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Book review: Paul Gallico's The Poseidon Adventure

Take everything you think you know about this story and turn it upside down.
Book review: Paul Gallico's The Poseidon Adventure

There is no way I can tell you how carefully this novel made me think without spoiling the ending—which, by the way, is not the same ending as the one you might remember from the 1972 Irwin Allen movie.

This ending is darker. More honest. More horrific, in terms of what it implies about human nature, religion, self-awareness, and the idea of the strong vs. the weak. Everything you think you understand, during the first two-thirds of the book—that Gallico is writing a story about how to cope; that the passengers who leave the surface-level safety of the dining room to follow Rev. Scott are correct to do so; that everyone can become a better version of themselves through cooperation, clear-headedness, and leaving behind anyone who can’t cope (wait what)—gets flipped on its head in the last 20 pages.

It may actually be a story about a group of people who follow a faith-based charlatan who preaches both Christ and Darwin (a clever move on Gallico’s part, ensuring that even the irreligious will be rooting for the Reverend), losing their possessions, their souls, and three of their members in the process.

These people believe—because the Reverend says so, over and over again—that they will be the only ones to survive.

They learn, as soon as they break through the hull, that they were the last to be rescued.