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Literature / Trench Mouth

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Fathom Five … a state-of-the-art oceanic research facility, suspended far below the surface. There, in the dark and the deep, a team of top-notch scientists study the ecosystems and denizens of an aquatic environment as alien as another planet.

There, they also conduct illicit experiments upon hapless human subjects, with the goal of giving our species a chance to adapt to a changing world. Or, at the very least, to create mutant freaky fish-people, because, why not?

Oh, the arrogance and hubris of genius! Oh, the freaky things that already dwell in the strange, hostile depths! In the cold, crushing, silent pressure of a blackness lit only by eerie bioluminescence. Things that don’t take kindly to intruders Things that are ancient, and enormous, and hungry.

Things like …TRENCH MOUTH.

Trench Mouth is a novel by Christine Morgan.


This novel contains examples of the following Tropes:

  • Aborted Arc: Invoked. The narration states that Scott turning out to be George's estranged son seems like a clear setup for a reconciliation arc, but Scott's sudden death closes the door on that quite firmly.
  • Berserk Button: Do not tell Shandee that there's no such thing as black mermaids!
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Scott turns out to be George's son, and to have a lot of unresolved issues with him. Which he expresses with a punch to the face.
  • Death by Sex: Happens twice.
    • Firstly to an anonymous couple in the prologue who get swept out to sea while getting it on in the water, and get attacked by the deep-queen before they can make it back.
    • Secondly to Ellen and Nikos, whose make-up sex at the edge of the deep-water abyss ends with them getting eaten - again by the deep-queen.
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  • Devious Dolphins: Reggie's girlfriend was attacked by a pod while swimming. It gets even worse when the volunteers begin to be able to communicate with marine animals and they play the video of the event - it turns out that the dolphins were actually gloating about raping her all along.
  • Dying Moment of Awesome: T.J. dies in a fiery explosion, caused by him setting his boat on fire to take down a giant squid that was attacking it.
  • Dysfunction Junction: All the eight test subjects have either done something that weighs on their conscience, suffered some injustice that they're brooding on, or both.
  • Eats Babies: The deep-queen enjoys eating any of her own young who are too slow to escape her after birth. At another point, we also see a great white shark attacking her own newborns.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: It's noted at one point that Margot's research team has a lot more race and gender diversity than you'd expect from a bunch of science nerds.
  • Evil Virtues: Hunter is callous and tasteless to the point of sociopathy, but he's also very stoical in the face of the loss of his arm, refusing to sulk about it and not holding a grudge against Reggie for crippling him. Apparently he really does believe in lightening up and not making a big deal of things. He also gives his life for Tanner, as well as preventing him from performing a Senseless Sacrifice for him. Because a bro does not let his bro down, bro!
  • Face Death with Dignity: Trapped in a broken sub at the bottom of a trench and with zero hope of rescue, Raf and Hobbs decide to not do any of the desperate and brutal things that people are supposed to do in a vain attempt to survive. Instead, she asks him to tell her a story, and he starts reciting The Hobbit from memory.
  • Fish People: The eight volunteers gradually transform into these.
  • Flawless Token: Shandee is the only black woman in the cast, and just about the only character who has no glaring flaws. The closest she has is a weird fixation with mermaids, but that's more like an eccentricity.
  • Genre Savvy: All the characters know precisely what sort of story they're in. It just doesn't help them.
  • Gone Horribly Right: It's several times noted that the experiment actually went unexpectedly well, with all eight test subjects developing abilities far beyond the most optimistic predictions. Shame about all the death and mayhem that resulted.
  • He-Man Woman Hater: Hate might be a strong word, but Hunter certainly has bottomless contempt for women and doesn't think they deserve any consideration or respect. Tanner is only slightly better.
  • Hollywood Nerd: Hobbs is awkward and absolutely obsessed with Lord of the Rings and nerdy things in general. With a name like Hobbit Shire Sinclair he figured there was no point in fighting it.
  • Hot Guy, Ugly Wife: Ellen is pretty in an everyday sort of way, but Nikos is a thousand times hotter than her. He loves her for her mind, though, and because she's the first woman who ever loved him for his mind and not just for his body.
  • How We Got Here: Though it's not immediately obvious, two of the seven prologues actually take place at the end of the story.
  • Humans Through Alien Eyes: Various sea-creatures get their own point-of-view chapters, often including their confused impressions of humans.
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: Defied. There's definitely not a secret lab in Fathom-5 where previous experimental subjects are kept alive in tanks while moaning "kiiiiill meeeeeee." The previous experimental subjects who are kept in the secret lab are all dead and preserved in tanks of formaldahyde. Duh.
  • Innocent Fanservice Girl: Lenka doesn't wear anything in the water that she doesn't have to, since she hates having anything between her and the ocean.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Ellen kissed her husband's best friend. She knew she couldn't keep it a secret from him, and finding out would have destroyed him. So clearly she had no choice but to kill her husband! It was an act of mercy!
    Lenka: Female logic. Makes sense to me.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: George and Shandee quickly bond despite seeming to have several decades between them at the very least.
  • Kraken and Leviathan: The giant squid and the deep-queen are both enormous creatures of the depths that are beyond anything the humans are ready for. There's also a giant turtle who rivals them in size, but he seems to prefer to live and let live.
  • Mad Scientist: Margot is more chill than the usual example and not quite so prone to laughing maniacally, but she's still conducting morally dubious experiments that she'd rather the authorities didn't find out about.
  • My Greatest Failure:
    • For George, the time when a family of swimmers died on his watch because he was drunk and apathetic.
    • For Reggie, drunkenly posting the video of his girlfriend being assaulted by dolphins. By the time he sobered up and realised it wasn't funny it had already gone viral.
  • Nature Is Not Nice: Hooo boy yes. It's an endless, brutal struggle for survival, with zero consideration given to the losers. Not that the humans are that much better...
  • Negated Moment of Awesome: Lenka gets two chances to put her unrivalled swimming speed to the test, but in both cases she's just a little too slow.
    • The first time she's racing towards the station as the hatch is closing, but she can't make it there before it snaps shut in her face.
    • The second time she finds the deep-queen barreling towards her and, kicking off from one of the monster's teeth, prepares to make her escape... but the deep-queen's jaws slams shut over her before she can get away.
  • Never a Self-Made Woman: Defied. Margot is annoyed that two of the three guesses Vance has for her "origin story" as a deep-sea Mad Scientist involves a man.
  • Skewed Priorities: While the scientists of Fathom-5 aren't quite evil, they care an awful lot more about their exciting research than about human lives. At one point Raf fumes about how terrible it would be if a giant anglerfish has really eaten Ellen and Nikos, because it would mean that she'd missed out on a huge discovery by switching their cameras off earlier. And then mentions belatedly that, oh yeah, it might also be kind of a bummer that two people would be dead if so.
  • Those Two Guys: Hunter and Tanner, collectively known as "the 'Bros."
  • Underwater Base: Fathom-5 is an underwater research station that also plays host to Margot's more ambitious experiments in creating aquatic posthumans.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Margot and Vance. At one point when he's absent, she finds herself mentally filling in sarcastic comments to the things she says since he isn't there to do it for her.
  • Your Head Asplode: Hunter manages to use his amplified vocal chords to do this to Dr. Murray when she tries to capture him.


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