Adverbs are the zombies of literature.
I just started reading The Reapers are the Angels, by Alden Bell (pen name of Joshua Gaylord) after accidentally dropping in on a sale in my local indie book store (did I just use an adverb in a post where I intend to bash them mercilessly? (oh damn!, I did it again)). This isn’t going well.
Anyhow… the book starts off very well. The main character is interesting, though it took me a while to get a grip on her age, and so is the setting (Zombie apocalypse? yes please.) Alden Bell’s prose is a mix of Hemingway and McCarthy but slightly less taxing on the reader. So, overall, rather good. But then, much like the zombies in the book, I ran into a literary tool that just won’t die.
And then the zombies stagger in.
The following short paragraph is from a point early in the story where our hero, Temple, enters a house and meets three of the undead.
Temple has forgotten how bad they smell – that muddy mixture of must and putrefaction, oil and rancid shit. She sees a faecal ooze sliding wetly down the back of the woman’s legs. They must have fed recently, so they will be strong. And they are between her and the stairs.
Did you see that? Did you? How about this, on the very next page:
She reaches behind her, feels around for anything and comes up with a screwdriver which she grips hard and drives into the man’s neck. He lets go and totters backwards, but the angle of the screwdriver is wrong, it goes straight through rather than up into the brain, so he begins to walk in circles gurgling liquidly and opening and closing his jaw.
If I hadn’t been reading about a girl literally kicking the shit our of three zombies I would have thrown the book to the floor. Not because the adverbs are bad, per se, but because they are so frighteningly unnecessary (see what I did there?).
I still recommend the book though.
George Martin, on the other hand, made me shout at one of his books (I’m pretty sure it was A Storm of Swords) when he described a character, just seconds after sex.
His manhood glistened wetly.
Really, George, really? Really?