Review of Total Recall by Philip K. Dick

SFFaudio Review

Total Recall by Philip K. DickTotal Recall
By Philip K. Dick; Performed by Phil Gigante
1 CD – Approx. 1 Hour [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
ISBN: 978-1-4692-4898-1
Themes: / Science Fiction / Mars / telepathy / memory /

Publisher Summary:

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.

The first appearance of Philip K. Dick’s “Total Recall” was under the title “ We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” originally published in 1966 for The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction as well as numerous short fiction anthologies. The current title owes the name to the movie adaptations (similar to 1982’s “Blade Runner”) which have help catapult the author from obscurity into a virtual household name. 2012 featured a new film version of “Total Recall,” and Brilliance Audio has also released among many other previously unavailable Philip K. Dick audiobooks a newly recorded version of the short story under the more familiar title.

The 26-page story is narrated by Audie Award winning narrator Phil Gigante and clocks in on one disc at just shy of one hour. Even though a short story, the narration is superbly done and I especially liked the attention given to little things for an example the telepathic voices heard in protagonist Douglas Quail’s head. For those not familiar with the story, the plot centers around the business REKAL which offers for a discounted fee false memories of adventures planted in their customers brains, often superior to the memories that of an actual excursion. The price includes token memorabilia and the wiping out of any knowledge that the trip was in fact a purchased and pre-packaged false memory. (So much so, that if customers suspect that their trip was in fact purchased at REKAL, they can return for a full discount of their fee.)

For those familiar from the plot of the original movie, only about the first half of the short story is used as a basis to launch the film into a detailed Martian secret agent thriller. The plot of Philip K. Dick’s story actually never leaves Earth, although the Martian journey is referred to as a key element. Instead, the story focuses on continued interaction with REKAL and a surprising further development that will be new to those who are only familiar to the story from the movie versions. (I’ve not seen the latest movie adaptation but it appears to follow the original movie closely more so and deviate even further from the short story.) Whether already a fan of the movies and story or not, the new audiobook offers a fresh and worthwhile take on one of Philip K Dick’s classic tales of science fiction.

Review by Dan VK

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