One of the books on my ‘To Review ‘list is one that I read many decades ago, then decided to re-read recently. Most of you may know of ‘Fahrenheit 451’ in some way, but here is the Goodreads blurb as usual.
by Ray Bradbury
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 read this novel many decades ago during my early twenties when I devoured endless sci-fi by all the masters, including Ray Bradbury. Yes, it’s a classic novel but being honest this was never my favourite Bradbury – that would be Something Wicked This Way Comes.
I’ve recently re-read the book and re-discovered its depth and complexity. I was pleased to re-discover elements that I had forgotten, like the Mechanical Hound, probably because it scared me as it did Montag as he fled from it and his old life as a fireman burning books. However, the concept of a world where books were burnt and the media controlled people has become frighteningly true. The concept of people finding a way for books to survive resonated with me, and has drawn me to similar books since. Therefore, I had to relive the horror of a ‘bookless world’ that Ray Bradbury captured in his words. The danger is real and always there; although we have reached the point that the media is controlled as well.
The story never lets up and the writing keeps pace with the nightmare. I felt that there was no hope for the wife he leaves to her drugs, fake friends, and shrinking lives – echoed in so much all around us today. As a reader, I became Montag and desperately prayed for his escape, unable to remember the ending.
It was also good to read some of Bradbury’s background and thoughts on the book in the prefaces, written over the years. He explains how the book was created and that it was written in a very short time at the beginning of his career. So, is four stars me the jaded adult being mean? Not when I would give his later books five. Am I still doing the master a disservice?
Or perhaps I am letting another version of Fahrenheit 451 colour my vision – Francois Truffaut’s 1966 film, which focuses on elements of the book. However, I always feel that in the short time available that a filmmaker cannot capture all the complexity of a novel, so to me Truffaut did an excellent job. The film became a separate creation – a remediation.
Fahrenheit 451, the book will always be where the horror and the warning began. 4.5 stars then.
For another excellent blog post on Fahrenheit 451, visit: http://www.lucyvhayauthor.com/book-versus-film-fahrenheit-451-5-ways-the-book-is-better/