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Retro Reading: The Poseidon Adventure by Paul Gallico

Updated on October 8, 2015
Rocking over the boat with this classic disaster
Rocking over the boat with this classic disaster

It's no secret that I've seen The Poseidon Adventure over a hundred times and maybe after the first ten times, I read the book in 1973. Of course, over the years, I've tried to reread it but could never get into it.

Now I know why.

For the past forty years or so, I've always remembered the ending where the survivors are running out of air, weak, piled up against each other and there seems to be no hope for survival. The images of these last few pages have stayed in my mind for decades. In fact, when I started to reread it, those images came back.

For those who don't know the story, the SS Poseidon is capsized the day after Christmas while the passengers are having dinner. During lunch, most of them are seasick and the ship nearly turns over but doesn't. By the dinner hour, most have their sea legs again and are looking forward to a hardy meal.

Below the sea surface an earthquake causes a tidal wave with the luxury liner in its path. Chaos ensues as it flips over, trapping some of the passengers in the dining salon. Their goal is to flee the rising water and make it to the engine room where they hope they'll be rescued.

For those familiar with the movie, the following characters are present: Rev. Frank Scott, the Rogo's, the Rosen's, Susan and Robin Shelby (along with their parents), Nonnie, Mr. Martin and Acre (changed to Acres for the movie). There's also a host of other characters but too many to begin mentioning. Some of these "forgotten" characters do survive.

It is easy to separate the original film from the movie as these characters seem to be much more self centered. Sure the goal is to survive, but if you loved the movie characters, chances are you won't like the book's version of them.

Another thing I found boring was author Paul Gallico tells the story through too much narrative. Yes, you need to know the conditions these people are in, but for the most part, the action drags on forever. With so many characters he keeps going back and forth on their history. I felt that this was dragging down the story.

Translating this novel to the big screen seemed to be a difficult task for screenwriters Stirling Silliphant and Wendall Mayes, but I think their shorter version was much tighter and told the story more effectively.

If you're a fan of the movie and have never read the book, I'd stick with the movie version. The only thing I basically learned from the book is Mike Rogo knew the Rosen's from their deli in New York.

Maybe it'll be another forty years before I return to the Poseidon.


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    • Eric Tuchelske 1 profile image

      Eric Tuchelske 2 years ago from Detroit

      Sorry its taken so long to reply, but I would first read the book and then (I can't believe you've never seen the movie!) maybe watch all three versions of the film.

      I'd probably do the same for Beyond the Poseidon Adventure since it had a good premise, but wasn't as successful.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 2 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I might have to take a look at the movie. I did not know that Stirling Silliphant was involved with it. On the TV series "Route 66" I could always tell when he wrote the script. He is an existentialist"and I have never gotten a grasp of that philosophy but it has a distinctest about it.