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The Short Happy Life of the Brown Oxford and Other Classic Stories (The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick, Vol. 1) (Vol 1) Paperback – May 1, 2002

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Citadel (1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0806511532
  • ISBN-13: 978-0806511535
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #728,213 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Roger H. Geyer on March 11, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There are three consistent aspects to PKD's (Philip Dick's) work that I find compelling:

1. He constantly asks the (most important) question, "What is the nature of reality"?

2. He repeatedly states and offers evidence that the answer to the question "What does it mean to be human?" is the ability to feel empathy.

3. His plots involve such "ordinary" people, and have excellent character development - so you quickly get to understand them. Meanwhile, the story involves some bizarre science fiction device , idea, or condition, that he makes a part of this very normal human's world. You're quickly drawn in by the master.

PKD spent a significant amount of time thinking and writing about philosophy. In a way, reading his stories is an entertaining way of doing a survey of his take on the world's philosophical history without having to read (and understand) endless tomes of the great philosophers. You can see how this changes in PKD as you read different books in the Collected Stories series.

Philip makes it abundantly clear that he hates much of the stupidity that mankind inflicts on itself. War is a commonly expressed example of this. Of course, with the science fiction plot theme, he can easily spread examples of this through time, through the galaxy, and beyond (even to gods, other sentient races, etc).

As is tragically true so often with deep thinkers, Philip's life was far from carefree...As a consequence, and the fact that he's obviously a man bent on searching for TRUTH, his writing often has a dark underlying feeling. Comedy is sprinkled through the stories, but it too has a dark quality. Even the moments of greatest joy provide a somewhat bittersweet feeling, due to the background of the plot worlds.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Dave Schwartz VINE VOICE on October 31, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Short Happy Life of the Brown Oxford collects some of Dick's earliest writing, including much of his output from 1952-1955. Even writers who don't appreciate his prose style would have to admire his fecundity: some of these stories were written within days of each other, yet each has something unique about it.

Fans of Dick will see early brushstrokes that were later transformed into masterpieces. There are a few post-apocalyptic stories here; this is a genre that Dick would revisit throughout the 1950s, as mounting hysteria, foreign and domestic, seemed to make war inevitable. There are also scheming insects (and even a murderous bath towel), vengeful teddy bears, sentient shoes, and world-weary computers. One of Dick's best qualities is that he can make the reader feel empathy for just about anyone-a dog barking for what seems to his owners like no reason, a teary-eyed Martian swine, or a hyper-evolved hamster. So reading this collection might, for some, be a bit of a workout. Unlike a novel, where the reader sees through the eyes of one or maybe two characters for 200+ pages, here you're walking in someone-or something-else's shoes every few pages. At times, it's almost intoxicating.

On to the stories: I'll just mention a few of my favorites, though they've all got positive qualities.

Stability, which is the first story Dick wrote, would be of interest just because of its priority, but it's worth a read strictly on its own merits. Dick creates a world where innovation is frozen, a la Rand's Anthem, inviting the reader to root for a young man with an invention. But, there is a very unexpected twist...
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 28, 2004
Format: Paperback
The problem with slapping the "genius" label on a writer is that people tend to overlook that writer's flaws. All the glowing reviews make this collection sound better then it really is. PKD certainly was a genius, but he wasn't perfect. His best stories are absolutely amazing, but it took him time to get there and he wrote several clunkers along the way.
This book collects 25 of PKD's short stories from the early 1950s. Like most of his early work it's inconsistent. To those who are familiar with his writing, the brilliance that would later come is sometimes apparent. However, the young PKD was still growing as a writer and hadn't quite found his voice yet. The best stories in this collection are great reads. Unfortunately, there are several stories here that are just filler and are significant only because PKD wrote them. If you are not familiar with PKD's work some of these stories will be a great introduction. But most of them are far from perfect.
Here are a few high and low points:
Roog:
This is a fun little story. The men who come to collect your garbage are not what they seem, and only your dog knows why.
The Gun:
This is one of those filler stories, cause it has not point to it. I guess PKD needed a quick buck.
Beyond Lies the Wub:
More filler.
The Skull:
Some of these stories could have been made into episodes of the Twilight Zone, like this one. An interesting take on the story of Christ. The premise is not very original by today's standards, but still a good story.
The Preserving Machine:
Probably the worst story in the collection.
Expendable:
One of the best stories in the collection is also the shortest; only 5 pages. It is also one of the funniest. Next time you see an ant, beware.
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