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Creeping Waves Paperback – April 8, 2016
"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Pre-order today
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About the Author
Matthew M. Bartlett is the author of Gateways to Abomination, Anne Gare’s Rare Book and Ephemera Catalogue, and The Witch-Cult in Western Massachusetts. His short stories have appeared in such anthologies as Xnyobis #1, Resonator: New Lovecraftian Tales From Beyond, Faed, and High Strange Horror. He lives in Northampton, Massachusetts with his wife Katie Saulnier and their cats Phoebe, Peach Pie, and Larry. You can follow him on Twitter at @MattMBartlett. He blogs at www.matthewmbartlett.com.
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"Crooked Rain" made a critical and commercial splash and helped take the band to a new level of success--one of the songs ("Cut Your Hair") even made it to radio briefly. From day one, the album was a darling to all.
The next year, they put out "Wowee Zowee", a shambling double album that confused listeners upon its release, and was even widely panned as being too experimental, too shaggy, too MUCH. But, hey--guess what? By the end of 1995, it showed up on tons of Top 10 lists. And hey, guess what again? Turns out, it's their MASTERPIECE, and probably the best example of Pavement being completely themselves. It is still massively listenable, 21 years later and counting.
I think it's too early to call CREEPING WAVES Mr. Bartlett's masterpiece, because hey, let's give the dude a chance to write some more books--geesh! BUT, I will say that it feels like an industrial strength upgrade from his previous AMAZING book, GATEWAYS TO ABOMINATION.
As a huge fan of weird/creepy stuff, reading GATEWAYS the first time was like getting punched in the face with greatness. It is an insanely original take on the "Cursed Town" sub genre, full of intensity and horror and humor, and a crackling energy. It is almost a Cubist book. If it were a poem, it would be a Wallace Stevens piece called "13 Ways of Looking At A Demonic Radio Station In Leeds, MA".
CREEPING WAVES takes that cubist, self-referential, interconnected CREEPTASTIC energy of the first book and seemingly mainlines it back into itself. And thus if GATEWAYS is a poem, then CREEPING WAVES is a Bosch painting. There is quite literally more horrific, over-the-top, insane, awe-inspiring imagery in CREEPING WAVES than in ten "normal" horror novels/collections. This is not an exaggeration. That it manages to be a demonic generator of the Weird and insane, while ALSO being uproariously funny and even weirdly touching in places, is part of Mr. Bartlett's secret mojo.
In this newest book, there are lots of the small evil nuggets and story-lets and disembodied scenes that made GATEWAYS such a pleasure, but there are also several longer stories this time out, which adds a new, almost operatic dimension. The longer tales are totally killer, including "Master of Worms", "Night Dog", "The Black Tents", and the Vernon Golden story, which is serialized throughout. Many writers good at intense, pithy super short work would start to seem repetitive and tired when given extra rope with which to hang themselves. In the case of Mr. Bartlett, he takes that extra page real estate and makes things even MORE insane, even MORE out there, and somehow manages to up the humanity aspect at the same time. How he does this is a dang mystery to this knucklehead.
It infers throughout a super complicated backstory that only somewhat holds together when viewed with waking logic, but burbles and festers under your skin as good nightmares have a tendency to do. Names and places and allusions come and go, sometimes looping back all the way to GATEWAYS. Discombobulation is a common feeling here, your constant companion as a reader.
There are pieces in this book that made me want to jump up and spike my Kindle into the floor in celebration. The aforementioned "Master of Worms" is one of those, as well as "The Men", "The Egg", "Baal Protects The King (Part 1)", and "Rangel". All of these tales stand on their own as nightmares, and yet they wrap around each other like a big nest of snakes and taken together the effect is WAY scarier/weirder/funnier. "Rangel" even brought tears to my eyes, man!
I'm in the middle of reread #2 and this book is just getting better and better. It is dense with imagery, feeling more like the author had to put a cork in his dark imagination at some point just so he could deliver it to the publisher. To close out the Pavement comparison, I'd describe CREEPING WAVES as initially more "difficult" and dense, which can be off-putting just like "Wowee Zowee" was at first listen. But, also like that album, once you let it start to uncoil in your head, it transmutes into dark gold.
Very highly recommended (in case you didn't pick that up).
I'm going to cut right to the chase; Creeping Waves is not only the best horror novel I've read since Head Full of Ghosts, it's the best novel I've read in years.
I'd love for this book to be optioned to HBO or Showtime and given a 20 episode run like True Detective (the first year). Meanwhile, I'll keep checking my radio dial for dark signals from WXXT.
All that and more. More of Bartlett's prose, prose poetry, vignettes, character sketches; all of it, no matter how brief each item, so potently rendered, so assured. Bartlett can write, and no matter how foul or depraved the events or the characters, no matter how strange and unsettling the atmosphere and setting, it is beautiful writing -- the impeccable word choice, the rhythm, all of it -- beautiful.
I want to say more about: how MAD Magazine cartoonist Will Elder's "chicken fat" concept maybe applies, how Warren Ellis's quote about Alejandro Jodorowsky's Metabarons epic probably does too, how good and on-point is Nathan Ballingrud's introduction to this collection, how important is Bartlett's approach to weird horror fiction and how that and his quiet, unassuming mastery of craft is critical to maintaining the Weird Renaissance's vitality... I want to say more, but there is an overwhelming quality to Bartlett's work that makes this reader weak and addlebrained.
[With regards to my review's title, it is a quote from one of the 'Anne Gare's Rare Book & Ephemera Catalogue' entries found within. And with regards to my rating: I find myself vacillating between 4 and 5 stars. On the one hand, there is so much great writing here; while on the other, there is, I think, quite a bit more humor than was present in Gateways. However, on that point, I'm not completely confident; I know there was some in Gateways, but the humor in 'Creeping Waves' seems somehow less sinister, less conducive to the insidious, borderline apocalyptic atmosphere to which I respond so strongly. But by no means is this a failing on Bartlett's part; the humor is indeed funny -- maybe it'd be best if I thought of it as a palate cleanser. As they say, your mileage may vary; maybe this would be a better entry point for some readers. Regardless, I will be revisiting both collections, dipping in and out of them together to savor the overall picture of Leeds they paint, for it is exquisite.]