Wednesday 21 August 2013

Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury

Title: Fahrenheit 451
Author: Ray Bradbury
Genre: Sci-Fi
Published: 1953
Formats: Hardback/Paperback/Ebook

Available at:
The Book Depository
Amazon UK

As part of the 2013 Eclectic Reader Challenge I was required to read a Dystopian novel which is a sub-genre I normally read. I therefore decided to use the challenge to explore a classic of the genre in the shape of “Fahrenheit 451” written by Ray Bradbury. All I really knew about the novel was that it involved book burning which did intrigue me as the premise for a dystopian world due to my own love for books.

Anyway, the story follows Guy Montag who works as a fireman, however firemen now no longer put out fires, they actually start them in an attempt to burn illegal pieces of literature. However, through a series of unconnected events, Guy begins to question the world in which he lives and particularly begins to try and understand what danger could exist in the written word. Guy’s journey to self-awareness is used to take the reader on an exploration of the dystopian world he inhabits.

As a bibliophile I really enjoyed witnessing the way in which the book does remind the reader about how simple and previous a book can be. It really questions the importance of books and delves into the fact the literature is more than just a form of entertainment; it can shape the entire being of people and society through the challenging of beliefs, dreams and opinions.

However, one thing I did pick up is that its heart this isn’t really a novel about censorship or even the wonders of literature. I felt that it was more a satirical look at the power of television and the damage Bradbury believed it could cause. The loss of literature is driven not really by any deep hatred of books or information; it was driven by the popularity and instant gratification of shallow modern entertainment. This does result in a minor issue in that we know that Television, Iphones and Video Games have done nothing to dampen the love of literature. In fact by embracing technology the world of literature is now full of indie authors and small publishing houses that can bring stories to readers that in the past may never have been printed. Basically I feel that Bradbury was wrong in his demonising of television and what he really should have targeted was bland, uninspiring and intellectually stunted entertainment no matter the medium being utilised.

My one real disappointment with the novel however was in regards to the actual plotline. The book does a great job at highlighting the positive aspects that books can have on society but it doesn’t work as well when it comes to being an entertaining yarn. The background to the events that have resulted in this world is rather limited and the characters were weakly developed and seemed to be there just to give Guy a push in some specific direction. I managed to overlook that by appreciating the book on an intellectual level but I do wish that Bradbury had tried to actually build an really entertaining story around the viewpoints being made.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and I suspect most other bibliophiles will as it does highlight the good things that literature can provide. However, the storyline itself is rather weak and therefore those people looking for a light and enjoyable fun read should avoid this like the plague. However, if you are after an intellectually stimulating look at the power of books and the issues of mass produced bland entertainment then you should go and pick up this classic novel.


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