Author: Philip K. Dick
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
First Published: April 1966
Genres: Dystopia, Science Fiction
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."
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.