Title: Fahrenheit 451
Author: Ray Bradbury
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: 1953
Genre(s): Fiction, Sci-Fi, Dystopia
It was a pleasure to burn.
My best friend gifted this to me for Christmas last month; she obviously knows me well. I chose Fahrenheit 451 as my first book of 2016 because I spent my first moments of this new year with her, and because I miss her so much. Luckily, we move back to college in a couple days. When I told her I started reading this, she said, “Finally, you’re reading a good dystopian novel.” She’s kind of prejudiced against dystopia, especially of the young adult genre. I know, she’s weird. I did enjoy this novel, though, and I love my best friend for giving it to me.
In a future dystopian world, firefighters do not put out fires — they start them. Books, as well as any other form of art, expression, and free thought, are outlawed in this society. The firemen’s purpose is to burn any books that are found. Guy Montag is a fireman who loves to watch things burn, until one day, a woman decides to burn right along with her books. Guy can’t shake the image out of his head:
“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.”
Soon Montag finds himself on a path from which there is no return. Suddenly, there is no joy in watching things burn; there is only a desire to understand why the books must burn.
My edition of the novel came with both a Foreword and an Introduction, both from Bradbury himself. I found these sections to be interesting and insightful about the formation of Fahrenheit 451, how he took parts of short stories he wrote and pieced them into a novel. The novel is broken into three parts: “The Hearth and the Salamander,” “The Sieve and the Sand,” and “Burning Bright.” It’s told in third-person omniscient, obviously focusing on Montag, the main character. Being published in the ’50s, I think the premise is very unique and stunning for its time. Of course, back then, book burnings were real, and I can see how these events led to Bradbury’s creation of Fahrenheit 451. I could see something like this happening today, what with the growing popularity of e-books, though I sincerely hope our society never stoops so low as to burn or rid the world of paperbacks and hardbacks. The plot of the novel was very interesting and a lot more fast-paced than I expected it to be. Typically with classics, I’m forced to slow down, because the plot is slower and the ideas are heavier than in something like a YA novel. With Fahrenheit 451, however, I was on the edge of my seat, heart pounding away, eyes frantically absorbing each word, mind struggling to catch up with my eyes. The novel is so suspenseful I hated having to put it down.
The characters were great and quite complex. Montag is, of course, one of the most interesting characters, transforming from mindless government employee to free-thinking outlaw. I loved watching him question things. I’d have to say Clarisse was my favorite character, though, because she was a dreamer in a world where dreams were forbidden. She seemed so airy, in a good way, like she was light as a feather, whimsical and intelligent and beautiful. She reminded me of Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter. I probably hated Mildred the most, which I’m sure most readers do. I couldn’t totally hate her, though, because she was a poor, sad woman placed in a very unfortunate set of circumstances. I can’t say I blame her for the choices she made, but I certainly wish she would have changed the way Montag did. I don’t think she had it in her, though.
Bradbury’s writing is fantastic. It reminds me of Neil Gaiman — or, should I say, Neil Gaiman’s writing reminds me of Ray Bradbury’s. I read Gaiman before Bradbury, but Bradbury came first, so I suppose I have to say it like that. Anyway, my point is that both writers create beautiful stories and have a similar style. I loved the way Bradbury would word things, how he’d give you a bit of information that wouldn’t make sense until you read on just a couple more paragraphs; Gaiman does that, too. Bradbury is so quotable, too, which is something that greatly appeals to me.
Thanks again to my lovely best friend for this book. Though it’s not the only good dystopian novel I’ve read, it is indeed one of the best. I’ve been meaning to read this for years now and am glad I’ve gotten the chance. This is the kind of book that will still be relevant 50 years from now, maybe even 100 or 200 years from now — that’s how you know it’s a good book. A good book is one that will still be relevant years from now, and is a story that you won’t forget even after you’ve read hundreds of others. Ray Bradbury accomplished this with Fahrenheit 451.
Favorite Quote(s): “I’m seventeen and I’m crazy. My uncle says the two always go together.”
“Do your own bit of saving, and if you drown, at least die knowing you were headed for shore.”
“Those who don’t build must burn.”
“How many times can a man go down and still be alive?”