A Soundless Dawn by Dustin LaValley is certainly quite a departure from the books we usually associate with Sinister Grin Press. ‘A Soundless Dawn’ is a collection of thoughtful flash fiction pieces, micro fiction pieces and short stories that seem somewhat autobiographical in nature, though at other times can appear completely unconnected to anything else within the book.
I think that the cover art is an excellent representation of the kind of fiction that is on offer. The city skyline seems somewhat incomplete, indicative of some of the shorter pieces scattered throughout the book. That isn’t to say that these short pieces are devoid of value, on the contrary, LaValley’s work is simplistic and direct one minute evoking a number of familiar human emotions and deeply philosophical the next, even some of these shorter bursts of prose will have some significant impact upon you. The opening two pieces are short, but set the tone beautifully. It is simple prose, but with a haunting quality that encourages you to continue on this journey through LaValley’s thoughts and imagination.
Flash and micro-fiction is sometimes difficult to truly appreciate, and whilst I wouldn’t say there is very much at all in this collection I’d call “forgettable”, it’s definitely the longer pieces that held my interest. None more so than “Sand Bucket” – a story about parenthood, loss and the wonder of a child’s imagination. It is a beautiful story that tugged at the heart strings until they finally snapped on the last word, leaving me wanting to rush into the bedrooms of my two children and hold them dearly. Elsewhere, ‘The Wrestler Graves’ is a very different look at the breakdown of a relationship between two people. Here, WWE wrestler Robin Graves injures himself during a practice bout. Meanwhile, his wife, Maryanne is having an affair behind his back and feeding him pills to help keep him oblivious. Graves isn’t as doped up as people think and he hatches a plan to have his revenge. Another highlight is ‘A Comic Book’-a short/simplistic story about a boy who waits for his mother to disappear at night before diving into his comic book. The content of the comic suggests it is perhaps more suitable for older readers, hence the young boy hiding it from his mother. There is something that really resonates here, the love of reading and being lost in another time, another place, inside the pages of a story. That isn’t all there is to this brief story, for it is also about the awakening of a young boy’s sexuality, his coming-of-age into a more adult world.
And so, the collection continues with brief vignettes, short episodic scenes to slightly longer, more in-depth tales. A word on the final piece, ‘Sympathy or Selfishness?”, a love letter to an old friend (a pet) that really encapsulates some of the feeling that LaValley is able to project in so few words. My final thoughts are that ‘A Soundless Dawn’ is an engaging, intriguing release and a heartfelt, truthful collection of scenes and stories, one that I am sure everybody will get at least something from.
Gathered within A Soundless Dawn are short stories that haunt, thrill, and grasp for the soul of humanity and challenge not only societal norms, but those that are to be expected of literature. Included are micro-short stories that further prove customs are meant to be tested to discover our own eccentricities. Whether neo-noir or transgressive, these stories are sure to enthrall.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever read a collection as wholly its own as this, nor a collection so absolutely unconnected to what’s been done before; in fact, it’s been a long, long time since I’ve had the privilege to immerse myself into a book more full of the human soul than this.” –Edward Lee, from the Introduction
“Extraordinary! Hauntingly poignant.” –Thomas Ligotti, author of My Work is Not Yet Done