Written by: Matt Molgaard
Douglas Quail has clung to the idea of traveling to Mars for about as long as he can remember. But that kind of travel taps the bank in a major way, and sometimes the next best thing is the only viable option. Such is the case for Quail, which you probably already know if you’ve ever seen Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 adaptation of this tale, titled Total Recall. In the future REKAL, INCORPORATED offers false memory transplants that lead customers to believe that they have indeed ventured far beyond their actual means, which Quail – against the advice of his wife – takes full advantage of.
But, all good things come with a price tag beyond their monetary emblem, and Quail is about to learn (to a degree) that the hard way. Unlike Verhoeven’s film, which is cluttered with a load of extra plot details (a necessity in stretching this tale to feature length run time in my opinion), this story is really rather simplistic. The 1990 feature film (and I suspect the forthcoming Len Wiseman reboot, which runs a full 118 minutes) is riddled with minor mysteries, strange monsters and action inducing conflicts. This story however, doesn’t offer any of these supplements, and the truth is, it doesn’t require any of those bells and whistles. The tale essentially unfolds in a single days time, over the course of two separate trips to REKAL, with virtually zero detailed memories of Quail’s experiences on Mars.
While the picture itself becomes a bit murky at times, Dick’s narrative offers a crystal clear account of Doug’s strange expedition, even while omitting the deep details of his stay on Mars. The clarity of this source material is a welcomed change from the motion picture: the same story, minus all the conjecture and outlandish inclusions works far more effectively for me personally. By the time the film reaches fever pitch there’s a level of confusion as to how involved Quail (or Quaid as the character is known in the film) really is in this mystery, but Philip’s tale eliminates the abashment of the motion picture, which results in an extremely rewarding and undimmed conclusion.
I’m certain plenty of you are wondering why I’d cover this specific story, considering it’s a tale deeply rooted in science fiction lore. I’ll tell you why: first off, it’s extremely relevant given the fact that Wiseman’s retooling hits theaters one week from tomorrow, but furthermore, the level of paranoia crammed into this brief little story is at times rather frightening. Quail’s life is one massive spindle of confusion and his slow unraveling of facts strikes in rather haunting fashion.
If you’re hoping for three breasted women and various alien lifeforms traipsing around this one, you’ll be extremely disappointed. That said, if you’re compelled by well conceived character studies and easily definable story layers, We Can Remember It For You Wholesale is an absolute treasure. While the dialect certainly differs from the majority of fiction you’ll find today, this one still carries a remarkably contemporary feel to it. It’s eerie at times, frantic at others, and rewarding from page one. In fact, the story is so far superior to what we’ve seen on film, my interest in the forthcoming Total Recall remake is suddenly quite diminished.
This is a terrific short story, no two ways about it. To avoid seeking this one out (you can read this one free online courtesy of numerous different websites) teeters on the brink of criminal.
If you want to know what Total Recall is really all about – invest the half hour required to read this amazing tale!