Friday, November 20, 2009

REVIEW OF NOVEL ECHO IN THE BONE BY DIANA GABALDON


Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon

It has been a couple of weeks since I finished Diana Gabaldon's last mammoth installment of the Jamie and Claire saga, and I am only writing about it now because I was so disappointed with it I needed time to recover. 

As many of you may know I am one of THOSE fans of Gabaldon's work.  I mean I LOVE her.  LOVE the series beyond all reason, and wait like a rabid Twilight fan waiting for the next fix of vampire glamour, for the next book to come out.  I re-read the series in anticipation of its release, which only fanned the flames of my love for The Books.

I am going to review this book without revealing any spoilers, but I will warn you, it will not be glowing! 

Let's start at the beginning, shall we?  The beginning of the book starts confusing, and it doesn't really get much better througout.  We start with Brianne and Roger in the past, and for those of you who read the last installment know how that one ends.  Immediately I was completely at a loss as to why the book started that way, and it was never really explained.  Then the most annoying thing happened....

LARGE HUNKS of the book were about Lord John Grey and his son William.  I mean HUGE chunks.  And it wasn't like they were interacting with Claire or Jamie, it was massive amounts of the book dedicated to their storylines which were then jammed together with J and C later.  I cannot TELL you HOW IRATE I became with each passing page of these two.  And it wasn't even scenes with them together most of the time, much of the book is dedicated to their perspective, but there is a central theme lacking in the book to tie all of the storylines together.  Everytime I got to yet another section of William or Lord John, I would almost throw my book accross the room and scream, "WHERE THE HELL ARE JAMIE AND CLAIRE?"   Echo is not a book about Jamie and Claire, I will warn you.  And not only that, it is the sloppiest of Gabaldon's work by far, and I am not the only one who feels this way.  (You can also check out Good Reads and read dozens of fans who have similar feelings)  Now, granted, there are many people who loved this one, and that's fine.  I'm just not one of them. 

Here are some facts as we know them:
  • DG does not write in a straight line (writing styles vary among authors, and this is not unusual), she writes in bits and then kinds of pastes them all together.  Normally the pieces are all seamlessly sewn together to make a cohesive unit.  Never has this style of writing been more apparent.  Most chunks of the book are just that, and many times it feels like they were literally just cut and pasted on the editor's software.
  • And let's talk about editing.  DG has said that she delivered the pieces of the final manuscript, along with a few extra bits, to the editor only 5 WEEKS before it was released.  Echo clocks in at a staggering 814 pages!  How does an editor successfully edit a huge manuscript such as this in only 5 weeks?  Many fans, including myself, actually think this book could have been made much better with more editing.  A LOT more. 
  • Some people feel, and again I am ranked among them, that DG whether consciously or unconsciously has made some of us feel bullied into reading the Lord John series of books.  Everytime I got to yet another huge section of William or LJ I felt like she was ramming the characters down my throat.  I wanted a book about Jamie and Claire, who are, in reality, minor characters in this one.
  • And now to another more delicate matter.  One of the things I have always loved about the Outlander series is her handling of the "ripping bodice" scenes, to put it politely.  They were always done with just the right amount of tact and yet enough description to make you melt just a little.  In Echo, these scenes between J and C are WAY over the top, I mean to the point where I was like, "YUCK! I just didn't need to read that! And why is she writing it like that!"  In fact, there is a scene with young Ian in bed by the fire outdoors watching  Jamie and Claire and, well, taking things into his own hands, so to speak.  And we are hearing his thoughts as he is saying, "Uncle Jamie likes that" sort of thing.  OH MY GOD, Diana, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING!
And don't even get me started on the end.  The last 100 pages are so harried and rushed, and are so waaaay out there that I felt almost disgust after reading them.  Can you see now why I was having a hard time writing this rant   review? 

Phew.

I am so glad to get that off my chest. 

To be honest, I have not been able to even look at the books on my shelves since then.  I am not even sure when I will be able to read them again, my feelings are so strong.  I know this may seem overdramatic, and that's fine, but when you invest your time and life reading a series over YEARS, and each book that comes out takes 3 or 4 YEARS to be released, it is not hard to feel cheated.  Now we have to wait ANOTHER 4 years to find out what happens, and since there were so many cliffhangers at the end, many fans feel very frustrated.   And if the New York Times bestsellers list is any indication, her book opened at number 2 on the list (second only to The Lost Symbol which was released only a week prior) and then slipped to number 8, I believe it was, and then it quickly dropped out of the top ten entirely, and I believe it is for good reason.

And to those that loved it?  YOU ARE SO LUCKY!  I WANTED to love it.  I wanted to be over-the-moon about it. 

RATING:  1/5

PS you can comments on Diana's blog where some fans have questioned her about some of the issues discussed above, her answers are pretty interesting.

6 Blabs:

Anonymous said...

I agree with everything you've said about ECHO. If anything, your thoughts about the book are kinder than mine. Frankly, I found it so relentlessly, doggedly bad that I am now resentful that I plowed all the way through to the end in the doomed hope/belief that SURELY it would start getting better. (Nope, it never did.) Boy, THERE went a chunk of my life that I'll never get back.

I also agree with you, btw, about the sexuality. I found the "love" scenes gratuitous and cheap.

In fact, I found the characters so inane, the sex so voyeuristic and sleazy, and the story so leaden and aimless... I wondered if my tastes had changed enormously since reading OUTLANDER, whether it's just not as good a book as I remembered. Maybe I just don't like this author's work, period?

So I dug up my old copy of OUTLANDER, which I haven't read in 15 years or so... and I'm AMAZED at the difference between that book and this. OUTLANDER -is- a terrific read, I did NOT misremember that. I'm 2/3 of the way through and can scarcely put it down.

So what an EARTH happened to this author? It's not just that ECHO is a little below par, or lame, or not very good. It's just AWFUL. What gives?

Diane said...

I so appreciate honest reviews: glowing or not. Thanks so much....sorry you found this one so disappointing/frustrating.

Lisa said...

You're not the first person I've seen that's been disappointed. Which is sad for me even though I have yet to open a book in the series. I was just about convinced that I needed to get started with it if all the books were great. Now I'm going to have to rethink that.

Lisa said...

To Anonymous: TOTALLY. I agree 100% with your thoughts on Outlander. SUPERIOR and fantastic writing! The best escape book for me.. by far!
And Lisa: The series is the best series I have ever read in my life. This latest book is not. But the series up until then? AWESOME. And in fact, the last book before this one ends in such a way that could easily end it there and be satisfied. Give at least the first one a try!

Laura said...

RE: editing--clearly there was no time for an edit. Typically, a novel at a major house spends about a year in production. In terms of working with the text, that process includes the editorial notes and line edit; the author's revision and final draft; the copy edit; the author's review of the copy edit; typesetting; the author's review of the galleys (page proofs), which is the final opportunity to make sure every line of the book is ready to be printed.

With this book having been finished only 5 weeks before release, I assume there was no time for editorial notes or a line edit, or author revisions, or for the author to proofread the galleys.

If there was even time for a copy edit, which is open to question, there certainly wasn't time for an effective one. Normally, a copy editor receives the MS -after- all the major revisions and the line edit are done, and then goes over the book for the fine detail editing (including typos and consistent punctuation). One of a copy editor's tasks is also to flag inconsistencies or continuity gaffs for the author to review and fix. Obviously, that would be difficult (probably impossible) without having the whole MS--and since the MS wasn't completed until 5 weeks before release, there was, in any case, presumably no time at all for the part of the process where the author reviews the flags and fixes problems.

Alyce said...

I'm glad to see that I wasn't the only one who thought the sex scenes were voyeuristic and weird. I too questioned whether my reading tastes had changed, or if the book was that different from the earlier books. It's really too bad because the first books were so good, and there is so much potential there for a great story.

I didn't mind the Lord John storylines so much, but really did want the story to move along more. I'm curious about Master Raymond's story too, and have been disappointed that we haven't heard anything in relation to him or a history of why some characters can time travel.

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