Go Tell the Bees that I am Gone by Diana Gabalson
*Outlander Spoilers Ahead*
Alright, so today I am doing something a little bit different. This post has been lingering in my mind for quite awhile now but it never fully seemed like the right time to try to broach the topic. However, now I have an excuse to open the doors. We are going to talk about ongoing series with incredibly long wait times in between books.
Yeah, I'm looking at you - George R.R. Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, and recently removed from my list, Diana Gabaldon. Here's the thing, so many fans are up in arms about having to wait a really long time for new books to release. There are endless articles, reddit threads, and twitter rants all about how these authors need to stop everything else in their lives and write the next damn book. Unpopular opinion here, I don't actually think that is true. Do I hate that there is no new Song of Ice and Fire book? Yes. Is 10 years an unearthly amount of time to wait for a book? Yes. But, I don't think that it's our position as fans to demand authors give up everything to write the next book. Writing is hard. Really, really hard. Even more so when you are writing fantasy epics and now the pressure of the world is on you. So, I think we should give authors the time and space to write the books.
However, another question is raised when one of these authors finally releases a book. What do you do when it's not a good book? I would argue that while we need to give authors the space to write these books, it is their responsibility to craft a really excellent book. Now, you may be wondering, what got Becca all up in her feelings about this topic? I'll tell you.
Go Tell the Bee's That I am Gone by Diana Gabaldon, the ninth (and penultimate?) entry in the much loved Outlander series is ruining my reading life. Ruining it. I started these books about 8 years ago and I truly enjoyed most of the outings in the series. About book 6 though, I started to get frustrated with some of the tropes that Gabaldon continues to use in her writing that only continue to age really badly. For example, I am not exaggerating when I say that every single significant main character in this story experienced sexual assault. I'm not talking like someone's hand on the butt or breast. I am talking graphic depictions of rape that feel so deeply unnecessary at this point. In the beginning, Gabaldon's work was subversive in her depiction of male rape. I can't think of a single major male character experiencing it and her handling of it was really well done. Then in book four, Brianna is brutally raped. Finally, in the last book the same thing happens to Claire. Each time the handling of rape, trauma, and its aftermath becomes less nuanced and borders on trauma porn. Gabaldon makes really problematic choices, particularly from a 2021 lens (distinct possibility you are reading this in 2022 - hope it's better in the future).
I was really hopeful that in the seven years between 2014 and 2021 that Gabaldon would step away from the dramatic trauma to simply create a really good book. Well, let me tell you that is not the case. While this book doesn't have any significant trauma occurring for the characters, there is zero discernible plot, the book jumps between characters, and it is just plain boring. 900 pages of boring. Absolutely nothing changes from the end of Written in my Own Heart's Blood to the end of Go Tell the Bees that I am Gone. Instead we are subjected to at least 300 pages of Jamie and Claire puttering around their house, William being an annoying human, and Brianna randomly traveling. I don't think that I have ever encountered a book in a series that actually made me want to quit reading, but this one came very close. The only reason that I will finish this series is that I have now spent over 15 years reading these books.
Which leads me back to my original statement, I will give authors time to write their books. They don't owe me a book, especially considering that I cannot imagine writing a fiction book - let alone a series spanning thousands of pages. However, if I stick with you as a reader, then I want something that I can rave about. For Gabaldon, it seems like she lost sight of her original aim of the books. That, or we as readers misinterpreted her vision of a long story about Jamie and Claire.
If you've read the new book, I would love to hear your thoughts!