Tuesday, May 17, 2011

No, you're not dead. You're...visiting.

I added Philip K. Dick's short story "The Adjustment Team" after seeing the movie based on it, The Adjustment Bureau. I feel like the movie showed up and disappeared without making much of a splash, but I really liked it. Maybe the mixture of sci fi and romance wasn't really what anyone was expecting. Admittedly just the fact that Sterling* is in it made me want to see it or at least see what it was about. I'm easily swayed. It's a story of predestination and free will and one man who sees behind the curtain. When I found out Philip K. Dick wrote the short story, I decided I needed to check this out.

*This will kind of include spoilers. Unless you saw any trailers of the movie. In which case, nothing will be ruined by reading what's below. That's just how movie trailers roll*
Ed Fletcher was supposed to make it to work early this morning but the Summoner fell back asleep instead of, well, summoning and instead Ed is late to work. Now he's not part of the adjustment, he walks in during the middle of it. His office building and all of his fellow office workers are grey and crumble as if they're made of ash. Ed notices a group of men dressed all in white dragging an odd contraption with them. He flees the building, not sure what he saw. His wife tries to convince him that he's had a psychotic episode. He can't stand to be back at his office and see all the small changes everywhere and wanders the city when the men in white appear to explain the "adjustment" process to him. They will let him be, but he cannot tell anyone what he knows, and he must convince his wife that there was nothing to what he claims to have seen and it was just an episode.
*Spoilers contained*

I love the premise of the story. The story is (very) short, but it gets you asking questions: How much free will do we have?  Is the free will we have real or an illusion? Why would there need to be "adjusters"? What is real? Actually, the story is so short it gets you asking questions without even making an attempt to answer them or even point you in a direction. It just poses them and then off it goes, while you flounder to understand the implications. I suppose this is a good thing in a short story and would have been a great thing had I not already seen the movie. Obviously a full length movie needs to flesh out this premise. While reading all I wanted to do was have more of the story. The little Kindle percentage counter flew by so quickly. I wanted to find out more about the adjusters, about Ed, about what Ed's new knowledge would mean to him, even if he couldn't share it with anyone. If I hadn't seen the movie I think this story would have sat with me, poked me, prodded me for awhile. I think I would have been thrilled with the movie that took the basic plot idea from the story and ran with it. But I did it backwards, and thus I'm left wanting more from the story. I don't need a novelization of the movie, but I wished Dick had originally written more.

If you have seen the movie and liked it, I tentatively recommend the story. If you haven't seen the movie but are intrigued, read the story first. It's very short and will take you an hour, tops.

I'm not sure what I'll read next, but I think some more Philip K. Dick is getting added to my TBR list. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? perhaps?

*Sterling from Mad Men, aka John Slattery. I have a hard time now picturing him in non-1960s clothes. Side note, I'd also like fedoras to come back in non-douche style.

Title quote from location 442

Dick, Philip K. "The Adjustment Team". Kindle Edition. Originally publish 1954.