When one of my favorites recommends another author, I listen. So, when I saw John Boden post about Matthew M. Bartlett’s work, I immediately ordered his short fiction collection, Gateways to Abomination. It took me awhile to get to this one, but it was worth the wait.
After I finished reading this book, I had to set it aside and allow myself to think on it for a few days before I could write this review. It’s hard to categorize this type of book into a subgenre of horror. Bartlett has a unique writing style that shines in this collection and there are no wasted words. The stories are all connected by a common link—transmissions from a sinister radio station called WXXT. But don’t go into this book expecting each story to read like a radio broadcast. That was my initial expectation upon reading the synopsis, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that’s not the case. These stories tie together through mention of WXXT at times, but they are also linked by some recurring locations and characters.
I set this one down a couple of times in between stories, but now that I’ve finished it, I highly recommend reading the stories in order, and in one sitting (if possible) for full effect. I’d actually like to go back and re-read this again in that fashion. I think I’d take even more from the writing in that way. I am not sure I can select “favorites” from this collection because the stories just work so well together, and I feel like one without the others would not be the same.
The horror in this collection is subtle at times, and strong and visceral in other moments. There’s an underlying and sinister hum of the occult that you can feel pulsing throughout the pages as you read. These stories gave me the creeps and left me disturbed, and that’s exactly what I was hoping for with this read. This book won’t be for everyone—I guess you could describe it as “weird” fiction. If it were a film it would be that hidden indie gem that’s often overlooked in a sea of Hollywood blockbusters. Gateways to Abomination is weird and wonderful, and the kind of content that would make for a great live reading. I’ll be picking up more of Bartlett’s work soon, and recommend this is if you’re looking for something to refresh your horror collection.