The Poseidon Adventure by Paul Gallico


Yes, I finally finished it! I rarely admit defeat and quit a book, but I was pretty worried about this one.

The issue wasn’t that it was a bad book, but rather that it hasn’t aged well. The plot centers around the ship The Poseidon that rolls over during a freak storm, and then a group of passengers must navigate the upside-down ship to try and escape. On the surface (pun intended), the idea is interesting. Interesting enough that Hollywood has made two movies from this idea (but more on that later). The problem for me was that the writing didn’t hold my attention well enough, because all of the characters were either over blown stereotypes, or so boring that I would forget that they were there until the author mentioned them again.

The book was first published in 1969, and although there isn’t too much plot-wise that dates the book (you can easily imagine that the passengers are a bit more modern), but the stereotypical characters and their two-dimensional motivations don’t jibe with modern literature. The racism, sexism, and toxic displays of masculinity alone (not mentioning all the other discrimination within the minds of the characters) would make the book unpublishable by current standards.

It’s also frustrating how the thoughts and feelings of each character are the focus, even at the expense of the action that is taking place. Plus, there are so many characters that at any given time you have to concentrate to remember how many people are in the traveling party, especially because people are added to or leave the group throughout the story. There were other little things that bugged me as well, but overall my impression was that the writing wasn’t as good as it could have been. The action is what kept me reading, and I did end up reading the novel to its end, so Gallico doesn’t score lower because the idea is such a great one. So: I assign it a 5/10: it wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t great either.

AND WHAT ABOUT THE MOVIE? There are two movies! Both are pretty good, although my heart belongs to the 1972 version. The 2005 remake is also good, but since I watched them in the order they were made it felt repetitive (let me know in the comments if you disagree). The movies and the book don’t have much to connect them; they are lose-adaptions. The plot and character changes make sense in both of the adaptions, so while I’m usually a stickler for staying true to the source material, it didn’t bother me in the slightest this time.



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