© 1966 – Philip K. Dick
When we are a limited little employee with no ambition, with the minimum wages allowing to just live every day, it’s hard to realise one’s dreams, especially if they are ambitious. Fortunately, the Rekall society is here for you. With a simple mnemonic implant, we insert to you the memories you desire which will have all the advantage of real ones without the inconveniences.
That is how Douglas Quail, pathetic civil servant whose marriage is on the skids, goes to Rekall for the dream, or the fantasy, of his life: to go to Mars as an Interplan secret agent. Unfortunately, the implant cannot be done when the Rekall’s technicians realise that the fantasy of Quail contain a part – a huge part – of erased memories protecting an ancient cover.
So, begins for Doug a pursuit against his former employers, in the search on his real identity, at the end of which a terrible revelation awaits.
With this 1966 short story, Philip K. Dick approaches one of his favourite themes: the identity quest and the doubt about our life’s reality. Indeed, as in other stories like Impostor or The Electric Ant, the main character is never sure being who he think he is, which lead him in a course for seeking his identity he isn’t certain to discover and will end to a finale revelation not always happy.
This uncertainty about the end of the story is also one of the characteristics of Dick. At any moment, the characters – even the hero – can die or plunge humanity in chaos, and the “happy ending” is rarely at the party.
In short, a very good short story, however too short for me, in the line of Dickian stories.
We Can Remember… had been adapted to the cinema in 1990 by Paul Verhoven under the title Total Recall, with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the role of Douglas Quail (renamed Quaid, with a “d”, in the movie).
If the content had been respected – and largely extended because of many ideas drawn in Dick’s work – the end of the movie is sensibly different of the short story. The film is centred on the Douglas character and the end of his problems signs the end of the movie (a very hollywoodian “happy end”).
However, the short story is much less optimistic. If the Quail’s fate is quite enviable, the future of humanity is less than enviable. It outlines a very cruel scene of our future as a species. But I won’t say anymore about an important revelation which isn’t approached in the feature film.