'Outlander': 5 reasons to read the books before the show premieres

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The alternate ending trailer for the upcoming Starz show " Outlander" was released last week (video below). While the first trailer was amazing, this one, well ... we about lost our minds over the last image, which you can see above. 

Here's the straight deal: I've been a huge fan of the books for more than 15 years now, and I realize the fervor with which fans love them.

Like most books with a devoted, almost cult-like following, there is little in-between with them -- you either love them, or you never make it to the second book. I fall into the first group.

Now, after more than 20 years, "Outlander" is actually being made into a television series. Fans have waited over 20 years for Hollywood to do something with these stories, while actor after actor that we all thought would be perfect rose up in show business and then promptly aged out of contention ( Kevin McKidd circa "Trainspotting" anyone?).

But now beautiful, talented actors have been cast (including  Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe as the leads), a well-known and respected executive producer has been brought on ( Ron Moore) and trailers and stills of their work on location in Scotland are being released. It's really happening.

And yet, you may never have heard of "Outlander" before, or dismissed it as a "romance novel." While there is romance, that's not nearly all there is. Here are five reasons to read these books now, before the show premieres this summer:

1. Beautifully drawn characters

No whiny teenagers here. Claire Randall is an in-the-trenches World War II nurse who isn't going to take any guff from anyone, even when her world seriously stops making sense. She cusses, she's direct and she's smart. She's a survivor. She adapts.

She meets her match when Jamie Fraser comes into her life. He's a stubborn, strong, caring, beast of a man and watching Jamie meet Claire in the books is like the immovable object meeting the unstoppable force. That's saying nothing of the supporting cast. It's a rich tapestry of characters, who embark on thrilling, dangerous, action-packed, heartbreaking journeys that will make a heck of a TV series.

2. Hot guys in kilts with accents

One of the most popular quotes in "Outlander" is "a Highlander in full regalia is an impressive sight -- any Highlander, no matter how old, ill-favored, or crabbed in appearance. A tall, straight-bodied and by no means ill-favored young Highlander at close range is breathtaking."

It can't be stressed enough that many, many GIFs will be made of this particular scene when it airs. And, oh, please, even if other moments fall flat, please let that scene be brilliant. You should know this reference, and the books will help you with that.

3. They might actually make you smarter

The author of the books, Diana Gabaldon, is no slouch in the brain department. She has a doctorate. She started writing the novels for fun. You'll learn a ton about history, botany, geography, archeology, languages and, most importantly, how to stab a man with a dirk.

4. The books are still being written

Like her friend George R.R.Martin, who is still writing the "Game of Thrones" novels, Gabaldon is in the middle of writing the stories. Fans are still learning about these characters and circumstances. They're alive, as it were. The eighth book is being released mid-June. 

5. Comparing and contrasting is fun

Maybe you aren't the kind of person who wants to know ahead of time where the story is going. We totally respect that. But having knowledge of the source material is a fun part of on-screen adaptations. Fans of "Harry Potter" and "Game of Thrones" loved seeing the books brought to life on screen. There is something to be said for dissecting a series on the level of having an idea of your head and talking about what works, what doesn't, what's worse and what's actually better than you were picturing.

Based on what's out there so far, the series is going to strive for greatness in bringing "Outlander" alive in all its glory, so I highly recommend diving into the books now -- or perhaps reading along as you watch when it debuts.

"Outlander" premieres Summer 2014 on Starz.

Photo/Video credit: Starz