Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury


Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is a more classical dystopia in a world where books are against the law and incinerated if found. The reason I like this book is that the premise and the world itself are very clever and believable, but I found the writing itself wanting.

I don’t want to ruin the plot (not that there is much of it) so if I seem vague, assume it is for that reason. All I can say is that it isn’t too important, I think, because it is a book designed to encourage you to think and presents you with ideas; think like Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy trilogy of five books. In a nutshell, plot is peripheral, I felt.

The way the world is built in this novel is so understandably logical (and in a way, proven) that one could worry for our own books’ safety. Though the law encourages the destruction of books, books became obsolete before the law came in. It is a book about the most extreme of censorship, stemming from self censorship. In our desire not to offend others, we would censor our books to avoid this offense starting with words and phrases before gradually destroying the book itself. The other reason cited (which is more political) is that society is generally happier when it doesn’t have to think. In the achieving of this hedonism, all thought is stopped by limiting social interaction, confusing ideas and what Orwell coined “doublethink”. How? Television.

It is a different kind of television but it is the idea that these people are your friends and family and that interaction is straightforward with the technology causing you to feel something without having to go through the mental stages of reaching that emotion: through chemicals or colour. I think- this was something I sort of felt my way into understanding because Bradbury was a little wordy, but I’ll explain the way he wrote in a minute.

The other interesting pieces of technology are earpieces that play music to induce a certain mood. Sound familiar? You’re hearing the prophecy of your iPod and MP3 players! These are supposed to distract and occupy humanity. Because as long as we are occupied, we cannot stop to think: so cars drive at unimaginably fast speeds, porches were gotten rid of to discourage leisurely sitting and neighbourly chatting while the law keeps tabs on suspicious morning walkers; all in the interest of reducing free thought.

But away from the story: to prose and writing. I felt that Bradbury was just explicitly in love with ideas. While writing in the plot, he would start off down the winding road of tangent and rambling which- though coherent- made the return to the actual story sort of like dropping into cold water. Nonetheless, it was interesting. Yet, for me, as someone who likes the story to fit like a jigsaw and not just be held forcibly together, I found this way of writing detracted from my complete pleasure in reading. If it had been beautifully written, I would have given it the next point level.

I think if dystopia is your thing (as is abstract) you should read this, ideally before buying. It’s an ideas book and so you need to be ready to learn and absorb otherwise the book becomes are huge mess of utter confusion.

I know I babble and ramble a little incoherently, but that doesn’t mean I don’t find myself annoying as well. I would fix this problem, but it’s too difficult. I don’t have a problem with it, it just distracts me from the book a little.


  1. It's been a long time sicne I read this one, but I remember liking the basic ideas. It took awhile for dystopian fiction to really gel, I think. Writers had all these great ideas and soemtimes messed up in the execution of them.

    The 1960's film adaptation of this is hilarious. Everyone has awful 60s-hair and the carpets and furniture are orange, while the bad guys look exactly like Nazis.

  2. After reading your thoughts on this book, I think it might revisit it. I like some of Bradbury's stories, especially Something Wicked This Way Comes, and his writing style never really bothered me. But it's been a long time since I read this book, so maybe I'll take a look.

  3. This is one of my favorites - and you are by no means annoying. :)

  4. Tiger- I MUST see that. It sounds hilarious, and I have Friend that would find it funnier. I guess, being 1960s, I shouldn't be surprised they would be Nazis. I've never thought about Dystopia getting off its feet. It's bleak theme admittedly, so I can understand that the audience could be harder to find in a post-war era.

    Jo- Yay! That's all I could ever want! Like I said, I want to inspire people to read! I would like to read more of Bradbury since I do like people who just love idea for ideas (Ideophilist?) Then again, maybe you're just reading to disagree with me.

    Adam- One of your favourites?! Good, I always want to read the favourite books of reviewers I like, since it kind of ascertains how similar we actually are. I adore the ideas, but the writing lost me occasionally. Based on ideas alone, it would be a favourite, hands down!