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Literature / The Tomorrow Series

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The breathtaking finale... until Trilogy Creep kicked in.

The Tomorrow Series was a series of books aimed at young adults by Australian author John Marsden. They are written from the perspective of rural teenager Ellie Linton. She and a small group of friends head into an unexplored area of bush for a week-long holiday, and return to find that their houses are abandoned and their animals are dead or dying. They soon realise that Australia was invaded on Commemoration Day, and they are among the very small number of people who have avoided being taken prisoner.

The original series is usually refered to as The Tomorrow Series and consisted of seven books published between 1994 and 1999. These are:

  • Tomorrow, When the War Began
  • The Dead of the Night
  • The Third Day, the Frostnote 
  • Darkness, Be My Friend
  • Burning for Revenge
  • The Night is for Hunting
  • The Other Side of Dawn

The Ellie Chronicles was a follow-up series, set in the aftermath of the invasion and subsequent war, which began publication in 2003 and finished in 2006. The titles in this series are:

  • While I Live
  • Incurable
  • Circle of Flight

A movie adaption called Tomorrow: When the War Began premiered on August 8, 2010, and got a wide release in Australia on September 2, 2010. Available in the United States on home media. The trailer is up here.

It also got a Live-Action Television adaption also called Tomorrow When The War Began but unrelated to the film that premiered on ABC 3 in 2016.

By the way, this series is totally not Red Dawn in the outback. Honest.

Provides Examples Of:

  • Adults Are Useless: As Ellie and her friends are among such a select few to escape imprisonment, there are no adults to lead them. Those adults that they do meet are either not in a position to help them, or, particularly in the case of Harvey's Heroes, are completely incompetent.
  • Anyone Can Die: Although audiences were certainly shocked by Corrie, Chris and Robyn's deaths, the Anyone Can Die feel was cemented after seven year old Darina dies in The Night Is For Hunting.
  • Apocalyptic Log: When the group returns to find everything abandoned, Corrie finds a letter from her father reading, in part, "...I'm sending this anyway, then tearing it up so no one'll know what an idiot I've been. But Corrie, if you do get this, go bush. Take great care. Don't come out till you know it's safe."
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: In The Third Day, The Frost, Ellie's list of injuries includes "shock, cracked vertebrae, fractured patella, malnutrition, cuts and abrasions, acute anxiety state, head lice".
  • Band of Brothers / True Companions: The main characters form one.
  • Bittersweet Ending: At the end of the main series, the war is over... but Australia's apparently lost a lot of its territory to the invaders permanently, and several of Ellie's True Companions are dead, along with one of the feral children.
  • Blood from the Mouth: Corrie has this when they get shot.
  • Break the Cutie: Fi's coping with the war, and her parents being prisoners, and having to live in the bush, but then she has to blow up her own house...
  • Caught with Your Pants Down:
    • Ellie and Fi discuss in one book whether they think the guys do this when the girls aren't around. Ellie reveals that she once walked in on Homer masturbating, and decided not to mention it to avoid awkwardness.
    • Later, in The Ellie Chronicles, Ellie also walks in on Gavin (who is deaf, and so wouldn't have heard her knock). Ellie leaves quickly before he can see her, and makes a mental note to tell Homer to have a talk with him.
  • Character Narrator: The series is Ellie's written record of the things they do. During the Ellie Chronicles, she confirms that she did publish the stories after the war. They apparently sold poorly, and only the first three were published, which may be a Take That! to the series' poor US sales in the mid 90s that caused only the first three books to be released initially. The full series was not released in mass-market form until 2008, after the Ellie Chronicles had already begun in Australia, and the final book in the Ellie Chronicles has still not been released in the US.
  • *Click* Hello: Subverted in Tomorrow, When The War Began. Ellie hears the click and first panics because she thinks it's an enemy soldier - then realises that she knows that gun, and that it's a friend.
  • The Con: In While I Live Ellie discovers a plot to force her to sell the farm so the land can be used to develop a holiday lodge for rich tourists.
  • Contrived Coincidence: In Burning For Revenge Ellie and her friends hide in an enemy truck, which just happens to take them to the airbase they failed to destroy in Darkness, Be My Friend.
  • Convenient Slow Dance: Mentioned. Back before the war, Lee asked Ellie to dance at a school dance during a nice slow song, but it ended up taking him a while to ask her, and they end up dancing to Convicted of Love instead. When told this story, Ellie admits she doesn't even remember the incident.
  • Death of a Child: See Anyone Can Die.
  • Death Seeker: Ellie suspects that this is Lee's motivation after he finds out his parents have been killed, and he embarks on a series of solo guerilla missions.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Ellie. Comes in handy when on the run.
  • Easy Logistics: The "enemy"'s assault on Australia would require this in order to work, especially since the geography of Wirrawee and environs suggest it is on the east coast, thousands of kilometres from the more accessible north coast of Australia. This page does a good job of explaining why such an attack on Australia would be logistically impossible. But this is also subverted in that about half of the heroes' missions are specifically targeting the enemy's logistics (convoys, bridges, ports, railways).
  • Enfant Terrible: Gavin in both Tomorrow Series and Ellie Chronicles.
  • Establishing Character Moment: At the start of the series, Homer is seen as a delinquent by the others, but when we first see him he is fixing a pipe and is pleased when it doesn't leak. His ability to fix things and general practicality becomes very useful later in the book.
  • Everyone Must Be Paired: Lampshaded, but ultimately averted. Ellie mentions in the first book how the eight of them are in three different romantic relationships: Lee and Ellie, Kevin and Corrie and Homer and Fi, and then goes on to comment that it was too bad there wasn't any chance of Robyn and Chris getting together ("then we really could have had Perfect Partners").
  • Evil Brit: Reflecting on the duplicity of the New Zealand colonel who helped in Darkness, Be My Friend. Ellie remarks that she probably should have noted his obvious English accent.
  • Faking the Dead: Rescuing Kevin from a prisoner of war camp.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: The "Enemy", of (most probably) Indonesia.
  • Flanderisation: In the movies, Robyn's religion and pacifism are played up at the expense of her athleticism. Similarly, Chris's poetic side is ignored and his role as The Stoner is exaggerated.
  • Good Guns, Bad Guns: Averted. The bad guys use M-16s too.
  • Government in Exile: The Australian government evacuated to Washington in the opening hours of the invasion.
  • Guns Do Not Work That Way: Throughout both series Ellie finds numerous revolvers featuring slides and magazines.
  • Hollywood Tactics: Most notably in Darkness, Be My Friend, when they try to take down the airfield by putting sugar in the gas tanks of planes. It doesn't work, but due to the tank being padlocked. Interestingly, there was a Real Life incident of sabotage involving foresting equipment where exactly this happened, and it worked (due to the substance sparking a chemical reaction).
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Most of the enemy seem to be honorary graduates. Partially justified by stating early that the invaders have only a limited number of trained troops, and protagonists usually act against poorly trained conscripts, left to protect the communication lines.
  • Hammer and Sickle Removed for Your Protection: The "Enemy" is is left unnamed; John Marsden deliberately kept it ambiguous so as not to portray any one real country in a negative light. This page points out that there is no one close to Australia that fits what information is given about them. The general fan consensus is that they're Indonesia, which meets almost all of the criteria and only lacks an aircraft carrier (but could easily build one). Moreover, Australia and Indonesia were going through a tense period around the time the books were written due to the East Timor Crisis.
  • Hero-Tracking Failure: The farmhouse kitchen scene in The Night is for Hunting.
  • Inspirationally Disadvantaged: Averted. In another YA series the deaf child might serve as a foil of sweetness and light and inspiration to all, as well as a Load in times of crisis. Not so here. Gavin averts all the usual conventions that occur when a disabled child is thrown into the narrative mix.
  • In the Back: Corrie is shot in the back at the end of Tomorrow, When The War Began.
  • Just Plane Wrong: In Burning For Revenge, the narrator describes the wreckage of some fighter aircraft by saying the "fabric had been burnt away and you could only see black ribs, like a balsawood framework of a plane." While there are still fabric planes being made today, they are mostly little kit-based hobbyist planes. By the time the books were set, all extant production fighter jets would have been made of metal, the wreckage of which wouldn't have looked anything like a "balsawood framework of a plane". A few pages later, mention is made of jets possibly being "turbo-charged".
  • Kangaroo Court: Jokes about Australia aside, Ellie and her friends face these a couple of times after capture. Even though they are guilty, being tried in a foreign language by one's enemies is not generally considered the fairest possible procedure.
    • Also, under the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War they shouldn't have been tried at all; they should have been treated as francs-tireurs and sent to POW camps, not executed — though as they failed to wear any sort of uniform it is possible to argue they do not fall under the protections, depending on whether Protocol I was ratified by the invading state or not.
  • Kiwis with Carbines: New Zealand provides the most active military aid to Australia, and also serves as a staging ground for materiel aid from nations like the US, Japan and Papua New Guinea. A New Zealand air raid plays into the group's prison break in The Third Day, The Frost, with a downed pilot helping them evacuate out of Australia. In Darkness, Be My Friend, they return to Australia to assist a New Zealand special forces team on a mission to destroy Wirrawee airfield.
  • Let's Get Out of Here: The line is used a few times, followed by Lee (and later other characters) remarking that it's used in, "like, 60% of movies or something."
  • Line-of-Sight Alias: Ellie poses as 'Amber Faulding', from the sound of ambulances and a word she saw on a bottle of pills, when she's taken prisoner in The Other Side of Dawn.
  • Literary Allusion Title: The Third Day, The Frost and the american title A Killing Frost are references to King Henry VIII by Shakespeare.
  • Lots of Luggage: In Tomorrow When The War Began, Fi, who starts out as something of a Dumb Blond, (although she subverts it later and she's really more of a Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold type) is ridiculed by the other characters for bringing insane amounts of luggage on a camping trip.
  • Made of Explodium: Pretty much any petrol tank will act as a bomb when the plot requires it. Even a lawnmower set alight maimed or killed a couple of soldiers. They destroyed a bridge by igniting a petrol tanker under it - which admittedly would probably work, but not with an explosion. And if you think petrol is impressive, wait til you see what half a container full of fertilizer and diesel will do. It destroyed one ship and caused major damage to the adjacent wharf.
    • While the damage caused is exaggerated, Ammonium nitrate fertilizer and diesel mixed together does make a decently powerful explosive, which is common knowledge to many growing up in rural Australia. It was used extensively during The Troubles in Ireland, and also was the explosive used in the World Trade Center Bombing.
    • Homer makes a point of explaining that this is not due to any actual explosion but rather the buildup of pressure (which would work).
  • Mole in Charge: Major Harvey, leader of the resistance group Harvey's Heroes, is a collaborator.
  • Mood Whiplash: Happens at the beginning when they first get back from Hell and find Ellie's dogs, dead in the yard.
    • Again when Lee, Homer, Fi and Ellie come home triumphant over the bridge incident, only to find Corrie has been shot and is seriously injured
  • Nobody Poops: Averted. The 'dunny' or toilet is mentioned several times, including a particular icky one where Ellie mentions they have to dig another toilet as they had already filled the original.
  • No Periods, Period: After almost a year out in the bush, Ellie mentions that she is down to her last tampon. Note that this is the only time 'that time of the month' is mentioned throughout the series.
    • It can almost be justified in that after almost a year with little food and high physical and emotional stress that her periods were very weak and far apart.
      • Or Ellie just didn't feel like writing about her periods.
      • There's also a mention of Ellie and Corrie trying (and failing) to synchronize their periods after reading about it in a magazine.
    • In the movie, Ellie finds Chris sleeping on watch and starts yelling at him. He mutters 'it must be that time of the month' and quickly finds out that this is NOT a smart thing to say to a woman who is justifiably very annoyed with you and HOLDING A LOADED ASSAULT RIFLE.
  • One Sided Battle: Applied liberally throughout the series.
  • Pietà Plagiarism: Corrie is this in Kevin's lap after she has been shot. It is even lampshaded when Ellie says she walks into what looks like Jesus's barn.
  • Possible War: An update of the Invasion Literature, Down Under.
  • Primal Scene: Robin mentions in The Dead of the Night that this was the last time she saw her parents.
  • The Quisling: Major Harvey
  • Sawed-Off Shotgun: The gun that Homer takes with him in The Dead of the Night, after they've agreed not to carry weapons.
  • Separated by a Common Language: Australian slang is different to British slang. Chooks, anyone?
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: In The Other Side of Dawn, many of Ellie's neighbors, having come back from detention camps, show signs of PTSD, and Ellie herself has clearly been changed by the war...not always for the better. This becomes more apparent in the sequel trilogy, The Ellie Chronicles.
  • Shoot Out the Lock: Used to free Homer in The Night is for Hunting
  • Shoot the Fuel Tank: Played straight and often.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: The final book, The Other Side Of Dawn ends with the enemy nation being allowed to keep a large portion of the land they have invaded, so while the survivors can move back to Wirrawee, they are now right on the border, and the whole group had effectively been fighting (and dying) for very little.
  • Their First Time: Ellie and Lee in The Dead of the Night. They discuss it at length earlier in the book, and she tells him that she's not comfortable with it, but she changes her mind after some steamy foreplay.
    • Sleeping Single: Even after they become sexually active, Ellie 'likes her privacy too much' to sleep together. Of course, in this case, 'together' is difficult, as double beds are scarce in the bush.
  • The Film of the Book
  • Taking You with Me: The climax of The Third Day, The Frost.
  • There Are No Coincidences: Robyn's belief that coincidences are "God's way of telling you to wake up".
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted; while obviously, there are no therapists available to them while they are out in the bush, when they are airlifted to New Zealand, one of the first things that happens is that each of them, independently, see therapists.
  • Took a Level in Badass: All the main characters; they start out as fairly boringly-normal Australian rural teenagers, and end up as guerrillas with an international reputation...and some of the other side's most wanted enemies.
  • Traintop Battle: In The Other Side Of Dawn.
  • Trapped Behind Enemy Lines: They spend the whole series in this situation except for when they've been evacced to New Zealand.
  • Trilogy Creep: It was originally a tightly-written trilogy, ending with the group being airlifted to New Zealand at the end of The Third Day, The Frost.
  • War Is Hell
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: Averted. In the books Ellie frequently reflects on how the enemy soldiers she variously mows down or blows up or hits with big vehicles are people just like her, with hopes and dreams and families who'll miss them. In the film a short scene occurs where Ellie looks at a dying enemy soldier and sees the soldier is a teenage girl just like her.
  • You Always Hear the Bullet: Ellie reflects on this after Corrie is shot in Tomorrow, When The War Began.
  • You Know the One: The name of the country that invaded Australia is never mentioned, for obvious pragmatic reasons. They are referred to as 'the enemy' or 'them' throughout. This becomes quite awkward as the characters have no in-story reason for dancing around the name, and are quite willing to name friendly countries such as New Zealand, the United States and Japan. As mentioned above, the general consensus among fans is that they're Indonesia.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: Ellie and her group are considered terrorists, and convicted of it several times, by the enemy. And in some ways, like fighting out of uniform, not having a clear chain of command and targeting civilians, they do fit the bill quite well. Of course, Australians see it differently...

The Ellie Chronicles contains examples of:

  • Adults Are Useless
  • Amoral Attorney: Mr Sayle is the small-country-town version.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: The identity of the Scarlet Pimple. It's Bronte. Her parents are in the military and she's in the same friend group as many of the people Ellie suspected, but Ellie never seriously considered her as a possibility.
  • Big Damn Heroes: In the third book, it's Lee, Homer and several other members of Liberation (including the Scarlet Pimple) rescuing Ellie after her mission to rescue Gavin ends in her being captured as well.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Ellie gains legal custody of Gavin, and they both begin to process the trauma they've been through. But recent experiences leave them with even more emotional scars, with the two ultimately selling their farm and moving in with Lee in Stratton to get away from the border. Ellie and Lee also rekindle their relationship, after it fizzled out following the war.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Interesting variation. In While I Live a grieving Ellie goes through a litany of memories of her parents. It goes without a beat from the sound of her mother's laugh and the way her father fixed a truck to the texture of her mother's pubic hair and the shape of her father's penis.
  • Brick Joke: In the Tomorrow series, at one point Ellie asks Colonel Finley to supply the group with chocolate, avocados and Iced VoVos. When she meets Finley's son Jeremy in The Ellie Chronicles, he gives her a gift of chocolate and avocados. No Iced VoVos, though — apparently they were discontinued after the war.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Ellie takes an interest in Jeremy, but nothing ultimately comes of it when Jeremy expresses jealousy over her closeness to Homer and refuses to believe her assurances that they're Just Friends.
  • Demoted to Extra: Fiona appears only briefly in a couple of books, and Kevin is referred to as being in New Zealand but never appears in person. Justified in that one of the themes of the Ellie Chronicles is the way that life marches on and how things are different once the war is over.
  • Department of Child Disservices: Debatable; while Ellie is far from the best caretaker for Gavin, their unique circumstances are overlooked by the investigator, who criticizes Ellie for having a pile of dog doings on her lawn, and for having more soda than milk in her fridge.
  • Drugs Are Bad: They will get a bogged cow out of a dam though, apparently.
  • End of an Age: Said almost word-for-word by Homer in the third book when Ellie announces she's going to sell her family's farm due to its proximity to the border and move into town where it's safer.
  • La Résistance: Liberation in The Ellie Chronicles, a covert-ops organisation involving civilians with the unspoken consent of the military, who carry out missions across the border. The Wirrawee faction is headed by the mysterious Scarlet Pimple.
  • Targeted to Hurt the Hero: Ellie is orphaned in chapter one of the first book. Ellie suspects and the narrative strongly implies that the attack was intended specifically as a reprisal for her activities during the war.
  • Writer on Board: Marsden becomes a lot more overt in the Ellie Chronicles in using his characters as mouthpieces for political and philosophical ideas, and there are lots of references to (ie recommendations of) books and poems.

Alternative Title(s): Tomorrow When The War Began