I like my horror best when it is captured in the pages of a book, not when it’s literally walking outside of my front door carrying a rifle and intending to use it. (Which did, in fact happen last night, I’ll come back to that though.) And there’s this weird line in my head where horror and violence is more acceptable to read the more supernatural it is. After what happened and more importantly didn’t happen last night I know exactly why now. Because real-life and real people are the most terrifying things you can ever face. And if there is something supernatural about the “horrors” occurring then you can distance yourself. Or, I can anyway. Do you find that to be the case too? When there’s witchcraft involved and it’s literally melting mountains to rain down pain and torment on people you can say, “Wow, that’s a scary thought. Good thing something like that can’t actually happen.” But when the pain and torment that is being doled out comes in the form of bullets? Those are all too real. And far too common.
Which kind of ties into the book I’m reviewing today. The horrific things that happen within it’s pages are all approached with that delicious flavor of madness that only Lovecraftian horror can offer. The violence is possible, but what is fueling it is so impossible that it gives the most stomach curdling scenes the distance they need to be impactful without literally tearing your soul out.
Although, it does come close.
This is one of those books that squirms into your brain through your eyes and wriggles around making you feel like you’re slipping further and further into insanity with it. And just when you think the madness won’t stop- it shockingly does. But that squirming obscenity you felt. Oh… it’s still there, feasting on the darker thoughts in your brain.
Gateways to Abomination
Written by: Matthew M. Bartlett
Genre: Lovecraftian Horror
Book Description: “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.” [Amazon.com]
A confusion of beautifully crafted insanity
The most incredible part of this book is the stunning way it is written. At first the style is a little off-putting, but once you get into the poetic rhythm of it – you’re hooked. I was reading particularly vivid sentences to snap-chat the whole way through. (I’m @horrormade if you’d like to join me next time.)
But as beautiful as Bartlett’s use of language is, it’s used to expertly to horrify and disgust. Here’s an example for you:
“The man was purple, blue, black. His eyes were swollen shut; his nose a pimpled stone; his lips a blue ball bisected by a black blister of a tongue. A grey knot of bone jutted from his leg at the knee. He raised to the ceiling in an unfathomable gesture gnarled hands with fingers fused together with mold and rot. “We live deep down in the underwater towns, “the figure burbled. ” our screams are bubbles, our fortunes drowned.”[pg 48, Gateways to Abomination, by Matthew M. Bartlett.]
Grotesquely beautiful, isn’t it? I was also floored how in as little as a sentence, his words could send chills down your spine: “Among the most ghastly sounds a man can hear is the sound of a voice in what he thought was an empty house.” Too. Freaking. True.
This book is exactly what I imagine reading the infamous “King in Yellow” (an obscene and curse play that exists in Lovecraft’s Mythos.) would be like. It’s complex and beautifully written, yet maddeningly disjointed. Well, it is at first, that is.
As you get further and further into the book, all of the clues and anecdotes start to tie together to build this incredibly disturbing picture of something horrifying growing in power through the radio airwaves of Connecticut. It’s a compelling story, but one that requires at least 2 read-throughs to really appreciate.
5 out of 5 blood spattered stars. This is a book that will sit near my bed, darning me to revisit it again and again to piece together the clues left sprinkled throughout it’s pages.
I feel so incredibly inspired after reading this. And motivated to make even more artwork after that flash of IRL fear – I just want to draw out page after page of what happens in the book. Preferably in the style of Stephen Gammell.
I will say though, that this book is not for your average reader- nor for the faint of heart. There’s some seriously f-ed up sh** going on in there. So if you are triggered by child abuse, extreme body horror, or leeches avoid this one. You will be upset.
Find a Copy
[BTW if you use this link, any purchases you make during that session help support the blog. Amazon will send a little bit of what you spend to me without any extra cost to you. Thanks for the support!]
Connect with the Author
Jeanette, What the heck happened last night?
Well you made it this far, so I’ll fill you in. When I got out of work last night I ended up sitting in traffic for half an hour and I was still nowhere near my exit. (My drive usually only takes 10 minutes.) So I took a different route home and THANK GOD I did. Because if I hadn’t arrived at exactly the moment I did from the direction I had… This story could have had a very different ending.
I was driving down the street leading to my apartment building – I live on your typical American Main Street, btw. Lots of street lights, people walking from restaurant to restaurant, and right on my corner of the block is where the seedier element hangs out. People who seem to hang out there in front of the liquor store all hours of the day no matter the weather. *gives a meaningful look* Ok ok, they’re the drug dealers and hookers. I said it. My neighbors make their money through illegal means. But usually, it’s pretty chill. No one will really bother you unless they’re asking for spare change.
So when I pulled up to the corner of the one-way street I needed to go down to get to my building I wasn’t that surprised to see a bunch of people hanging around. What did catch my attention was the car parked directly across the entrance. My immediate thought being, “Really? Do you have to block the whole street to do your business?”
When the man got out of the car with a rifle in his arms I got my answer. “Yes. Yes you do.” I took one look at his pissed-off face, that huge fucking gun and the young woman frantically pushing him back and I drove right the hell out of firing range. I pulled over further away and immediately called 911.
THANK GOD I showed up at exactly the moment and angle I did, because if I had gotten there even seconds earlier I would have been in the parking lot already, totally unaware of the incredibly pissed off man pointing a gun in my direction. Same if I’d come in from the other direction on the street- the way I normally would have. I wouldn’t have seen the gun tucked next to his body from that angle!
The cops got there so fast that they not only prevented people getting shot but they arrested that bastard and confiscated the COLLECTION of guns in his car. This part I know because one of my neighbors saw him getting arrested on his way home.
To those of you out there who are cops, thank you. Thank you for protecting us. Thank you for being the people willing to run towards the monsters roaming the streets with death in their eyes.