Donna's Reviews > Labyrinth: A Novel Based on the Jim Henson Film

Labyrinth by A.C.H. Smith
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's review
Nov 17, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: best-bitten, cheese, squeemers, fantasy, library

First I just want to say that the copy I have doesn't have that cover since I have the UK version of the book but I couldn't find that particular one. *sigh* Substitutes. I'll live.

Anyway, as Hollywood is wont to do now, because, apparently, they've smoked their creativity away, and adapt movies from books, it used to be heavily the other way around. I'm not sure how many movie novelizations have been made recently but they used to be very common. Labyrinth was one of them. The person writing the novelization really didn't have too much creative license with what they were given but if they were given enough information, and had the talent, they could write an amazing adaptation of a movie.

I have The Lost Boys movie novelization and it's one of the most skeletal, sterile books I own and the only reason I own it is because it's Lost Boys. The author claims that he was basically given the script and told to turn it into a book. He didn't have any insight into the characters, nothing, so he had to work with what he was given. I haven't read any of his other books but, really, that writing doesn't make me want to, either.

ACH Smith on the other hand wrote an amazing novelization that's so rich in language that it would have fared just fine had the movie never existed. Not that I'm saying I don't want the movie to exist. God, why would I do such a stupid thing? I'm just saying, the novelization's really good.

Usually movie novelizations offer some "deleted scenes" that we don't get to see in the movie. Labyrinth, however, stuck really closely to the final cut of the film with only minor deviations and much more internal workings. We're able to get deeper into Sarah's, Jareth's and Hoggle's heads than the movie could provide. Not to mention Smith didn't hide from the subtext of sexual tension in the film in the book. It was right there for all to see on the pages, never mind Sarah was just 15 and the Goblin King, well, wasn't. The book never does say how old Jareth is but David Bowie wasn't even in the realm of legal to a 15 year old. Not that that stops the fanfiction writers any.

What I like about the book that the movie doesn't touch on as much is the aspect of growing up. Sarah very much lives in a fantasy land and at 15, it can be argued that, maturity-wise, she's a little behind because of it. But as the story goes on and her quest becomes more and more solid in her head and she carries that burden of responsibility, Sarah grows up. At the end of the movie, Sarah calls all her Labyrinth friends back to her and they come and they have a grand old time. In the book, one of the characters tells her, "Sometimes to need is to let go." You can't walk around with that security blanket for the rest of your life, right? Sure, you need it but, eventually, you have to let it go. She tells them she needs them, but they don't come. She has to stand on her own now. It's a much more adult ending. Or mature, I should say.

The book is just as rich and vibrant as the movie and Smith does an amazing job of recreating Jim Henson's and Brian Froud's world into words. Smith's a very talented writer and his way around a character's emotions is just astounding. The way he was able to get into their heads and make them three-dimensional even on the page makes me envious. Sure, it helps that I picture everything as clear as day as it is in the movie, and I'm slightly biased, but it's a really good read regardless.

If you can find a copy of this book, hold onto it for dear life. It's out of print and the copies available in various places are not by any means cheap. I was lucky enough to get my copy on eBay back before the website was anywhere near as popular as it is now so the competition was much lower. I don't remember how much I paid for it but rest assured, I will cut you if you come near it.
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