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Literature / The Estuary

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The Estuary is a Survival Horror novel by Irish horror novelist Derek Gunn. The events of the novel can basically be summarized as “Sleepy tourist town finds submerged Nazi superweapon that creates zombies, wackiness ensues.” Surprising is the fact the novel is actually fairly subdued and subtle about its horror, the action doesn’t begin until well over a hundred pages into the novel.


This novel contains examples of:

  • Asshole Victim: Andrew Peters at first.
  • Armies Are Evil: Unintentionally invoked. The British and Irish governments simultaneously write off Whiteshead with very little fanfare, fully intending to let the entire town die without making any attempt to save its uninfected residents.
  • Captain Ersatz: Dave Johnson seems like he's going to be one of James Bond. Gunn manages to keep the ex-British Secret Agent this side of plausible.
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  • Doing In the Wizard: The Nazi superweapon appears to rely entirely on scientific principles, even if they’re of the Handwavium type.
  • Doomed Hometown: Pretty much the point of the novel for the majority of the protagonists.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Andrew Peters.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Too many to count, apparently zombie plagues bring this out in small Irish cities.
  • High Heel Hurt: Hillary mentally bemoans having to walk in the high-heeled Thigh-High Boots she uses to attract johns.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Narrowly averted. Admiral Donitz is integral to the Nazi Zombie plot, but there’s no indications he’s aware of the exact nature of the weapon and is clearly being strong-armed into it.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Hillary is unhappy being a prostitute, wants to improve her life by taking typing classes, and is a kind and heroic figure throughout the story.
  • Lampshade Hanging:
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    • The Irish mock the American tendency to assume everyone in the world has huge piles of guns in easy access.
    • Another bit has someone call the infected townsfolk “zombies.” While everyone is obviously thinking it, the staggering tastelessness gets him a bunch of dirty looks.
  • Large and in Charge: Mayor Jack Thornton is often thought of as "The fat man" by people who don't know him and is a brave, firm, and commanding presence.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: John Pender.
  • "Open!" Says Me: When a cowering Peters refuses to open a door for Constable O'Malley, Dr. Theresa Winfield, and a child named Aiden as zombies close in, O'Malley starts kicking the door, weakening it and says he'll keep it up until the door breaks if Peters doesn't let them in.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: They’re alive scientific zombies who are utterly silent and aren’t necessarily killed by a bullet to the head.
  • Rescue Romance: Hillary and Martin Taylor. A surprising number of other examples.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Constable Denis O'Malley is one of the most important characters in the book before making a Heroic Sacrifice.
  • Survival Horror: A rare non-game example, it follows the tropes basically to the letter. The townsfolk have one desperate concern, survival.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: The zombie plague is of Third Reich origins. In a rare subversion, the ludicrous nature of the bio-weapon is treated with complete seriousness and the author even includes historical figures. They might as well have been preparing to use mustard gas as opposed to a zombie plague.
  • The Virus: Of course.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Of the “small city is infected” variety.

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