Saturday, February 28, 2015

Book Review: "Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury

"Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury
First published in 1953
190 pages (with afterword and author Q&A)
My rating: 5 out of 5
Image from Goodreads

Look at that book sitting there next to you, or that shelf crammed full of beautiful and well-loved reading material, or your Kindle. Now imagine living in a time when all books are banned, considered the evilest of evil, and firemen are employed solely to set books ablaze rather than extinguish flames. Oh, the horror!

Guy Montag is one such fireman. He's made a living destroying books for a decade. But something has been building in Guy -- a curiosity about what's inside the books he burns. And then he meets a young girl, a breath of fresh air, a slap in the face, and everything changes: Guy decides to read.

"Fahrenheit 451" is indeed about books, but more than that it's about the knowledge contained within the covers, the dangers of censorship, the government keeping its citizens in check by keeping them wholly ignorant and glued to their TV programs like so many zombies. In a world whose motto is that everyone should be happy all of the time, nobody is truly happy, nobody is fulfilled, nobody is really living despite the Fun Parks, the cars that you can drive over 200 mph down city streets to get a thrill and the fictional "family" booming out at you from your TV walls to make you feel loved and important.

My only complaint about "Fahrenheit 451" is that it was too brief. This dystopian tale takes place over a very short time period and a lot of things happen very quickly. I wanted more information about the society in which Guy lives, the war that's alluded to, and how America got to the terrible place it's at.

But still, I loved it for what it was -- a treatise on the power of knowledge and the slippery slope of censorship. I recommend this short, thought-provoking novel for anyone and everyone.

Quotable quote: It's from the afterword, in which Bradbury talks about the stage version of "Fahrenheit 451," but I just loved this Dr. Seuss-esque turn of phrase.

"I ate them like salad, books were my sandwich for lunch, my tiffin and dinner and midnight munch. I tore out the pages, ate them with salt, doused them with relish, gnawed on the bindings, turned the chapters with my tongue! Books by the dozen, the score and the billion. I carried so many home I was hunchbacked for years. Philosophy, art history, politics, social science, the poem, the essay, the grandiose play, you name 'em, I ate 'em."

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