Question: What shall we read in June?
Option 1: Pulse: short stories
Option 2: The Reporter
Option 3: The Undead
Option 4: Virtual Light
Option 5: The Wee Free Men
Pulse, by Julian Barnes. After the best-selling Arthur & George and Nothing to Be Frightened Of, Julian Barnes returns with fourteen stories about longing and loss, friendship and love, whose mysterious natures he examines with his trademark wit and observant eye. (228 pages)
The Reporter, by Scott Sigler. The Reporter follows Yolanda Davenport, a reporter for Galaxy Sports Magazine, as she searches for the truth about Ju Tweedy's involvement with the murder of Grace McDermott - the incident that drove Ju to join the Ionath Krakens. The Reporter takes place between week three and week six of the 2684 Galactic Football League season, the season that encompasses The All-Pro. (138 pages)
The Undead, by Roxanne Longstreet. Most people avoid the cold, sterile peace of the hospital morgue, but Adam Radburn finds peace in the undemanding responsibilities of caring for the dead. It's the perfect job for someone with an affinity for the night...or a vampire. (318 pages)
Virtual Light, by William Gibson. Berry Rydell, an ex-cop, signs on with IntenSecure Armed Response in Los Angeles. He finds himself on a collision course that results in a desperate romance, and a journey into the ecstasy and dread that mirror each other at the heart of the postmodern experience. (304 pages)
The Wee Free Men, by Terry Pratchett. A young witch-to-be named Tiffany teams up with the Wee Free Men, a clan of six-inch-high blue men, to rescue her baby brother and ward off a sinister invasion from Fairyland. (352 pages)
I'd read "Pulse" before, but enjoyed visiting it again. As often happens, I found I had slightly different reactions to some of the stories than I did the first time around.
For instance, the four At Phil & Joanna's stories, where we eavesdrop of sophisticated Londoners (I presume) chatting at a dinner party. The first time I read these stories I remember finding them simply funny, this time around I found them more annoying than anything else. I think I'm getting even more anti-social with age.
My favorite story remains The Limner, with Marriage Lines a close second. The Limner is a low rent portrait painter working in what appears to be the 17th century or thereabouts. He travels on his faithful mare from town to town painting the portraits of the middle-class. The story details the last portrait he ever painted, and why he gave up painting after that (except for the one he plans to do of his mare) to retire to a small farm in the country. I'd really love to see that last (human) portrait, with all the little changes he made to more clearly define his subject's true character -- esp. considering that one of the changes involved cloven hooves.
Marriage Lines made me wonder how autobiographical the story was, given that this collection was dedicated to his recently deceased wife. The story is a meditation on the 20-some years the narrator has been vacationing on a remote Scottish island, beginning with his first time there with his soon-to-be wife and ending with his last trip just after his wife's death. It's a quiet story but very moving.
Pulse, by Julian Barnes
This is a series of short stories. I liked the first story, and one later about the mother who was dying and how the son and father dealt with it.
This book didn't hit me at all other than those two stories. There were a few interesting bits here and there. The conversation stories were a slog for me and I couldn't read any more for the day after each of those which seemed to be about every other story. So while the book was pretty short, it took me a long time to get through it.
Overall, the best things I can say is that I felt like it's good to sometimes read books outside of my preferences. Sometimes I end up liking a book years later that I didn't like the first time around.