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The Labyrinth Hardcover – April 4, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 184 pages
  • Publisher: Prime Books (April 4, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1894815653
  • ISBN-13: 978-1894815659
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.8 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,675,471 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In Valente's surreal, image-driven first novel, centered on the Greek myth of the Minotaur, a female Theseus details the bizarre landscape of the Minotaur's maze and its unique flora and fauna. These include a wisdom-dispensing monkey guide, a mystery-solving "Meaningful Lobster" straight out of Lewis Carroll and numerous other creatures who evoke works of classic fantasy and mythology. The pursuing entities in the claustrophobic maze-world are not the bull-headed monsters of legend but doorways to other dimensions, which the characters spend much of their time avoiding. Most of the action is internal, as characters swap life stories, exchange experiences and try to solve their way out of puzzles philosophically. The author's poetic prose simmers with paraphrases from Blake, Milton, Shakespeare and other literary heavyweights, and this often gives her descriptions stimulating depth and richness. Sometimes, though, her sentences groan under the weight of images awkwardly layered and fused to express the unique chaos of this private universe. Readers who luxuriate in the telling of a tale and savor phrases where every word has significance will enjoy the challenge of this fantasy. Others may find its maze of language an impenetrable mystery.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

More About the Author

Catherynne M. Valente is an author, poet, and sometime critic who has been known to write as many as six impossible things before breakfast. She is to blame for over a dozen works of fiction and poetry, including The Orphan's Tales, Palimpsest, Deathless, and The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. She has won the Tiptree Award, the Andre Norton Award, the Mythopoeic Award, the Lambda Award, the Rhysling Award, and the Million Writers Award for best web fiction. She lives on an island off the coast of Maine with her partner, two dogs, an enormous cat, and a slightly less enormous accordion.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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See all 12 customer reviews
If you don't like poetry or abstractness in your stories I wouldn't read this book.
K. Eckert
I recommend this book for anyone who loves mythology, and I'm going right away to email my mythology professor to tell him he should read it, too.
Emily Monroe
The ever-changing landscapes provide a backdrop for a modern epic poem of unparalelled beauty.
Josh Bell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Valentina on October 21, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I'm not a big reviewer, but that is also because I used to read for a living. You get sick of talking about books. But this one is different from the run of the mill and it deserves a review.

First let me say, (because this is a small press book) I was entirely satisfied and more with the physical copy itself. It is beautiful. You have nothing to worry about there.

now on to the STORY....

If you're interested in this book, you're not seeking a 'typical' read. Don't expect to learn about someone's terrible divorce or quarky family. This is not that kind of book. It is more experimental but I found that invitational, not offputting. I found myself itching to underline certain parts of it and to mark it up in general just so I remembered my thoughts as I read through it. In short: it is rather inspiring. You are guarenteed to have a strong opinion on the work.

The story is of a woman who has swallowed the Compass Rose and has been traveling through a Labyrinth filled with snapping, dangerous doors that threaten to take her off the true pathway. As you follow her, you are treated to glimpses of who she might have been at one time. These tangents are fascinating...the one that stands out in my mind the most is "I came of age during the plague years." Yet despite these tempting offshoots, I didn't feel cheated following the narrator. I was compelled to see her destination.

Valente uses a lot of strong images and sometimes s contrasting images to convey her vision of the Labyrinth and its inhabitants. Her style is distinct and intentional and her voice is very feminine. You will either love it or hate it, but she will never commit the crime of leaving you uncertain.

I checked out her website.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Emily Monroe on December 30, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I have finished The Labyrinth by Cathrynne M. Valente. I devoured it, like a Door. It was beautiful, a lyrical epic poem in prose. The language was amazing, it gave me a tingly feeling in my spine, and in my throat. I know some who might have thought it was excessive, but this story could only have been told in language such as that. An ordinary story demands ordinary language, and this is no ordinary story. It's an extraordinary journey through psychologically charged image after image.

downdowndowndowndown

I highly recommend this book, for anyone who loves the English language, and the myriad of ways in which it can be used. I recommend this book for anyone who loves mythology, and I'm going right away to email my mythology professor to tell him he should read it, too. I recommend this book for anyone who loves things that are out of the ordinary, because this book is extraordinary.

I warn you, once you read this book, your perception of reality won't be the same again. Life will seem dull and grey compared to the vibrant visions and characters that Valente describes.

Hoo.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By William R. Granberry on October 21, 2004
Format: Hardcover
In the world of literature, there's a lot of the same- a lot of mediocrity, a lot of good, and a lot of bad. The fact is, however, that in all that diversity, there's an awful lot of uniformity. Books, no matter their quality, tend to be whatever they are in one of a limited number of ways. While the convenience of categorization and familiarity might be nice, sometimes it's nice to have a little departure. Soon after I recieved an advance copy of The Labyrinth for review, I realized that I was going to go on a little trip.

Enter The Labyrinth. There are some books whose language can evoke images that transcend mere vivid visuals- they can inspire waves of emotion and empathy with its protagonists that wash over you in unexpected, engrossing ways. It sets forth on an unconventional and perhaps daunting literary course, one that demonstrates a powerful command of language, as well as a rapt knowledge of the classics. The style is poetic but not poetry, written in cantos so beautifully yet succinctly constructed that they seem as the lost lyrics of an arcane epic song. Valente does so with such captivating skill that the book quickly becomes difficult to put down, if your first appraisal might tell you that this is not your cup of tea.

It tells the story of the Walker, once a woman, no longer so, on a surreal quest in the underworld-like Maze. There, the Walker encounters a host of the surreal- predatory Doors that consume those who enter, strange talking beasts, and odd helpers reminiscent of the archetype established by myths modern and ancient. The tale is told with refreshing femininity, but it is a savage, wild femininity that often disturbs as much as it enchants.

As you might have determined by now, the book is damned intense, and damned different.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By David on December 20, 2005
Format: Hardcover
In her debut novel, "The Labyrinth," Catherynne M. Valente has set out at once to define her own work, and to redefine the form. "The Labyrinth" reads more like an epic, surrealist poem, or an obscure Eastern religious text than it does a novel. The richness of the imagery, and the depth of thought injected into these words should bear the warning label "concentrated, take only in small doses."

I believe it would be doing this work a disservice to read it in one sitting, though this might be tempting. Rather than being dragged from chapter to chapter, if chapters are what the breaks actually represent, by cliff-hanging real events, the reader is caught by the leading and trailing edges of visions. Endless spiraling roads, decision brought to form as character, aggressive doors that hunt the traveler, rather than waiting passively to be tried, or bypassed.

The protagonist morphs before the reader's eyes from goddess to slave and back again in a sometimes erotic, sometimes intensely symbolic, and always intriguing journey through a maze of poetic imagery. Sometimes in charge of her own fate, sometimes the whimsy of greater powers that sometimes turn out to be herself, your guide through surreality has fed upon the Rose Cross and is all direction, contains all direction - and is lost.

While I doubt this work will appeal to a mainstream audience, it is an intensely powerful debut. The work is introspective, and yet, the lens of that introspection turns on the reader in unexpected ways, much as the doors in the Labyrinth itself turn on the protagonist. Lewis Carroll intrudes with rabbits and philosophical statements that blend and melt back into the landscape with an elegance that makes you wonder if Mr.
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