Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 (Flamingo Modern Classics) Review

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degbert's review of Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451 (Flamingo Modern Classics)

★★★★★

“Ray Bradbury's output of prose was nothing short of...”

Written on: 08/09/2006 by degbert (120 reviews written)

Good Points
A classic of its genre. One of those books you just really should read no matter what.

Bad Points
The style and the genre might put some off, but stick with it.

General Comments
Ray Bradbury's output of prose was nothing short of phenomenal during a writing career spanning decades. Indeed Fahrenheit 451 is well over half a century in print. Despite the volume however, this example of his work remains in many eyes as probably his best work. It deserves both that credit, and also that of being one of the best of its genre, from any age.



You're likely to notice some of that in the style of the prose, where the author, while at the time in his 20's, is casting his mind forward into a bleak, dystopian future, where behavioural traits of the main characters are styled to appear odd, different, changed, submissive, subordinate. In fact the wife character, portrayed as a largely wan, listless two-dimensional object throughout, is meant to embody the cultural and psychological profile of people at the time. This is done brilliantly, and the grey existence of a life is only kept going by the automatic arrival of two apathetic paramedics, as if it's just another life to fix.



The dumbing down of the people against a backdrop of uber-controlling all-seeing governments is the landscape of Bradbury's novel, in which the hero is - in this cultures terms - an anti-hero, a confused malcontent and, inevitably, a fugitive. It could be argued that the governmental power portrayed might take on a rather simplistic (more akin to the 30's dictatorships than 21st century laissez-faire) view. Even Bradbury could not predict the 'power of the corporation', perhaps.



But beyond that, what makes this such a stirring story is the prophetic nature of the book, the very realistic portrayal of some aspects of this new culture Bradbury creates, and the parallels one can draw with today's very consumerist, soulless, thoughtless society. The "fireman" concept is a wondrous pun [451 degrees Fahrenheit being the temperature at which books burst into flame, apparently -- you learn something new every day!] and brings the whole idea to life, and allowing Bradbury's other ideas (the Malthusian treatment of the population, the de-facto whistle-blower cultural value, obsession towards TV, even integrated wall/tv units!) to flourish, ominously close to 21st century reality - their proximity dictated perhaps most by one's own level of cynicism towards modern living.





Given this is all achieved in a couple of hundred pages, it remains a remarkable triumph of imagination, prophecy and even precis. Bradbury himself confessed this was 5 or 6 short stories effectively bolted together, at least at the outset - a real skill at taking these and bringing a novel to life from it.



Clearly, this sits alongside Orwell as seminal text of its kind. It might not have the richness of Burgess's 'Wanting Seed', nor perhaps as much Orwellian darkness, but the brevity and characterizations make it equally terrifying as a future world, and equally worrying as a comparison with the one in which we live today. Other Sci-Fi books have taken many of the same basic ideas forward as the backdrop of their own revised version of society. You can see Bradbury in a lot of more modern works, starting as early perhaps as Asimov, running through the very heart of creative media, through to ideas as recent as The Truman Show; which is perhaps the highest compliment for his work that Bradbury could receive.



I frankly expected this to be a great book, and it certainly met, and I believe exceeded, these high expectations.



So all in all, yes, quite good really (smile).

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Bertie's Response to degbert's Review

Written on: 09/09/2006

I read the book in the late 50s degbert, and found it excellent--just like your review.

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Degbert's Response to degbert's Review

Written on: 20/08/2007

Thanks Bertie - appreciate the comment. This truly is a must-read book.

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