Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury 5/5

Overall Impression: A mesmerizing book of ideas and what-ifs, set in a dreary, heartless future.

Whoa, this was one amazing book.Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
I had no idea what to expect from Fahrenheit 451 when I picked it up, other than that it was a novel about burning books and was generally held in lower esteem than its dystopian rival, 1984. When I spotted the novel last summer looking battered and lonely in the sci-fi section of a second hand bookshop I couldn’t help but adopt it. It had clearly been mistreated and needed a new home. The spine was torn, the pages orange with age and reeking of must, yet oddly it added to its charm. It almost seemed as if the novel had been through the same hardships that had occurred in the story, that it had come a little too close to being incinerated in its lifetime and was now a scarred casualty of war.
Yeah, I know, I have an overactive imagination right?!
This book was also read as part of The Rory Gilmore Challenge.

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.

While I can easily say that Fahrenheit 451 is one of the best novels I’ve ever read, it’s also one of the weirdest and to begin with I had no idea what to make of the whole thing! From the first page you are thrust into the deep end, there’s no explanation of how the bizarre world came about nor any clues about its rules, you’re left to puzzle it out and don’t get many answers until your half way through the story. While this could be frustrating to some, in the end the book is far more fascinating and compelling because of it!

I will happily admit I struggled with Fahrenheit 451 at first. It’s not the easiest classic to read and it took me a while to acclimatize the Bradbury’s bizarre writing and it’s odd, almost hallucinogenic dream-like quality. He has a strange style that it somewhat vague and scattered, it almost felt like I kept grabbing for something just out of reach. He’s the master of showing rather than telling and would often elude or hint at things so subtly that I had to work hard and concentrate while reading to make sure I was understanding what he was saying. Often I would reread sentences four or five times, mulling and thinking about what they meant. Bradbury has the rare skill of being able to say a lot by not saying much at all and within the first chapter I was amazed at his ability to build such a unique world in only a few pages. As the novel progressed I slowly began to warm to his style, and by a third of the way through I was full on in love with it! While reading I often like to pick out insightful quotes, and with Fahrenheit 451 it got the point where I wanted to mark every page and paragraph desperate to preserve each word.

Bradbury has created a dreary and hollow world where firemen start fires rather than stop them, where books are burnt and people don’t seem to talk to each other, suicide has become a normal, everyday thing and billboard advertising is two hundred-foot-long because cars go so fast that they wouldn’t see it otherwise. It’s a bizarre setup and sounds random, but once you delve into the book it all starts to fit together.

I think at its heart, Fahrenheit 451 is a book of ideas and what-ifs. It’s about the fear of technology and where it will lead humanity. Will it replace free thought? Will we all becomes slaves to TV sitting around all day to the point where we become so passive – in life and as TV viewers – that we can no longer remember what we watched five minutes ago? With current research on the decrease of our attention spans it doesn’t feel like a big reach. Could we ruin the heart and soul of our planet through attempting to simplify everything with technology, to the point where we don’t have to try at anything in life, and life, therefore, becomes pointless? It all seems a little too possible, and that’s what is so eerie and unsettling about this book.

Fahrenheit 451 also tackles censorship and explores how the world might crash down around us without books; not necessarily because of the objects themselves but what they represent, the way they create and provoke thought, how they represent emotions and reflect the world’s flaws. I must admit the idea that the world might go kapluiee without books was a somewhat irresistible concept to a bookworm like me, and it’s probably one of the reasons I loved this novel so much. I also feel one of the themes in this intentional or not, was the loss of meaning, especially the semantic meaning we attach to words and I found that really interesting.

This is not what I would call a character driven novel, the characters are interesting but more because of the plights and realizations they go through as opposed to their personalities. There’s Guy Montag, occupational fireman who revels in the act of burning books until he meets someone who changes his entire thought process and makes him question the world he lives in. His wife, Mildred is a robot-like individual who does nothing but watch TV and even refers to the characters as her ‘family’. Then there’s Clarisse, a young girl who is wiser than her years and far too inquisitive and finally Faber, an ex English professor who laments the loss of books and feels guilty for not doing more to stop their demise. Combine them all and you’ve got a pretty interesting mix of beliefs, struggles and opinions on an oppressive society!

Fahrenheit 451 is like a bizarre snapshot of a world that could be, not everything is explained, it doesn’t have a particularly concrete resolution and after you’re finished it will feel like emerging from a strange dream. If you’re looking for a small but compelling classic that will challenge your every day thinking I would definitely recommend this! The writing is clever and super quotable, the plot is fast paced and thought provoking to the point where I didn’t want it to end. Most importantly, it’s a book that left me feeling inspired and charged with the energy to design and create something – anything, instead of sitting down and consuming it instead. Recommended to anyone 15+ :).

Writing Style: 5/5
Originality: 5/5
Entertainment: 5/5
Character Development: 3/5
Would I recommend this book? Absolutely!

Overall: 5/5

Image Sources:
Book Cover.

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22 thoughts on “Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury 5/5

  1. I read this a few years ago after enjoying 1984 immensely, but didn’t really get on with it. Everything felt kind of lacking and I know what you mean when you talk about his writing having a dream-like quality to it – I still don’t know if the main character’s wife actually existed or was just a figment of his imagination.

    • I think that’s why it’s good that I read Fahrenheit 451 first because so many people read and love 1984, and I guess that means they go into this book with expectations? This way, hopefully, I will enjoy both! *Fingers crossed*. 🙂

      I’m glad it’s not just me that found his writing to be on the bizarre side! For a while, I thought it was just because I was out of practice with reading classics. I get what you mean about his wife, that first scene with her in the middle of the night was so strange.

  2. Bradbury does have a strange, tumbling style of writing. Some of it makes sense, but there are parts when you go, Huh? and just have to move on. I can see why some people call him the poet of science fiction….it’s more like blank prose than writing in some parts. Try The Martian Chronicles for an interesting read!

    I remember being dis-satisfied with this one, and I think your comment about how it’s not character-driven has nailed it. I might give it another go, now I know what to expect from Bradbury.

    Btw, 451 Fahrenheit is the temperature at which paper burns. 🙂 And they made a movie of this in the 60s, but I didn’t think it was very good.

    • Yes, agreed! There were sections where I really had trouble following his train of thought so I had to reread some bits before I grasped what he was saying. There were a lot of moments when I found myself going ‘whoa, this is deep man’ and it did feel rather like falling down the rabbit hole which I think is why I liked it so much. That’s a great point, it is a bit like poetry! Looking it up now. 🙂

      Ahh yeah, I can understand that. To me, this was much more a novel of ideas and fancy writing as opposed to being character driven. At least if you decide to do a reread its a short book!

      So I’ve heard. 🙂 I love that he named the book that. I did have a peek at a clip of the movie on Youtube, it looked, um, pretty weird! Not sure I’ll be giving it a go.

  3. I remember watching the movie in a high school English class; it’s a shame they didn’t get us to read the book as well! After seeing the movie, I did try to read it, but I don’t think I got past the first chapter….. But your review has me sufficiently intrigued (particularly about the writing style) to give the book another go!

    • Oooh, I so wish I would have had the opportunity to study this in school, whether it was the film or the book. It might actually have may the subject interesting, LOL.
      So happy to hear the review has you intrigued. 🙂 I would definitely recommend the book , it’s such a bizarre but great reading experience!

  4. I am pleased you enjoyed this. My dad has a small collection of Bradbury’s work which I quickly worked my way through; reading this one first. My favourite was Dandelion Wine but another well known one is Something Wicked This Way Comes.

  5. You’ve got a good imagination, not an overactive one! I’m glad you gave this book a home.
    I like the sound of how bizarre this book is. One to keep an eye out for in my own local secondhand bookshops.

    • Haha, I’m glad you feel that way, Emma! Yeah, me too, it was worth it. Can you believe that they were actually going to throw this book away because it was so battered? The horror.
      Bizarre is definitely the right word, it wasn’t just a good read, it was a whole crazy experience too. 🙂

  6. It’s really interesting this one came up for you when it did- I’m actually reading a collection of Ray Bradbury’s short stories right now and his writing really does have an eerie, dreamlike quality, even when he’s talking about scientific concepts or action or even some pretty terrifying things. He’s really good at painting a picture with words, and I think it comes through that he really likes physical things, things that are tangible. Or at any rate he has an appreciation for them. Which may be why F451 deals with the themes it does. Either way it sounds really fascinating, especially since you mention the theme of “to the point where we don’t have to try at anything in life”- that sounds really fascinating, and pretty much solely put the book on my to-read list. I can’t wait to check it out!

    • Huh, what a coincidence, that is funny. I’m glad you understand what I mean by the writing! It was so difficult to describe in this review because I haven’t experienced anything else quite like it. He’s definitely got a love for wacky metaphors. Yes, I agree with what you say about him loving tangible things, I sure got the impression that he had a lot of hate/worry direct towards TV, LOL. It actually put me off watching it for a couple of days.

      I’m glad you like the sound of Fahrenheit 451 and are thinking about picking it up. You’ll have to let me know how you get on with those short stories! I’d be interested in trying something else written by him. 🙂

  7. I’ve obviously heard of this book but I’ve never actually known what it was about, so I’m somewhat surprised! Your summary wasn’t what I was expecting at all.

    Sounds fabulous and right up my little weirdo street. I do like a bookish challenge so I’ll add this to my TBR 😉

    • Oh, wow really? What were you expecting it to be about? Just curious. 🙂 All I knew going in was that people were burning books and it might possibly crush my soul, but it turned out to be a whole lot more than that. 🙂

      I think you would love this one so I’d be cheering you on to give this one a go!

  8. I seriously want to try this one because it’s FAMOUS and also, books about books are always awesome. 😉 Buuuut, I’m very bad at classic language and I often struggle with writing when it’s not clear cut. This does make me hesitate. I think I’d do better with it on audio. *nods*
    Hehe, I loved your description of “adopting” the book in the first paragraph too, btw.
    Thanks for stopping by @ Paper Fury!

    • Hahaha, FAMOUS was pretty much the same reason I picked it up too. That and the awesomesauce unusual musty smell and ‘lost book look’ it had on the shelf. The language in this one is definitely tough to get a grasp of, but once you start to get into the flow it’s SO rewarding. 🙂 Audio sounds good!

      Ta muchly! I think of all my secondhand book purchases as adoptions, giving them a good home and whatnot. 😉

      Thanks for taking the time to pop over!

  9. I was the same as you and had no idea what I was getting into but ending up loving this book! I just finished it recently so it’s still fresh on my mind. I think if I had read it at a younger age, I wouldn’t have appreciated it, but reading it as an adult, I loved it.

    • Ahh, I’m so glad to have found another person who loved this book! I thought it was so unique and bizarre which made it so refreshing to read. I agree, I’m not sure what I would have thought of this when I was younger so I’m glad I attempted it at the right time in my life (I feel a little sorry for people that had to study this when they were in school)!

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. 🙂

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