Vicious Redemption by Michael Lucas is a collection of 5 deliciously gruesome horror tales.
Wednesday's Seagulls - Is a metaphore for marriage if I ever saw one. Or a zombie version of pop goes the weasle.
Pax Canina - Is the most charming, about dead dogs and no good deed going unpunished.
Opening the Eye - Is a trippy trepanation story.
Breaking the Circle - Is about not letting your daughter grow up... cause, you know, she's a werewolf and shit.
Sticky Notes - Is really an unflinching look at a person who has a chance at getting his heart's desire, which is something he's been spending his whole life avoiding. As a warning for those who would rather not read about the subjects, it touches on suicide and abuse.
Mike writes excellent stories about grim choices. About the choices that lucky people don't have to make. Donner party sorts of choices. The collection title is spot on: all of the redemptions offered here cost at least a pound of flesh.
The stories are vivid in a Grand Guignol style, but thoughtful in a way that puts torture porn to shame. I especially like that he can take really unsympathetic characters, as in Opening the Eye, and make you interested in what they do. In the case of Sticky Notes, he takes a really unsympathetic condition, curses a sympathetic character with it, and does a sort of egg race balancing morality and desire to the end of the story. Mike's fiction is original (there may be another trepanation story around somewhere...), never uses over worked tropes, and manages to stare uncomfortable shit right in the face and make a story out of it. If you like over the top horror, you will find this collection very satisfactory.
There wasn't a single one of these stories I didn't like, so I'll just end with full disclosure: Mike is an old friend of mine, I saw most of these tales before this collection, and I've always been a big fan.