Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
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.
For those of you who read my blog on a regular basis probably know by now that myself and my colleagues have set up our own booksellers book group. May was my month to pick a book for us all to read and discuss, and so I decided to go for something I have been meaning to read for quite some time: Ray Bradbury’s classic Fahrenheit 451.
Many of you probably already know that Ray Bradbury recently passed away, in fact on the very same day us booksellers met to discuss his book! Although it was a little bit strange, it certainly seemed a fitting tribute. What better way to celebrate his life than by discussing the book that really put his name at the forefront of science fiction?
For myself, I wanted to see particularly how this book compares to George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, which although I could appreciate for its ideas, I found it a little tedious at times. Bradbury was full of wonderful ideas in Fahrenheit 451; ideas that seem so very relevant to today’s society, with people leaving books behind, and feeling the pull of the powers of technology. I loved the way Bradbury took the role of a fireman, which we would normally associate with being a heroic figure, into the complete opposite. Guy Montag’s job is to burn books (Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature at which book paper burns, in case you didn’t already know this!) They are known as the source of all unhappiness. College professors, university graduates and students, anyone with a profound knowledge of literature and the world, are now known as the lower class – gathering in homeless groups on the outside of this nameless city. I absolutely loved this concept – not only is it intriguing, but it is instantly believable. With celebrity gossip and culture, and reality television playing such a prominent role in our society today, it’s easy to imagine how books and knowledge could be left behind.
There is no doubt that Bradbury had some excellent ideas and a truly remarkable concept, but I couldn’t help but see its flaws underneath. The writing is a little bit fragmented, probably a result of it originally being a written as a number of short stories that Bradbury ended up linking together to create this novel. The book also felt very weighed down by too many repetitive metaphors that were often a little tiring to read. The character of Clarisse was one of the most developed characters of the whole book, and me and many of my colleagues agreed she was ultimately the best character, but she suddenly disappears far too soon. I think the novel would have benefitted much more from her characterisation being continued, and it’s a real shame that it wasn’t. I also couldn’t really get a feel for The Hound – a mechanical dog with a hypodermic needle that kills its prey. In short, there were almost too many ideas here, and not many fleshed out. My ultimately conclusion was that it would either have made a brilliant short story, or a superb longer novel. I don’t think this will be my last foray into the world of Ray Bradbury, so if you have read any of his other work and can recommend what I should read next, please leave a comment below!
I chose Fahrenheit 451 for the book group because I know many of my colleagues don’t often read science fiction, and I thought it would be a great starting point, to take a classic comparable to George Orwell’s Nineteen Eigty-Four, and see what they make of it. I was particularly surprised by one of my colleagues who absolutely loved it, and she was perhaps one of the people I thought would dislike it the most! No one was more surprised than her.
The overall rating for the novel was a slightly disappointing 6.5 out of 10 from our group, but trust me when I say they are a hard lot to please! Next time we will be reading The Postman Always Rings Twice by James Cain – a book I would never have picked up myself, so I’m certainly intrigued to see what I’ll make of it.
This edition of ‘Fahrenheit 451’ is published by Harper Voyager.