Sneak peek: Where the Wild Things Are novelization

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

Don't want to wait until Oct. 16 to discover whether director Spike Jonze and his co-screenwriter Dave Eggers will turn Maurice Sendak's classic Where the Wild Things Are into a wild rumpus of a movie or just a big mess?

The New Yorker published a lengthy excerpt today from The Wild Things, Eggers' novelization of the film, plus an interview with the writer, both of which could offer clues as to what we can expect.

Here's Max's first glimpse of the Wild Things as described in the section titled "Max at Sea":

" ... he saw what he saw but couldn't believe any of it. He saw animals. Animals? Creatures of some kind. Huge and fast. He thought they might be oversized sorts of humans covered in fur, but they were bigger than that, hairier than that. They were ten or twelve feet tall, each four hundred pounds or more. Max knew his animal kingdom, but he had no name for these beasts. From behind, they resembled bears, but they were larger than bears, their heads far bigger. Even so, their movements were nimble, deft—they had the quickness of deer or small monkeys. And they all looked different, as humans do: one had a long broken horn on its nose; another had a wide flat face, stringy hair, and pleading eyes; another seemed like a cross between a boy and a goat. ... "

"The movie is more Spike's version of Maurice's book, and this novel is more my version," Eggers told The New Yorker. "Of course, a lot of people won't see significant differences between the two—the movie and novel do conform to the same general arc, and the characters are largely the same. But there are some expansions and departures.

"And the great thing is that in a book, you don't have to figure out how you'll actually get something done in the real world. I can write about one of the Wild Things jumping fifty feet in the air, and I don't have to worry about how a dozen technicians in the Australian wilderness are going to accomplish that. That was Spike's job."

But whether you're watching the movie or reading the novel, don't expect a slavish replica of the original.

"Maurice was clear that he didn't want the movie or the book to be timid adaptations," said Eggers. "He wanted us to feel free to push and pull the original story in new directions. Spike also gave me total leeway to make the book my own. He didn't change a word, even though there were some things he was surprised by. That's why we say the book is 'loosely' or 'very loosely' based on the movie."

We'll learn exactly how loosely based when the movie, starring Max Records and featuring the voices of Lauren Ambrose, James Gandolfini, Catherine O'Hara and Forest Whitaker, opens in regular and IMAX theaters on Oct. 16.