Published by Harper Voyager on October 19 1953
Genres: Classics, Dystopian
Source: Purchased Book
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The terrifyingly prophetic novel of a post-literate future.
Guy Montag is a fireman. His job is to burn books, which are forbidden, being the source of all discord and unhappiness. Even so, Montag is unhappy; there is discord in his marriage. Are books hidden in his house? The Mechanical Hound of the Fire Department, armed with a lethal hypodermic, escorted by helicopters, is ready to track down those dissidents who defy society to preserve and read books.
The classic dystopian novel of a post-literate future, Fahrenheit 451 stands alongside Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World as a prophetic account of Western civilization’s enslavement by the media, drugs and conformity.
Bradbury’s powerful and poetic prose combines with uncanny insight into the potential of technology to create a novel which, decades on from first publication, still has the power to dazzle and shock.
I’m going to preface this review of Fahrenheit 451 by saying that I’m not one of these readers who feels obligated to read and review “the classics.” It’s perfectly okay to not feel the inclination to read them and it’s really ok to not enjoy them. It doesn’t make you any less of a reader to not read and enjoy them. I, myself find it hard to read any of the classics – I don’t have a great track record with the likes of Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy. The only success I truly experienced with them was with Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle…until now.
I really don’t know what made me pick up Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. I’ve had it on my TBR for years with no idea when I’d be brave enough to pick it up. Apparently, a new year is a perfect time. I don’t know what I was expecting but this certainly wasn’t it. I quickly became lost in another time and the writing was laser sharp.
“There must be something in books, something we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing.”
Set in a dystopian time – Books are outlawed, and anyone found with any in their possession has them burned immediately and arrested. Guy Montag is a fireman, no, they no longer put out fires in buildings but to destroy books. It’s a vivid piece of imagery and made me wonder how far I would go to keep my prized possessions…I’d go all the way. Books are so wonderful; in what other art form can the reader live many lives through the medium of stories? It’s the freedom of expression, it’s the passion and ability to see the passage of time without a time machine.
It’s a cautionary tale, it takes us to a place we have no wish to be. Guy Montag our friendly fireman with a flamethrower after a series of events starts to awaken from society’s indoctrination. A meeting with a young girl sets it all in motion and witnessing a woman willing to be burned with her books is the runaway train that is Montag’s psyche. He really wants to know what books could contain to make a woman lay down the ultimate sacrifice.
I was completely blown away by this reading experience and can only imagine the uproar it would’ve caused upon its release in 1953.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ray Douglas Bradbury, American novelist, short story writer, essayist, playwright, screenwriter and poet, was born August 22, 1920 in Waukegan, Illinois. He graduated from a Los Angeles high school in 1938. Although his formal education ended there, he became a “student of life,” selling newspapers on L.A. street corners from 1938 to 1942, spending his nights in the public library and his days at the typewriter. He became a full-time writer in 1943, and contributed numerous short stories to periodicals before publishing a collection of them, Dark Carnival, in 1947.
His reputation as a writer of courage and vision was established with the publication of The Martian Chronicles in 1950, which describes the first attempts of Earth people to conquer and colonize Mars, and the unintended consequences. Next came The Illustrated Man and then, in 1953, Fahrenheit 451, which many consider to be Bradbury’s masterpiece, a scathing indictment of censorship set in a future world where the written word is forbidden. In an attempt to salvage their history and culture, a group of rebels memorize entire works of literature and philosophy as their books are burned by the totalitarian state. Other works include The October Country, Dandelion Wine, A Medicine for Melancholy, Something Wicked This Way Comes, I Sing the Body Electric!, Quicker Than the Eye, and Driving Blind. In all, Bradbury has published more than thirty books, close to 600 short stories, and numerous poems, essays, and plays. His short stories have appeared in more than 1,000 school curriculum “recommended reading” anthologies.