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Monday, September 27, 2010

Back to the Highlands: Jamie & Claire in Living Color


Everyone does it, and no matter what you like to read, I bet you've done it, too. You're reading along, perfectly happy, when suddenly you think to yourself, "Man, if only there were PICTURES in this book!".

That's perfectly understandable when you consider how much visual stimulation we encounter on a daily basis. TV, movies, video games, plus pretty much anything else that can be filmed then streamed to our computers and smart phones with only a few keystrokes, and... you get the picture, right? (Yep, that's a mostly-unintentional tee-hee, there, but it further illustrates the point, if you see what I mean.)

Of course, some things actually are hard to visualize--especially when you only have the written word to go by--and even when an author is adept at describing characters, scenes, etc., there are times when having a few pictures would help.

Occasionally, though, descriptions are so effective that the written word is sufficient. Take, for instance, Diana Gabaldon's Outlander. After finally getting around to reading it a few months ago (and yes, it took me long enough... although I devoured it once I finally picked it up! ;)), I was surprised to hear that a graphic novel was in the offing. Her depictions of everything are so vivid that a graphic version seemed almost superfluous. 

Then again, fast cars, exquisite jewelry, and luscious desserts aren't strictly necessary, either... yet we seem to derive considerable pleasure from having some combination or other of them in our lives. And, such is also the case with The Exile, the first graphic novel from Gabaldon's epic series, resulting from her collaboration with illustrator Hoang Nguyen.

Unlike the other (admittedly few) graphic novels I've read, Gabaldon takes a somewhat-different tack with The Exile. It's neither a wholly-new side story nor a straight-up retelling of her existing work. Instead, she's created a hybrid, using approximately the first third of her massive novel, adding a little bit of history before that story began, then switching the perspective. Unlike the original novel, though, which is told from heroine Claire's point-of-view, The Exile looks at events through hero Jamie's eyes.

As anyone familiar with the series already knows, the idea of condensing even one-third of a 650-page behemoth into a slender volume of illustrated frames is nothing short of mind-boggling. Outlander is so many things, rolled up into one immensely-satisfying and complex story: a romance, an historical saga, and an action-adventure tale... with dollops of sci-fi, fantasy, and mystery thrown in for good measure. How does one condense that??

For the most part, The Exile succeeds with flying colors (snicker). The addition of the pre-story, explaining how Jamie and his men happened to be in the area where Claire first appeared, works well. Gabaldon chose key events to focus on, so several of the major scenes that everyone remembers from the early portion of the book are included. And most importantly in a graphic novel, the illustrations themselves are simply stunning, with well-drawn and recognizable characters, wonderful attention to details, and glorious colors.

Where the book comes up just a smidgeon short for me is in its brevity. Sometimes it's a little confusing; there isn't an obvious segue from every chapter to the next, so it's a bit choppy in places. (And I think it would be nearly impossible for someone who hasn't read Outlander to really get the gist of the full story.) All in all, though, the end result is highly-satisfying; it's nifty experiencing the story from a slightly-different angle, and wonderful to see it brought to vivid, full-color life.

The book has one additional feature worth a special mention; much like the bonus section at the end of a DVD, The Exile has a "making of" section. Here, Gabaldon chats about the whole process, especially working with the illustrator and all the things they went through to get Claire and Jamie "just right". (I'm calling that the "Bosoms and Bums" portion. ;)) It's a humorous, behind-the-scenes look, and a lot of fun to read.

I've got my fingers crossed that The Exile does really well, and that the publishers will want to continue the series in graphic form. It's a super-cool change of pace... and a great way to relive and re-experience a sensational saga. 
GlamKitty Catnip Mousie Rating: 4 out of 5 mousies

  

7 comments:

  1. Wow, I'd never have envisioned Gabaldon as a graphic novel!!!

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  2. Me, either, but if you really enjoy the medium--which I do--then it's pretty cool. :)

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  3. Excellent review GK. It expresses how I felt about it very well. :)

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  4. Wow, better get to business and buy The Exile. With such glowing remarks, how can one resist?

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  5. Diana Gabaldon has been on my list for so long. SO long. And I looove me some graphic novels. Hmmmm....

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  6. Cynical, when you're ready to make the plunge, start with Outlander, then immediately follow it with The Exile. Reading them back-to-back would make the graphic novel experience even better, I think... :)

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