Fahrenheit 451 – a review

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.

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Fahrenheit 451

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.

 

Review ****

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/

 

 

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Immurement – a review

I must apologise for the lack of any reviews since the beginning of August, in fact a distinct lack of any posts. However, that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been reading. I have and reviews of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and Stephen Puleston’s Devil’s Kitchen are in the pipeline. But first I’m going to review the sci-fi dystopian first book in Norma Hinkens’s’ The Undergrounders Series.

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Immurement (The Undergrounders #1)

by Norma Hinkens

The Sweepers are coming. They hunt the young. Earth’s end is her beginning.

Sixteen-year-old Derry and her brother live in perpetual fear of capture. They survive underground on a scorched earth overrun by gangs, clones, and mysterious hoverships. When her brother goes missing, Derry’s only hope of finding him is to strike a deal with a group of cutthroat subversives. Desperate to save her brother, she leads a daring raid to uncover the secrets behind the Sweepers’ hoverships, but she soon finds out the world she knows is a lie.

Keeping her brother alive may require trusting her enemy and opening her heart to something she never thought possible. 

Immurement is the first book in The Undergrounders Series, a sci-fi dystopian thriller trilogy with a gritty complex heroine and twists you won’t see coming!

REVIEW:

The first requirement of a good book is the ability to keep me turning the pages, and in that Immurement succeeded. It also painted a scary Dystopian world that added to my desire to read Book Two and discover what happen to Derry and the other Undergrounders.

I liked Derry with her insecurities and frustrations, and her courage and spontaneity. She is not a ‘perfect’ heroine who makes reasoned and clever decisions. She makes mistakes like any sixteen-year-old, especially one struggling to save those she loves and herself in the face of terrible danger and untruths.

Who does one trust in that situation? Derry understandably is dependent on what she knows or has been told, so her journey is one of multiple discoveries. She doesn’t become the ‘perfect’ heroine by the end, but she has learnt to demonstrate the qualities that will be needed in the struggles ahead.

She finds support from a cast of secondary characters, all with their own distinctive characteristics and abilities. In some cases, she is forced to trust dubious personalities despite her gut feelings. There are stereotypes, like the subversives, but then the novel is told in 1st person POV. These are the stereotypes ingrained by others’ prejudices and beliefs. So they evolve as her knowledge broadens, and secrets are revealed.

I enjoyed the outdoor setting, not least as I am about to discover more about the great outdoors in Idaho and the Sawtooth Mountains. The contrast works with the survivalist lifestyle underground and the high-tech nightmare world of the Sweepers – the latter a world that feels too possible.

Don’t expect a tidying up of loose ends. This is Book 1 and it very much sets up Book Two. However, I admit that I like books in a series to leave more settled by the end.

 

 

P for… Prep for Doom – a review

P

 

Prepper  –  NOUN  –  chiefly North American

A person who believes a catastrophic disaster or emergency is likely to occur in the future and makes active preparations for it, typically by stockpiling food, ammunition, and other supplies:there’s no agreement among preppers about what disaster is most imminent whether you’re a doomsday prepper or simply like to be prepared, emergency foods should be kept on hand

 

Since I’m working on Gossamer Flames, a post-apocalyptic series of interconnected tales, I’m looking for similar fiction to read, not just to see how the best fiction works, but for the details about preppers and how they behave. “Prep for Doom” was therefore a must read. So on to the review.

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From the imaginations of twenty authors of dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction comes PREP FOR DOOM – an integrated collection of short stories that tell the tale of a single catastrophe as experienced by many characters, some of whom will cross paths. What begins with a seemingly innocuous traffic accident soon spirals into a global pandemic. The release of Airborne Viral Hemorrhagic Fever upon New York City’s unsuspecting populace brings bloody suffering within hours, death within a day, and spreads worldwide within a month. An online community called Prep For Doom has risen to the top of a recent doomsday preparation movement. Some have written them off as crazy while others couldn’t be more serious about the safety the preppers could provide in a global disaster. But when AVHF strikes, their preparation may not be enough to save them.

 

Prep For Doom” is a clever anthology by different authors, each contributing a stand-alone story connected by the pandemic apocalypse, so building into one large story from multiple points of view. The level of collaboration on this project must have been impressive, as is the resulting work.

The characters of each story reflect different reactions to the growing crisis, some more intense and visceral than others. Each protagonist takes the stage in a unique way, and plays out their fate in the disaster – some as victims, some as opportunists, even killers, and some as saviours. Some are committed preppers or have known one for good or bad. But most are ordinary people trying to survive.

Much of the time I was asking how I would react in such a situation. Panic? Help?

Each of the writers tells a facet of the story in their characters’ words. So inevitably, some stories are stronger than others, painting more vivid images. Most wrenched at my emotional responses.

Many characters reappear in other stories, whether in supporting roles or even as people in the ‘crowd’. Some get swept up as casualties, others survive and give hope. Memorably one antagonist is seen in one story from a victim’s viewpoint, yet later another writer vividly shows that antagonist’s desperation and driven fall from survivor to killer.

I wanted to give “Prep for Doom” five stars, but a few things let it down in my opinion.

Setting: although the virus spreads worldwide, we only get to see its impact on US communities, predominantly around the epicentre of New York. The opening chapter is the exception as it’s set somewhere in Africa, but I wanted a few more non-US viewpoints.

Resources: food runs out fast as does water, which makes total sense so some people are surviving on granola bars. The desperate looters feel realistic, but I kept wondering why cell phones worked for so long? Why do some people have the power to keep watching the world die on TV? For a few days perhaps, but this felt longer. Since the hospitals are swamped very quickly, I struggled to believe that some services survived for long. Maybe the emergency facilities are far better than I thought, or Americans are better prepared.

Chronology: inevitably many of the stories start at roughly the same point – the virus release – so the editors will have struggled to place them in order. Unfortunately, at times I was lost and wished there were clearer indicators of time and date in some instances. But most were clear from the words.

Stereotyping: in most cases, the race/sex/religion of the characters didn’t adversely reflect on their actions in an unrealistic way. But one crucial episode grated as the minority concerned gets a trite apology and the story gives them a raw deal. Not wishing to spoil the plot, I will say no more.

Missing elements: there were a few things left unexplained, although maybe there is more to come. For instance, I wanted to know about the initials PFD, which appear throughout and not just for Prep For Doom. Is the link a coincidence, or a reasoned choice?

However, these criticisms are minor and don’t detract from an excellent anthology that I recommend. It has the right blend of realistic actions and reactions, weaving a sense of despair as the reader is carried towards hope.

As to my own post-apocalyptic saga, I feel there are lessons to learn and I will attempt to embrace them.

And for my next read, I am tackling a very different novel in this genre – far bleaker and darker… like grey ash: The Road by Cormac McCarthy.