While the film The Adjustment Bureau, starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt, might have only received a lukewarm reception on the silver screen, some people might feel differently about the source material. The movie is loosely based on a short story by Philip K. Dick called The Adjustment Team, first published by Orbit Science Fiction in 1954.
Loosely is the operative word. While the premise is the same, any other similarities are few and far between. The original, in contrast, represents everything great about the sci fi genre in the 1950s.
It begins when a clerk from the Adjustment Team is tasked with ensuring Ed Fletcher gets to work on time so an “adjustment” can be made to people within a designated “sector.” To do this, the clerk enlists the assistance of a summoner—a talking dog—who is to bark at an appointed time. Things go wrong because the dog falls asleep and barks a few minutes too late.
Sometimes letting a sleeping dog lie is the wrong thing to do.
Instead of heading out to work, Ed lingers at home and is interrupted by an insurance salesman knocking on his door. He reluctantly agrees to let the salesman in, and — one insurance policy later — Ed makes his way to the office two hours late.
When he arrives, something is wrong. Everything is gray. Anything he touches turns to ash. When Ed tries to escape, he is followed by members of the Adjustment Team. As he makes his way further away from the scene, everything starts to become “real” again. But is it?
Since Ed wasn’t where he was supposed to be when the reality adjustment took place, he hasn’t been “adjusted.” This wouldn't be a problem, except that he notices how everyone else has been adjusted.
The team hasn't given up on him. When Ed steps into a phone booth, he is levitated into the sky to have a discussion with the “old man,” the adjuster of adjusters. Once he learns a little about what happened, he is allowed to return to resume his normal life on the condition that he will never tell anyone—not even his wife— what he saw and what he knows.
Ed agrees, but this proves to be easier said than done. His wife wants to know where he’s been and suspects he may have been cheating on her. Ed, of course, has a hard time coming up with a believable excuse. There are a few more surprises before the story ends abruptly, and don't expect to fully get to know the characters in this short story. It only makes it all the more strange.
An adjustment to cover author Philip K. Dick.
Dick (1928-1982) was a prolific science fiction author who never received any real recognition for his work by readers and critics during his lifetime. His work was largely and sadly ignored by the masses, with his greatest success coming posthumously.
His novels and short stories typically explore topics such as destiny, free will, identity, metaphysics, and perception. To date, a slew of feature films have been made based on his work, including Blade Runner, Total Recall, The Minority Report, and A Scanner Darkly.
The mental issues Dick grappled with all his life are often the issues his characters battle too. He suffered from terrible bouts of vertigo and nervous breakdowns at various points in his life. In 1974, he claimed to have been contacted by an extraterrestrial force, which he described as a pink beam of light. The experience even found its way in to his work, for which he was at once lauded and maligned by critics.
The Adjustment Bureau (Story) By Philip K. Dick Clicks At 5.5 On the Liquid Hip Richter Scale.
While the Adjustment Bureau is available for 99 cents from the Kindle store on Amazon, the audiobook lends some additional life to the story. It's certainly worthwhile to consider.
Phil Gigante does a fine job narrating the story, staying true to the original and employing solid voices for various characters. It mostly works to good effect, especially, albeit briefly, as the talking dog. The audiobook clocks in at just under an hour, and it’s an engaging listen.
I’m guessing the audiobook company changed the name of the work to capitalize on the popularity of the movie. You can find The Adjustment Bureau on Amazon. You can also download the source audio version of The Adjustment Bureau on iTunes.