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Voices from the Street by Philip K. Dick
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Voices from the Street

by Philip K. Dick

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This is one of Philip K. Dick's earlier stories that was unpublished until a few years ago. I found this in one of those giant book-overstock stores that's open for a while until they run out of inventory or money to rent the storefront. Fitting, considering certain elements of this story.

Except for the fact that the story is set in 1952, the characters and the plot of this book could just as well be found today. In fact, there were moments where conversations between characters seemed like something one might overhear on the streets right this very moment. It's fascinating how little has changed since the 50s in regards to religion, politics, and especially the mixture of the two.

The story itself is the descent of a young man, typical of the age, or any age, into animalistic fury. He's a dreamer, stuck in a salesman job he hates, looking for meaning in his life while feeling stuck by the trappings of society. He starts to look for another way, tries out the big new religion sweeping through town, tries to drown himself in drink, even tries to become the most perfect everyday citizen; but it all leads him deeper and deeper into the hole of unfulfillment he digs for himself. Things get dark, incredibly, wickedly dark.

That's the genius of Dick's writing. He creates this vividly descriptive world and pulls you in, then takes you into the darkest workings of the human mind. He would later use science fiction to explore these emotions, playing with allegory and metaphor, but early on he wrote bleak, starkly contrasting reality, and it's terrifying. ( )
  regularguy5mb | Sep 16, 2015 |
It's June 5, 1952...early on, in that "Happy Days" decade of Joe and Marilyn and Elvis,...but Stuart Hadley, the protagonist of Voices in the Street, is not happy in the least. Though, by all rights, he should be. He's 4-F (safe from the draft and the Korean War). He's young, blond and handsome. His wife adores him. He has a healthy baby son. And his boss sees something of promise in him; Stuart's been promoted to manager of a TV/Radio sales and repair shop. BUT, inexplicably, Stuart Hadley is miserable! He's sensitive enough to feel that there's more to life than commercial success, - something ineffable but what, but What? Neither religion or alcohol or sex work as escapes or solutions. California, for him, is bleak as a cage.

Voices in the Street is Phillip K Dick's second novel, and last to be published, in 2007, fifty five years after it was written. Dick earned his place in a pantheon of Sci-Fi writers, over his long career. But this novel is more akin in style and subject matter to something by Theodore Dreiser. An unstinting look, in precise, naturalistic, and photographic prose, at way fate and society can crush the naive and their dreams. But style aside, "Voices" fits in with Dick's canon, whether chronologically viewed as a finial or a cornerstone. The grand themes of his Sci-Fi work concern the individual psyche, lost and searching for reality and identity, in a morphing world, controlled by hostile corporate and governmental forces. Stuart Hadley is that individual, on that same harrowing quest, and facing the same dominant forces, albeit in the mundane, bland world of 1950's Oakland. And for that reason, the novel still resonates - loudly - in this Age of "Businessantium" where many have no alternatives to McJobs, shopping mall serfdom, and a life in thrall to intertwined nexi of corporate and governmental powers. ( )
1 vote Ganeshaka | Jul 10, 2010 |
The situation of the main character should be recognizable to many in our service-based economy. He is a salesman in a small TV shop in southern California in the early 1950s. Like so many of our minimum wage, or slightly higher paid, store employees today, he is barely scrapping by. His wife is pregnant, he has no car, and he feels he has lost his opportunity to make something of himself. His father is a doctor. He is a talented artist. The war everyone worries about is in Korea. A nuclear holocaust seems inevitable. A religious sect offers some answers. Adultery looms.His frustration and rage vent in an almost acceptable manner for the time; he often leaves home, goes to bars, and comes back drunk with the occasional fight or trip to the drunk tank thrown in. His boss and coworkers deride him yet care about him. He's smart, good looking, and teems with ideas for success. He just never quite gets his act together. I was fascinated by the social similarities and differences with today. Life was less impersonal then. He gets an opportunity for greater pay and responsibility. Will he succeed or succumb to his faults?The author paints many vivid scenes which stay in my mind. Here he is on an equal footing with his later works. I feel there needed to be more connection and flow between them though. Some were powerful, some were awkward, and some were just good stories. They lack of flow was most noticeable at the ending where, after a digression or two, the plot slammed to a halt leaving me wondering what had just happened. The author is dead so I can't ask him. Given the erratic life of the protagonist maybe an unexpected ending is appropriate. ( )
  edecklund | Jul 15, 2009 |
The situation of the main character should be recognizable to many in our service-based economy. He is a salesman in a small TV shop in southern California in the early 1950s. Like so many of our minimum wage, or slightly higher paid, store employees today, he is barely scrapping by. His wife is pregnant, he has no car, and he feels he has lost his opportunity to make something of himself. His father is a doctor. He is a talented artist. The war everyone worries about is in Korea. A nuclear holocaust seems inevitable. A religious sect offers some answers. Adultery looms.His frustration and rage vent in an almost acceptable manner for the time; he often leaves home, goes to bars, and comes back drunk with the occasional fight or trip to the drunk tank thrown in. His boss and coworkers deride him yet care about him. He's smart, good looking, and teems with ideas for success. He just never quite gets his act together. I was fascinated by the social similarities and differences with today. Life was less impersonal then. He gets an opportunity for greater pay and responsibility. Will he succeed or succumb to his faults?The author paints many vivid scenes which stay in my mind. Here he is on an equal footing with his later works. I feel there needed to be more connection and flow between them though. Some were powerful, some were awkward, and some were just good stories. They lack of flow was most noticeable at the ending where, after a digression or two, the plot slammed to a halt leaving me wondering what had just happened. The author is dead so I can't ask him. Given the erratic life of the protagonist maybe an unexpected ending is appropriate. ( )
  dw0rd | Jul 15, 2009 |
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
Voices is the work of an apprentice novelist who was already a journeyman short-story writer. Undoubtedly, it has flaws, but readers familiar with PKD will be fascinated to observe the young writer working out—alongside some technical issues—many of the themes he would return to obsessively throughout his extensive oeuvre.
 
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They find it harder to locate their
external enemies than to grapple with
their internal conditions. Their
seemingly impersonal defect has spun
a personally tragic plot and they are
betrayed by what is false within them.

     - C. Wright Mills
Dedication
To S. M.
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Thursday morning, June 5, 1952, came bright and hot.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0765316927, Hardcover)

Stuart Hadley is a young radio electronics salesman in early 1950s Oakland, California. He has what many would consider the ideal life; a nice house, a pretty wife, a decent job with prospects for advancement, but he still feels unfulfilled; something is missing from his life. Hadley is an angry young man--an artist, a dreamer, a screw-up. He tries to fill his void first with drinking, and sex, and then with religious fanaticism, but nothing seems to be working, and it is driving him crazy. He reacts to the love of his wife and the kindness of his employer with anxiety and fear.
One of the earliest books that Dick ever wrote, and the only novel that has never been published, Voices from the Street is the story of Hadley's descent into depression and madness, and out the other side.
Most known in his lifetime as a science fiction writer, Philip K. Dick is growing in reputation as an American writer whose powerful vision is an ironic reflection of the present. This novel completes the publication of his canon.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:19 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

In 1950s Oakland, California, Stuart Hadley, a young radio electronics salesman, puts his perfect life at risk as his growing anger, anxiety, and fear results in a quest to fill the void with drinking, sex, and religious fanaticism.

» see all 2 descriptions

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