Billed as "tales of erotic horror," this collection of 16 stories shows a versatile Canadian writer struggling with only modest success to overcome the limitations of a very narrow subgenre. In the book's best selection, "Letting Go," Death comes as a lover to a terminal AIDS patient, whose human companion expresses his love most selflessly by giving him up to the ecstasy of that union. The poignancy and sensuality of this story set it apart from the others, most of which work adolescent squeamishness and insecurity about sexual matters into tales of physical horror. "Yours Truly, Jackie the Stripper" is a protracted examination of macho male attitudes towards female sexuality that ends with a grisly (and thoroughly improbable) castration scene. "Teeth" is yet another variation on the hackneyed theme of the vagina dentata. "Bust," in which a victim of a grotesque breast augmentation metes out grisly retribution to her cosmetic surgeon, is one of several stories in which sex is a means of achieving spectacularly visceral revenge. To his credit, Stoker winner van Belkom (Death Drives a Semi) keeps the stories relatively brief, and his tongue mostly in cheek. His sexual scenarios build up to effective, sardonic twist endings, and the majority of stories show women empowered by their sexuality, rather than playing the victim role so common in horror fiction. Still, readers may find themselves snickering as much as shivering at these dark sexual fantasies. Agent, Joshua Bilmes. (Aug.)
FYI:The author has expanded "Teeth" to novel length (Forecasts, May 28).