Book Review: Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury was strange, and I don’t really do well with strange. It doesn’t help that I listened to the audiobook. The narrator (Stephen Hoye) made it extra-extra-extra weird, which I think was intentional so I guess he achieved his aim there. I have heard this book compared to 1984 and Brave New World frequently, but to me it just didn’t measure up.

Book Review: Fahrenheit 451Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Published by Voyager on March 28th 2013
Genres: Classic Literature, Dystopian
Narrator: Stephen Hoye
Length: 5 hours 37 minutes
Format: Audiobook
Buy on Amazon

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.

“The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us.”

The story is about Guy Montag whose job as a firefighter is to burn households with books, ensuring he destroys the books when he incinerates the house harboring them. He begins to second-guess his work after meeting Clarisse McClellan and finds himself saving books instead of disposing of them.

This book is more about the message and less about the world, so there just wasn’t enough world building for me. I needed to know about those weird TV-wall-things, how their medical system worked, more about the electronic dog, and really how that bizarre society functioned on the whole! I NEEDED MORE.

That being said, it had some beautiful quotes about books that made my heart get all warm and fuzzy. So if there’s any reason I’d recommend it to my fellow book nerds, it’s to listen to the choir you’re preaching to sing about how wonderfully important books are.

“The books are to remind us what asses and fool we are. They’re Caeser’s praetorian guard, whispering as the parade roars down the avenue, “Remember, Caeser, thou art mortal.” Most of us can’t rush around, talking to everyone, know all the cities of the world, we haven’t time, money or that many friends. The things you’re looking for, Montag, are in the world, but the only way the average chap will ever see ninety-nine per cent of them is in a book. Don’t ask for guarantees. And don’t look to be saved in any one thing, person, machine, or library. Do your own bit of saving, and if you drown, at least die knowing you were headed for shore.”

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1) books, 2) dystopia, 3) rebellion

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Do you ever feel guilty for not liking a well-regarded classic? Or perhaps that there’s something wrong with you rather than the book? I can’t help but feel a little stupid when I don’t like a classic novel that everyone says is amazing. I’m just over here like, can someone please pass me Harry Potter?

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  1. I’ve been wanting to read this book for awhile. I’m not sure if reading more classics was a resolution or goal for me over the past year, but it definitely happened either way. I’ve read some literary criticism on this book (for an English course at my college) without having read the book, but that made it more appealing to me and I bumped it up on my TBR. As to feeling like the odd one when you don’t like a classic, I feel this all the time! This year, especially, because I’m not really interested in old English texts (like Beowulf) and I have friends and professors who rave about them, and I just don’t see the appeal — aside from providing insights to a time period. I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy this book as much as you expected you might! Great review!