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Fahrenheit 451 (Flamingo Modern Classics) Paperback – 16 Aug 1999
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In Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury's classic, frightening vision of the future, firemen don't put out fires--they start them in order to burn books. Bradbury's vividly painted society holds up the appearance of happiness as the highest goal--a place where trivial information is good, and knowledge and ideas are bad. Fire Captain Beatty explains it this way, "Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs.... Don't give them slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy."
Guy Montag is a book-burning fireman undergoing a crisis of faith. His wife spends all day with her television "family", imploring Montag to work harder so that they can afford a fourth TV wall. Their dull, empty life sharply contrasts with that of his next-door neighbour Clarisse, a young girl thrilled by the ideas in books, and more interested in what she can see in the world around her than in the mindless chatter of the tube. When Clarisse disappears mysteriously, Montag is moved to make some changes, and starts hiding books in his home. Eventually, his wife turns him in, and he must answer the call to burn his secret cache of books. After fleeing to avoid arrest, Montag winds up joining an outlaw band of scholars who keep the contents of books in their heads, waiting for the time society will once again need the wisdom of literature.
Bradbury--the author of more than 500 short stories, novels, plays and poems--including The Martian Chroniclesand The Illustrated Man--is the winner of many awards, including the Grand Master Award from the Science Fiction Writers of America. Readers aged 13 to 93 will be swept up in the harrowing suspense of Fahrenheit 451, and no doubt will join the hordes of Bradbury fans worldwide. --Neil Roseman
‘Another indispensible classic’ The Times
‘Fahrenheit 451 is the most skilfully drawn of all science fiction’s conformist hells’
‘Bradbury’s is a very great and unusual talent’
‘Ray Bradbury has a powerful and mysterious imagination which would undoubtedly earn the respect of Edgar Allen Poe’ Guardian
'It is impossible not to admire the vigour of his prose, similes and metaphors constantly cascading from his imagination' Spectator
'As a science fiction writer, Ray Bradbury has long been streets ahead of anyone else' Daily Telegraph
‘No other writer uses language with greater originality and zest. he seems to be a American Dylan Thomas – with dsicipline’ Sunday TelegraphSee all Product description
From the Publisher
Voyager Classics – timeless masterworks of science fiction and fantasy.
A beautiful clothbound edition of the internationally acclaimed Fahrenheit 451 – a masterwork of twentieth-century literature.
The terrifyingly prophetic novel of a post-literate future.
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 civilisation’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.
Born in Illinois, in 1920, Ray Bradbury remains one of the most prestigious authors of science fiction in the world. His works include such noteworthy titles as The Illustrated Man, Dandelion Wine and The Machineries of Joy. Fahrenheit 451, his most celebrated work, continues to be one of the bestselling science fiction novels over fifty years after its first publication.
Bradbury’s diverse imaginative talents led him to be appointed as Idea Consultant for the United States Pavilion in 1963 and throughout his life he was an enthusiastic playwright, working for many years at the Pandemonium Theatre Company in Los Angeles and later the Fremont Centre Theatre in South Pasadena.
Ray Bradbury died in Los Angeles, California, on June 5, 2012, at the age of 91.
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The first thing that struck me was the style. It reads a bit like a fairy tale - Brothers Grimm - the language at times has a poetic quality, at times even puerile. The pace is unusually fast. There are no chapters as such, just the three parts and the book burns through fiercely. But there are some important messages going on here and some warnings about the unpredictable or perhaps even predictable course society is following. If they are not burning books they will be censoring the internet. It is about control. We all know the historical precedents. So for me this book is a reminder to be vigilant!
There is a very telling dialogue with Beatty, Montag`s fireman colleague who sets out very clearly the reasons why people need to be controlled. This episode is striking and deserves close attention.
I was reminded a bit of Orwell`s Animal Farm in that we have a fairly short story with a surreal like quality but with a very powerful message at its core and a warning of the perils which are ever present.
It's a short novel and a quick read and it lights the flicker of a flame of thinking about the power of books but it's all just so rushed, so fast to develop and accelerate, that a lot of the opportunities to explore deeper are missed. Montag the fireman - one of the elite who set fire to books, burn people's houses to punish them for the knowledge in their books - witnesses an old lady start a fire and kill herself because she can't be without her books, and meets a young girl who tells him there's so much more to books then just fuel for his fires. He takes a book and becomes part of the anti-establishment.
In the foreword to the book, Ray Bradbury tells us he spent less than 10 dollars hiring the use of a typewriter to write Fahrenheit 451. Sadly sometimes it shows. This is just the bare bones of a story, lacking the meat to flesh it out into something more satisfying, more horrifying. It was written in the 1950s with the Nazi book burnings still fresh in people's minds but long before the wall-to-wall round the clock interactive television experiences that Bradbury envisions. For its time it must have been revolutionary. Today it just looks a bit tired and much too rushed.