Book Review – Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Like many I have long heard about the book Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury but had never read. I had an inkling of the premise of what it was about, but that was sketchy at best. Burning books. That was the sum of it really. I was browsing a blog and stumbled across the title once again on the list on the page of classic science fiction that was relevant today.

That was it, I jumped on ebay, got a copy because it was cheaper than the kindle edition (and I’m glad that I did because the book smells great – that epic mustiness, if that’s not too weird). Anyway I blitzed my way through the book finally and was thinking about doing a review, so here that is.

Fahrenheit 451 Review

Even though he’s not the main character (that’ll be Montag) Captain Beatty is fantastic. The way he is portrayed gradually turning from compatriot to the ultimate avenger and do-gooder, but still enemy of Montag is wonderful. You can feel the underlying sinister nature of his just bubbling and simmering as the book goes on. The clues are there, his constant spewing out of quotations, you know he is a well read man.

But books have hurt him and that is such a wonderful motive that keeps the character so alive in the book. Just taking his development as a snapshot of the whole book, it is the tension with which it is done that keeps you hooked on him. Beatty creeps up on you, the plot creeps up on you. The book is really in three parts, the steady controlled start, then the tension starts creeping up with the changes and realization that Montag is going through.

Finally comes the epic breathtaking third part. The tipping point is where Montag is trying to play it cool in the fire house and then the call comes in that they have an assignment. You knew where the Salamander fire truck was going. At that point there is only one place that it was going to go to, but it’s still so well done the tension lives on and the book just takes on a tremendous breathtaking pace. One thing I didn’t see coming was the outcome of when they got where they were going.

Personally I am a big fan of the longer sentences, those sweeping long ones that keep dragging you along and then asks a little bit of your attention before it closes. There is plenty of that in Fahrenheit 451 and the prose is just sublime at times. It is just waves of wonderful wordiness that sweep you on and on and on, like the river did to Montag.

Much has been said about how prophetic the book was. How it projected into the future and saw where society could be heading, glued to the tv and more interested in cheap thrills than education, living under censorship and all that. That is just one fascinating aspect of the book. Another was how it was all based on Montag’s awakening, his eventual desire to shake off the norm that society had enforced on everyone. He wanted to make a change, but in the end it was taken away from him and the change came from an outside source on a bigger scale than he could have ever done himself. Fate was on his side apparently.

But of course he was still there at the end to be in a position to start enforcing the change when the dust all settled. The book people just was the cherry on the cake at the end and it’s been a long time since I smiled so much at a book, than when they started announcing themselves as the books that they were remembering. A poignant moment.

If you are in any doubt, I loved it. It has become one of my favourite books ever and now I have a hungering for more classic science fiction that at this point in my life, I should have read by now. 1984 is coming up.

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