Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Published by Simon & Schuster in June 2013 (originally published October 19, 1953)
Genre(s): fiction, dystopia, science fiction
Format & Length: paperback, 249
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Sixty years after its publication, Ray Bradbury’s internationally acclaimed novel Fahrenheit 451 stands as a classic of world literature set in a bleak, dystopian future. Today its message has grown more relevant than ever before.
“Fahrenheit 451- The temperature at which book paper catches fire and burns.”
Guy Montag is a fireman. His job is to destroy the most illegal of commodities, the printed book, along with the houses in which they are hidden. Montag never questions the destruction and ruin his actions produce, returning each day to his bland life and wife, Mildred, who spends all day with her television “family.” But when he meets an eccentric young neighbor, Clarisse, who introduces him to a past where people didn’t live in fear and to a present where one sees the world through the ideas in books instead of the mindless chatter of television, Montag begins to question everything he has ever known.
The sixtieth-anniversary edition commemorates Ray Bradbury’s masterpiece with a new introduction by Neil Gaiman; personal essays on the genesis of the novel by the author; a wealth of critical essays and reviews by Nelson Algren, Harold Bloom, Margaret Atwood, and others; rare manuscript pages and sketches from Ray Bradbury’s personal archive; and much more. Here, at last, is the definitive edition of a classic of world literature.
I’d read Fahrenheit 451 for school years ago and while I couldn’t recall many specifics of the story, it left me with a feeling of fascination that’s still in my memory decades later.
“Books were only one type of receptacle where we stored a lot of things we were afraid we might forget. There is nothing magical in them, at all. The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us.”
This dystopian is a short and simple story that can be read fairly quickly. That being said, it’s not necessarily an easy read. Partly because the premise of a world without books is hard to imagine (and stomach for a book lover). Partly because although the story itself is simple, it is full of allegory, metaphors, and themes that are still surprisingly relevant today – perhaps in a different way than initially intended but relevant nonetheless. And partly because the writing style doesn’t always lend itself to readability.
Not having read anything else by Ray Bradbury, I’m not sure if it’s just the way he wrote or if the style was intentional to help set the tone here. It worked – it grated on me, especially in certain moments and with certain characters to make me dislike them even more. Additionally, some sections were wordy to the point of confusing, forcing me to read them over again to pull the gist out. That all being said, the concept and message were strong enough for this to make a mark.
Ultimately, Fahrenheit 451 is an intriguing story that I’d consider revisiting again in another ten to fifteen years. Fans of dystopian books should give this a chance at least once.