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The Estuary / Derek Gunn

Permuted Press / June 2009
Reviewed by: Anthony J. Rapino

Derek Gunn, best known for his Vampire Apocalypse series, is back with a new zombie novel, The Estuary. Readers will no doubt discern a more polished novel struggling to surface from beneath Permuted Press’s flawed offering. Had this version been edited perhaps once more, many of the distracting typos and grammatical errors plaguing it would have likely been caught, leaving behind a more refined, superior product.

In 1944, the Nazi’s planned to launch a biological offensive, using a toxic gas held in metal containers as the catalyst. The attack never comes to fruition however, due to a massive storm that destroys the mini-subs carrying the containers. As decades pass, the operation fades from memory.

Flash forward to present day, and we meet John Pender, who has relocated his family to the small town of Whiteshead, Ireland with the hopes of rekindling his failing marriage. His memories of the small town are marred by the realization that a construction crew has dammed the estuary, turning the once beautiful waterway into a dried-out expanse of sand and rock.

While playing on the dried estuary bed, Pender’s son trips over a piece of metal protruding from the ground. Upon word of the strange find, some locals excavate, hoping to find salvage. They uncover one of the aforementioned mini-subs, and upon further exploration witlessly release the toxic gas held within, initiating the zombie apocalypse.

The story progresses as these things usually do: the infected go largely unnoticed until it’s too late, and a cross section of the town’s population becomes zombies. The military appears long enough to quarantine some pedestrians and kill others. In the wake of the murders, quarantine, and roaming undead, survivors band together and try to survive in anyway they can.

Interestingly, the word “zombie” isn’t uttered until page 209, and even then is only mentioned a few times. Initially this omission lends a sense of reality to the novel, but the longer the characters ignore the obvious, the more apparent their ignorance becomes. In the real world, it is unlikely people would jump to the conclusion that the dead have risen. And for this reason, Gunn’s approach is initially appreciated. But once the roaming zombies – complete with fatal injuries – proceed to feast on survivors, even the most level-headed person would find it hard not to refer to the creatures as zombies.

The novel unfolds through the eyes of a diverse cast of characters, and – as if perched atop a mountain – the reader espies every action transpiring below. Gunn does an admirable job of characterization, and although there are many different points of view, the varied characters never become confused. Each character has his or her own perspective, lending to the evolving personalities.

Gunn’s novel, while not without its flaws, is a fun read. The fast pace and substantial gore makes each page a pleasure, and readers will no doubt fall in love with the heroic characters that populate the novel. It is a shame that Permuted Press rushed out this rough version because Derek Gunn, and The Estuary for that matter, deserve better. Here’s hoping readers will have a chance to re-explore the town of Whiteshead in a polished, reprinted version of The Estuary. Until then, the current release will have to satiate those zombie-like literary cravings.

Purchase The Estuary by Derek Gunn.

Posted on Monday, September 7, 2009 at 11:58AM by Registered CommenterDark Scribe Magazine in | Comments Off

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