Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Review: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Genre: Classic Dystopian Fiction
Pages: 190
Date Published: 1953 (I read the 50th Anniversary edition)
Publisher: Del Ray Books
Source: I bought this used from a local charity thrift store.
Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Back of the book blurb:
The system was simple. Everyone understood it. Books were for burning, along with the houses in which they were hidden.
Guy Montag was a fireman whose job it was to start fires. And he enjoyed his job. He had been a fireman for ten years, and he had never questioned the pleasure of the midnight runs nor the joy of watching pages consumed by flames. . . never questioned anything until he met a seventeen-year-old girl who told him of a past when people were not afraid. Then Guy met a professor who told him of a future in which people could think. And Guy Montag suddenly realized what he had to do.
I somehow missed out on reading this classic in high school and am just now getting around to it at the age of 31. I can see why it's on all of those summer reading lists. It is classic dystopian literature about a future in which books are burned and people are glued to their televisions (which happen to be as big as your wall and make you feel like you're inside the scene). The powers-that-be keep people happy and peaceful by feeding them shallow, insignificant entertainment and "information" through their TV walls, and burn books because they cause deep thinking (and thus the possibility of unrest and revolution).

Montag is kind of a strange guy. He seems to like his job, but he also is aware that everything isn't perfect in his world. His wife has tried to kill herself with an overdose of sleeping pills more than once and spends every waking moment parked in the TV room. So when he meets young Clarisse, he's kind of open to her happy-go-lucky, inquisitive ways. It seems refreshing to him. It helps lead him to an epiphany after a seemingly routine book+house burning at work rocks his world. He doesn't think he can go on in the same way as usual, and tries to decide what to do about that.

I can't really say that I loved this book, but I did find it extremely interesting. The narration is kind of disjointed and a bit confusing at times. Montag isn't exactly what he seems and sometimes his actions make no sense at first. It's not especially descriptive of the dystopian world, but exists more within the turmoil going on in Montag's head. It is definitely thought-provoking and keeps you guessing at every turn. I was especially drawn to reading it when I found out the main character is a fireman, whose job is to start fires and not to stop them. Hubby is a fireman and I was curious how that aspect had developed in this dystopian future.

If you like dystopian fiction and you haven't read Fahrenheit 451, you really should give it a read. It's fairly short, and it's considered a classic. Although I think TV is going to be replaced by the internet in our future, the future that Bradbury portrays is not that improbable, and probably seemed even more likely in the years following the release of this book. It provides a good reminder to not let ourselves get so wrapped up in the media around us and to really think. I can definitely recommended this book. Hopefully I'll get to watch the 1966 film adaptation at some point. And hey, I just found out there is a possible remake in development tentatively slated for 2012!

Related linkage:
Reading Challenges: Twenty Ten Challenge, Speculative Fiction Challenge



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