inquiry with voudoun and magical inquiry. I've seen a fair bit of craziness myself, and fiction can go ahead and go long with it.

But there were so many things that would have been deal-breakers if the story itself wasn't so good – and of course Jamie. I'm not in love with him so much as I think his dialogue is brilliant from a writing point of view. And I usually hate heavy-handed written dialect, so that's a huge accomplishment for me and nearly worth a whole star in and of itself. I love so many elements, some to my surprise...but the stuff that didn't work, man, it was bad.

Most benign was the long and awkward rebuttal – I mean, conversation – about why good authors often need and produce hugely-long works wherein each word is absolutely vital to the storyline. I can grudgingly admit that this is true, if extremely rare, but it definitely doesn't apply here. There was a whole 'surprise twist' plot that seemed totally out of character for every single person involved, though I saw later why that particular choice was made. I could have given her a pass for all that if this had wowed like Dragonfly, and if she hadn't added about 800 pages of sheer WTF-ery.

Much, much (oh so very much) worse were the many, many instances of racial stereotype and exploitation. Not 'real and gritty' exploitation of the times, but what this author wrote for her story. Perhaps for talk or publicity? Or is she really okay exploiting these concepts so easily herself? The rapiness of each novel is bad enough (and people should be warned that it is indeed each novel so far), but a whole character and his several storylines were like a giant parody, but I don't think they were meant to be. Definitely not vital – or what aspects might have been vital could have been done much, much more respectfully. If she wanted to show the realness of the times, she could have broken out of that 'yellow Chinaman/mindless n---r' mentality herself, yet she revels in it instead, and the story seriously suffers for it. Show the slave market if you must to show Claire's righteous indignation and how it may be more complicated than it seems, but there's a way to do that and a way not to, and this is about ten klicks past 'way not to'.

I wished I could have stopped reading, but the story does have me by now, especially since the show is so good. I'm sad and disgusted that I do end up giving her a pass, because I'm still itching to press on to the next book and find out what happens. I like the books, the good parts are so well done, and I want to really love them, but there's legitimate criticism around this book that I sincerely hope she listened to in the next. I'll even happily deal with thousands of pages and let her preen all she wants if they can stop being filled with unnecessary disrespect and continuous rape.