A collection of sordid short fiction about sex, initially seductive but ultimately disappointing. Lau (Runaway: Diary of a Street Kid, not reviewed) tackles the difficult topic of the dark underworld of female sexuality. Her women reveal a surreal mixture of strengths and weaknesses: They dominate men with everything from pretty young faces to black stilettos to the handles of wooden spoons, while falling victim to mind-numbing drugs, vicious male strength, and their desperate need for money. Often women appear to be controlling men: In ""The Session,"" Mary forces the wimpy son of an invalid mother to bring her wine on his knees, lick the bottoms of her shoes, and thank her for thrashing a spiked collar across his buttocks; the narrator of the title story manipulates a drunk, lonely old man into paying her hundreds of dollars to keep him company. Other times, women are at the mercy of brutal men: In ""Roses,"" an 18-year-old accepts the drugs and beatings of her psychiatrist paramour, certain he's acting out of the purest love; while ""Pleasure"" shows a woman frustrated by a hopeless affair with a married man succumbing to the lashings of a stranger, taking comfort in his absolute power over her and the fact that she can't be held responsible for anything that happens. But Lau so shallowly sketches her characters that it's hard to tell if these women are to be respected for choosing to submit, or pitied for occupying a position in a patriarchal hierarchy that forces them to become prostitutes and sex slaves. The idea that we must accept whatever happens between consenting adults is difficult to buy when one of those adults is at a financial, emotional, psychological, and historical disadvantage, and Lau's facile approach makes it impossible to determine how we're meant to interpret the often revolting action. Drags on too long, despite the volume's slimness.