We Can Remember It For You Wholesale: Partial Recall

Total Recall

When I read Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? a few years ago, I was struck by how much it deviated from its Hollywood counterpart, Blade Runner. In retrospect I shouldn’t have been – film adaptations are notorious for drifting away from source material.

It’s no surprise, then, that “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” is quite a bit different from Total Recall, one of my favorite Arnold movies.

For one thing, “We Can Remember It” is a short story. In order to draw it out into a film-length production, I suppose liberties had to be taken. Dick’s story never leaves Earth, but there is talk of Mars and our protagonist’s secret mission there. Total Recall, then, seemed to grasp at this thread and weave it into a separate tapestry.

I don’t want to give too much away, but I’ll share a few quick notes. First, Dick’s story veers almost into the absurd by the story’s end, which seems not to be too out of character for his writing. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I’d say it gives the tale an almost fantastical quality. Second, the company (or in this case the agency) isn’t as evil in Dick’s version of the story. It’s just an amoral organization doing what it needs to do. Last, I found it moderately interesting that the protagonist’s name is actually Quail, pointing to his deceptively mild nature. I don’t suppose that would have made much sense for such an imposing figure as Arnold cuts, which is probably why his character is named Quaid rather than Quail.

My main complaint is that I feel like Dick latched onto a really clever idea here and then drove it a little too far. This was also my experience with “Prominent Author,” the story right before “We Can Remember It” in the collection I’m reading. But in this case it’s not a major gripe. The story still has an interesting ending.

If you’ve got a chance, I recommend checking this one out. It’s short, sweet, and entertaining.



  1. I actually read the movie novelization by Piers Anthony before I even knew it was a movie and long before I realized it was based on a short story by Dick. For years I thought that Anthony had written the book and I was pretty impressed when the movie stuck so close to the book 😀

  2. Oh, wow, I remember that name Quail. It’s been a while. I love PK Dick, but the movies and shows based off his work aren’t usually terrible (some are). Just different.

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