Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Book Review: 'A Flutter of Darkness: 15 Dark Tales' by Jason Lavelle

A Flutter of Darkness by Jason Lavelle

'Honey, sex, fire, vengeance’

Michigan author/photographer Jason LaVelle is an animal advocate, working in a veterinary clinic during the day and caring for his own menagerie at night – along with composing some of the finest dark short stories this reviewer has read!

Jason sets a tone that indicates the mind behind these tales in his dedicatory opening: ‘This book is dedicated to all those who are different, those who are strange, those who are misunderstood, or who often misunderstand. We are not alone, not now and not ever. Join me, and in the darkness we will shine.’ Granted, those thoughts are particularly poignant during this time of isolation, but the atmosphere for the tales that follow somehow now seems more congenial!

The fifteen selected stories in this collection range from frightening to violent to bizarre to tongue-in-cheek humorous (in a dark sort of way), and without exception, each story is successful. Jason’s skill in creating richly colorful prose includes some appropriate off-color passages that add a sense of immediacy to the stories he is weaving. The note left to encourage readers relates the tone of the stories well – ‘A flutter is a gathering of butterflies. Elegant, ethereal, inspiring joy and wonder. But not all butterflies feed on flowers and light. Some are drawn to decomposing bodies and trickling pools of blood. Some, are drawn to darkness.’

The variety of subject matter is broad; the places the author takes us are dark but related with such fine prose that even the horror can be whimsical in his hands. Jason LaVelle is stepping solidly into that circle of like authors such as Shirley Jackson, Stephen King, HP Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, Ray Bradbury et al. Keeping the sections of his stories in flight are the ever-present images of butterflies that serve as visual reminders of the books title and demeanor. 

The length of the stories varies from quite short to novella format, and the themes coincide with the size of the tale. This is an exceptional collection of ‘things that go bump in the night’ type tales and an encouragement to seek out Jason’s other novels and anthologies. Very highly recommended. 

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.