Book Review

Total Recall

Total RecallTotal Recall
Author: Philip K. Dick
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
First Published: April 1966
Genres: Dystopia, Science Fiction
Pages: 40
Format: eBook
Source: Prime Reading


Philip K. Dick’s classic short story tells the story of Douglas Quail, an unfulfilled bureaucrat who dreams of visiting Mars, but can't afford the trip. Luckily, there is Rekal Incorporated, a company that lets everyday stiffs believe they’ve been on incredible adventures. The only problem is that when technicians attempt a memory implant of a spy mission to Mars, they find that real memories of just such a trip are already in Quail's brain. Suddenly, Quail is running for his life from government agents, but his memories might make him more of a liability than he is worth. Originally published as "We Can Remember It For You Wholesale."

My Thoughts

I will be honest, I have never watched either of the Total Recall film adaptations and I count myself lucky that I got to go into this story near blind to what it was actually about. I’m glad that I went in not knowing a lot because I found the story to be surprisingly funny and I didn’t expect it!

“You’re not accepting second best. The actual memory, with all its vagueness, omissions, and ellipses, not to say distortions—that’s second best.”

Originally published under the title We Can Remember It for You Wholesale, Douglas Quail feels a strong desire to travel to Mars and dreams of a life of excitement as a spy. Dissatisfied with the drudgery of his decidedly average life, he goes to the aptly titled Rekal Incorporated to purchase artificial memories. What happens is beyond Doug’s wildest dreams.

I loved how the idea of memory tampering is explored here, and it makes the reader consider how a service that allows people to create artificial memories for enjoyment would actually work in the real world. Its a fun little thought experiment and makes for an incredibly enjoyable read.

About Philip K. Dick

Philip K. Dick was born in Chicago in 1928 and lived most of his life in California. In 1952, he began writing professionally and proceeded to write numerous novels and short-story collections. He won the Hugo Award for the best novel in 1962 for The Man in the High Castle and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for best novel of the year in 1974 for Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said. Philip K. Dick died on March 2, 1982, in Santa Ana, California, of heart failure following a stroke.

In addition to 44 published novels, Dick wrote approximately 121 short stories, most of which appeared in science fiction magazines during his lifetime. Although Dick spent most of his career as a writer in near-poverty, ten of his stories have been adapted into popular films since his death, including Blade Runner, Total Recall, A Scanner Darkly, Minority Report, Paycheck, Next, Screamers, and The Adjustment Bureau. In 2005, Time magazine named Ubik one of the one hundred greatest English-language novels published since 1923. In 2007, Dick became the first science fiction writer to be included in The Library of America series.


I’m a Filipino American blogger, historian, and lazy writer. I enjoy books, video games, anime/manga, and smoking hookah.

Recommended Articles

Leave a Reply