A Complete List of Similarities in Snowpiercer, Book and Movie:
- There’s a train.
- There’s a stratified class system.
- All of humanity lives on the train and everything else is cold.
And that’s it. No, really.
Here is a more detailed list of just how deep the differences between the two go:
- None of the characters are the same.
- The plot isn’t the same, other than a general motion from the back of the train to the front.
- The earth isn’t frozen for the same reason.
- The train wasn’t created for the same reason.
- There are three distinct social classes, not two.
- The social classes are even more distinct, and they interact slightly more (which is to say, at all).
- The governance on the train is completely different.
- The train in the book is imperceptible slowing down, leading to a subplot that becomes the main plot that doesn’t exist at all in the movie.
But besides that, they’re pretty much identical.
The plot of the book is thus: Proloff, a resident of the tail section, is quarantined after breaking a window to try to escape the train. Escape–leaving the train– means almost certain death, which is an early indicator of how bad conditions are in the tail section. Adeline Belleau, a resident of the middle-class section of the train, semi-accidentally gets herself thrown in with him when she tries to make the case to the armed guards that he should be released and, more generally, that tail-section people are people too.
Proloff and Adeline get marched to the front of the train by representatives from the army. Bits and pieces come out along the way about how different the classes are, what the structure of the society is like (particularly the army and the president), etc. When they get to the front, it coincidentally turns out that the quarantine the doctor ordered way back when Proloff first tried to escape should have been a bit more strictly enforced, as he’s begun to inadvertently spread god knows what. Proloff makes it into the engine compartment, accidentally letting Adeline die in the process, and is greeted by the lone guy who runs the train. Since everyone else dies of the virus, Proloff is left entirely alone and running the train on his own.
In a show of the government’s deviousness, as Proloff and Adeline are making their way to the front, they claim to agree with Adeline that all the way is the best for the tail sectioners and that they want to redistribute them among the other cars. The Snowpiercer is slowing down, and losing the last couple cars would fix that. Of course, it turns out when Adeline sends her cohorts in her tail-inhabitant-loving organization that the plan all along was to drop those cars with the occupants still occupying the space (hey, you lose that much more weight!) and that doing so with the rabble rousers from the middle section is killing two birds with one stone. In that way, the government’s motivation hasn’t really changed from page to screen.
Largely, this was a fascinating exercise in managing expectations. I’m still not completely sure what I thought of the graphic novel, partially because it was about the first graphic novel I can remember reading, but also because I just kept waiting for something to happen that even remotely resembled the plot of the movie. Even as it continued to flesh out a completely different world, I still had this kind of lingering, confused expectation. I think that it’s quite a fascinating story and imminently worth reading on its own merits, but don’t go into it comparing it to the movie, cause it doesn’t. Likewise, if you’ve somehow read the book and not seen the movie, don’t expect a literal adaptation.
I’ve already reviewed the movie, but as for the book: