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on 4 May 2017
I read the first four or five pages four or five times. Once I got myself into "dystopian" mode, then I was flying. Frankly, this book blew me away. Published in 1953, the future Bradbury imagined has well and truly arrived. I'm not talking about "robo dog" and book burning in a literal sense, but the mind numbing effect of social media, the empty diet of visual pap and meaningless tripe so many of us call "entertainment" So many scenes in this book stand out; slap you hard in the face for being willfully ignorant about important issues; for being politically apathetic. Let's hope that we will be spared the cataclysmic ending Bradbury envisioned. The writing is efficient rather than lyrical, but the intellectual content is astounding. Would recommend.
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on 5 January 2018
. I have read chunks of this book in the past, but only just finished the entire thing this month. Reviewing classics like this one always feels unwieldy. I always feel guilty for taking so long to get to them, and there's very little to say which hasn't been said a million times. So I'll just say: it's extraordinary and everyone should read it. Bradbury's portrayal of the media in a dystopian future is becoming truer each day.

To dive a little deeper, Bradbury points out at one point that there's no difference between people burning books and people just not reading them. That's why I started writing about books in the first place - it scared me to see a growing preference for clipped, bitesize nuggets of information. I strongly believe that reading makes us human. It's what allows us to see perspectives beyond our own, trains us for life, and grow as individuals. Bradbury's portrayal of a future where books are banned just hits that home.
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on 10 September 2017
Fire Is Bright And Fire Is Clean

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.
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on 5 December 2017
I first read Fahrenheit 451 in the 1980s. Just finished reading it again. This time I noticed an almost kinetic vibrancy to Bradbury's writing. It's raw and passionate and for some reason I was reminded of The Wasp Factory (another debut novel, of course) not in the content but in the way the words almost seemed to jump off the page with urgency!

I consider this one of the great 'dystopian' novels, along with Nineteen Eighty Four and Brave New World but as I've said above this one does at least contain some semblance of hope for the future...
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VINE VOICEon 7 March 2016
This is a book that is considered a classic of the SF/dystopian future world genre. It is always slightly awkward criticising such a 'classic' but the reader will naturally come to this with high expectations. The concept behind the story is interesting and in many ways we can see some predictive elements of the story becoming close to reality; the increasing reliance on TV and technology for mass entertainment at the expense of more cultural and intellectual pursuits. The gives the story prescience.
However, as the Afterward section by Ray Bradbury details this short novel comes from the evolution of what was originally a short story, and it very much shows. The dystopian world is never really fleshed-out, the characterisation is a bit superficial, and the catastrophic war which erupts at the finale is never explained in any detail. As such, the story is built around a single concept which seems to be incompletely explored. I'm pleased to have read it, but for me it didn't quite fulfil expectations.
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on 11 July 2015
I spent the first part of this book trying to work out what 451 degrees Fahrenheit actually is. As the book tells you, it is the temperature at which paper burns. Although there's a whole debate about that. Anyway, in a scale I understand it's apparently about 232 degrees Celsius. I feel better now. On with the review.

So yes, this is your classic dystopian novel about a miserable vision of the future. This miserable vision is one where no-one reads book and anyone that does is found out and firemen come along and burn the books (and sometimes the person too). Guy Montag is a fireman who loves burning books but suddenly has a change in heart. Cue drama.

The big problem with the book is the flowery style. It's not like your traditional book where you read it and understand what is happening straight away. It's packed full of metaphors and dream sequences and that makes it confusing and frustrating. It took quite a while for me to see past this but fortunately once the plot begins to move on, this frustration begins to wane.

It became clear to me that the concept behind this is actually better than pretty much any dystopian book every written. Usually it is based on a the masses suffering thanks to a nasty regime. Here however, the people have caused there own problems. Whilst the theme is book burning, the dystopian factor is that the people in this world don't have anything that stimulates thought, be that in book, films, TV shows or whatever. The firemen are barely needed because in this world people no longer read books and spend all their time watching unstimulating TV shows in their ultra hi-tech TV parlors. And that's the scary thought because it all sounds so familiar and our real world is terrifyingly close to being like the world in the book.

Oddly written, yes, but this book is based on a wonderful idea which really stimulates thought, something which ironically wouldn't happen in the world the book is set in.
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on 22 July 2017
This book very nearly did not get published because it was written in the era of McCarthyism, although it has nothing to do with communism and everything to do with censorship.

However, it is perfectly possible for people to be full of facts, especially about science. But because, "There is nothing new under the sun", if people fail to read and expose themselves to ideas, old and new, they will be unable to reason and evaluate for themselves. In which case people can easily fall prey to believing whatever they are told, or to constructing alternative realities for themselves as has been known to happen in recent times. How can people recognise when history is repeating itself and old philosophies are in vogue again, if people have never read about them?

Equally, if people are to be truly themselves, sometimes they first need to glimpse different possibilities for themselves and the world and literature gives us the imagination to do so, so much so, that some inventions might never have happened, if science fiction had not have inspired would-be inventors.
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on 18 October 2015
I am not usually a reader of sci-fi books, but Fahrenheit 451 was a slim book and a fast read. It is a dystopian novel, which apparently had been on the author’s mind for decades, starting life as a short story, gradually having themes and events added to it, and subsequently becoming a play and a film.

Interestingly, in the foreword, Bradbury mentions that these later versions made changes to the original story, which he welcomed - giving a longer life to his heroine, Clarisse and a background to his disturbed sort-of-villain, Beatty. I would have preferred these comments to have appeared at the end of the book, where I could have mulled over them, rather than at the beginning, at which point I didn’t know the characters, and didn’t necessarily want things revealed about them.

In this novel, two of Ray Bradbury’s ideas have come together - one is the horror of burning books, perhaps inspired by Nazi Germany (since the book was written in the post-war period of the 1940s.) The second is Bradbury’s irritation when walking in a Los Angeles street in 1949, that he was accosted by the police for doing that simple thing. The two themes are amalgamated in his imagined dystopia, where it is highly unusual for people to wander the streets, and against the law to own books, which are all destroyed by a team of fireman. The hero, Montag, is one of those fireman whose job it is to ignite all those illegal books, and burn the homes of the occupiers, as punishment, but who keeps a secret stache of his own, until discovered.

I felt there were echoes of Huxley’s Brave New World and also George Orwell’s 1984 in Fahrenheit 451. The way that the ‘state’ had knowledge of the secret book hoarders had very much of a Big Brother feel to it, and the lonely Montag’s search for something different, resembled Winston Smith’s similar quest. The bombarding of the populace with shallow pleasure in their non-stop screen entertainment reminded me of Brave New World and its population’s reliance on soma. Unfortunately, there was also a striking similarity to our western world’s modern addiction to screens (even if it is a small screen) to unchallenging TV, and to the perhaps gradual death of books as we know them.

I am not a lover of dystopias, and initially did not enjoy having to occupy Bradbury’s imagined world. However, I enjoyed the second part more, in which Montag attempts to escape after the discovery of his ‘crime’, for there is in fact more hope there.

I did not in the end, feel there was quite enough ‘meat’ in the story to get me really hooked, and the character of Clarisse was too insubstantial for me to get to know her and become immersed in her situation. So in a way, Montag had to carry the whole book.

But much of Bradbury’s talent, apart from his imagination, lies in his use of language, which is very poetic and which even inspires admiration for the beauty of his damaging fires.

I would give it 3.5, rather than 4, if possible.
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on 28 October 2014
I think the storyline itself to this book is pretty good, I liked the concepts and ideas the author was discussing. However, for me, I struggled to read this. The writing style wasn't to my tastes at all, and I felt that there wasn't enough description to go with this dystopian world. If the author is going to create a different world, then I think they need to describe it enough for a clear picture to form, yet with this I was struggling to visualise a lot of things because I felt they weren't described enough.

To me, the book felt rushed with not enough character development to explain people's behaviours and actions, which is a shame because I thought it would be a book I was really going to enjoy!
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on 6 December 2014
I am so embarrassed to confess that it has taken me 24 years to pick this book up and read it; why did I ever choose to stall?! After starting to read the lengthy The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, written in a heavy Victorian diction I needed a short and quick plotted read. This dystopian novel gave me so much more!

I can sit here and write out all the books that it bears resemblance to, 1984, We, A Brave New World, but I would much rather focus on it’s unique science fiction features. Based in the future, Montag is a fireman proud to be serving his country. He’s not a fireman who rescues people, but rather he is set out to set fire to books. You see, in the future books are viewed as evil and are outlawed. The also believe that “fire [is] best for everything” (151) that didn’t sit well with the carefully organized and controlled society.

“A book is a loaded gun in the house next door” (77)

People spend all their time watching TV, and being surrounded by fictional characters who are used to provide human comfort. “The word intellectual, of course, became the swear word is deserved to be”(76). Instead, everyone is alike, and no one is superior to one another. What more does such an astutely constructed society need?

Montag meets Clarissa, a weird girl who makes him question his actions as a fireman and after this meeting “his routine has been disturbed” (44). He’s never the same. It sets him off to reconsider the way he has been living his life, but more importantly, it makes his think about the society he’s been a part of.

The reader follows Montag through his difficult journey of denial, paranoia and confusion. As he grows aware of the constructs of the society he’s been a part of, he’s convinced that he can sneak books in his house, try to change the minds of his fellow friends and neighbours and try to stand against the practices. Along the way he meets some likeminded people, those that have grown aware of the severity of their constructed society.

Ray Bradbury believe that his “characters must plunge ahead of [him] to live the story”(223) and it’s quite unbelievable that he did not write Fahrenheit 451 but “it wrote [him]” (220). You truly get that sense when reading this book, that you are just following Montag along on this awakening journey.

Verdict: If not my favourite dystopian novel, then top 2 for sure! A must read!
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