Title: Fahrenheit 451
Author: Ray Bradbury
Genre: Fiction, science fiction, dystopian, classics
Where I got the book: I purchased this book through Book Depository.
My rating: ★★★★☆
Summary: In a post-literate world, Guy Montag works as a fireman. His job is to burn books, which are considered the source of unhappiness and therefore forbidden. Dissidents who defy society by preserving and reading books are tracked down by helicopters and the Mechanical Hound of the Fire Department. Still, Montag is unhappy. His marriage is cold, distant, failing – and there might be books hidden in his house.
“We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?”
– Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
This is a book I’ve known about for years and that I feel everyone except me has read by now. Still, I never actually looked into it, I just knew that it was a sci-fi/dystopian where they burned books, so when I started reading I really had no idea what to expect.
First of all, the writing style really surprised me. It took some time getting used to and it was a bit difficult to connect with the story at some points. For me this boils down to the excessively flowery language, both in the imagery and in the dialogue, and the multitudes of metaphors that are constantly being thrown into the mix. It’s not that I think the writing is bad, but it’s a bit too much sometimes. I often got confused and had to go back and re-read passages, which I don’t think should be necessary. It’s a short book and it didn’t take long to read, but it still felt like it took much longer than I predicted.
That said, I do love the story. The plot is simple and straight-forward enough in itself, it gets increasingly disturbing and unsettling, the pacing really picks up and then escalates towards the end, and when I eventually got used to the writing style it contributed to a certain intense and almost claustrophobic atmosphere that I enjoyed. You can see this as a book about the consequences of book censorship, or the fact that you should not censor knowledge in general. You can also see it as a book about how new technology can numb and desensitize you, or turn you into a non-thinking zombie, which I think raises an interesting question concerning technology as a means to brainwash the masses versus technology as an opportunity to gain more knowledge. In these days, it’s hard to think of technology as an exclusively bad thing. There are for sure bad things about it, but technology has contributed to medical advances, pretty much all kinds of information is much more accessible to us, and social networking doesn’t make us as asocial as one would maybe think. I’m more on the “embrace technology” side.
I’ve been wavering between giving 3 stars or 4 stars to “Fahrenheit 451”, so maybe this rating is a weak 4 stars. Ultimately, I do find the messages in this book are a bit mixed. When it comes to technology turning our brains into mush I honestly think this just reads a bit outdated today than it probably did back in the 1950’s. Personally I like to interpret the book’s message instead as the right to be your own person and that knowledge shouldn’t be censored. Overall, even though this didn’t become a favorite of mine, I thought this was a good read, I really liked the story in itself, and I see this as a nice recommendation for fans of science fiction and dystopian literature.