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Friday, August 30, 2019

Gateways to Abomination: Collected Short Fiction by Matthew M. Bartlett (reviewed by Lukasz Przywoski)



Official Author Website
Order Gateways to Abomination over HERE (USA) & HERE (UK)

OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFORMATION: Matthew M. Bartlett was born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1970. He writes dark and strange fiction at his home in Western Massachusetts, where he lives with his wife Katie and an unknown number of cats.

OFFICIAL BLURB: Bizarre radio broadcasts luring dissolute souls into the dark woods of Western Massachusetts. Sinister old men in topcoats gathered at corners and in playgrounds. A long-dead sorcerer returning to obscene life in the form of an old buck goat. Welcome to Leeds, Massachusetts, where the drowned walk, where winged leeches blast angry static, where black magic casts a shadow over a cringing populace. You've tuned in to WXXT. The fracture in the stanchion. The drop of blood in your morning milk. The viper in the veins of the Pioneer Valley.

FORMAT/INFO: Gateways to Abomination is 158 pages long. It was self-published by the author in 2014.

OVERVIEW: 
I was on a stool at the counter of the Look Diner, moving my scrambled eggs around the plate in the coagulating pool of ketchup and staring at my gray coffee, when the man walked in carrying his brain in his cupped hands.
If you think it was strange, you’re wrong. It’s just a warm-up for Bartlett's boundless and twisted imagination.

Gateways to Abomination is his self-published collection of short stories. Or rather a novel-in-stories as all these vignettes are interconnected. They show the life in a small town in Massachusets called Leeds that happens to be under the spell of a Satanic cult. 

At the ceiling, winged babies wheeled. Their wings were black gossamer and they gibbered with wet beaks of pink and purple. They had the eyes of goats. Their diapers bulged.
As you see life in Leeds isn’t exactly normal. We learn about the world from the unknown narrator and from broadcasts transmitted by local radio station named WXXT. Some characters like Ben Stockton and Jebediah Blackstye appear few times, some just once.

The story is told in a way that keeps the reader asking himself if what he just read had actually happened or maybe was just a hallucination? I’m not sure what was the author’s goal, but if it was to freak me out, he has succeeded. These events/visions are disturbing. Hell, disturbing is a euphemism – it’s a total mindfuck. 

I could tell you of a rain of bruised babies slamming sickeningly into the pavement of the roads and sidewalks of Leeds, bouncing in dizzying numbers from the roof tops and canopies and awnings.
I could tell you that I was now a part of an army of the dead, whose instructions were dispersed by coded messages on a radio station. I could tell you of our foul mission and of our multitudes of intended victims. 
I could tell you these things, my invisible audience, only on the airwaves of WXXT.
WXXT.
If it bleeds, it's Leeds.

Bartlett is a fine writer. He plays with the language and even when he describes surreal atrocities, he does it with style and phrasing that are impressive.

I’m not sure what genre it is. It’s weird and formidable. Categorization isn’t important, though. What’s important is the fact it works in a strange and twisted way. While some images are obscene and simply sick, they’re also addictive and, well, for the lack of another word, beautiful in a creepy way. 

I have to admit that while it wasn’t an easy book, it thoroughly impressed me. It reads like ultra-violent and nightmare-inducing poetry. I’ll reread it just for the sheer thrill of conjuring these images in my head once again. 

If you’re looking for something weird and terrifying, look no more. Just grab a copy of Gateways to Abomination and experience weirdness organically and viscerally. 

Just remember it’s not the book for the faint of heart – it’s violent and profane. You may find yourself unable to get rid of some of vivid and brutal images, like this one:

When Jeb was in his cups, which thankfully was not often, he’d grab his overalls in a fist and yank them asunder. Then from his unders, he’d pull out his I-can‘t-say-it, a confused grey mass of you-know-what, held together with a wet and reeking shoelace. THIS, he’d bellow, IS THE SOURCE OF ALL THE PROBLEMS IN THE WORLD. I USEDTA THINK IT WAS WOMAN BUT ITS THIS. He’d yank from his deep pocket a meat tenderizing mallet, heavy and dirty, and demand that we hammer his mess. I’d give a meaty whack or two, looking away in horror, to placate the lunatic. Earl, though, took to it. He’d wheeze his asthmatic wheeze and swing that hammer like a he-man at a carnival. Trying to ring the bell. BAMM, he’d yell. BAMM BAMM. .

If you’re ready, try it. Oh, and don’t expect to have some clear beginning and end. You won’t get those.

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